Front of house phwoods

Passive House in the Woods – GreenStar Gold

The Passive House in the Woods [Konkol residence] is a single-family home located in the Town of Hudson, Wisconsin. Located on a one-acre lot on the outer edge of a residential development the home overlooks the St. Croix River valley. The building lot provides stunning views and prime passive solar exposure. With its renewable energy systems, the structure makes more energy than it consumes. It features three bedrooms and three levels, including a walkout basement, as well as a rooftop terrace.Dining-Phwoods

The insulated concrete form substructure was built in the winter of 2009/10, and the home finished in September of 2010. The project is Wisconsin’s first certified Passive House and at the time, one of only a handful of certified Passive House projects in the United States of America.

The building envelope of the Konkol residence is very uniform. The below and above grade walls are made from the same insulated concrete form (ICF) assembly with exterior insulation and finish system. The basement slab rests on foam insulation—the roof deck is topped with foam insulation. The continuous concrete pour inside the ICF forms offers tremendous strength and helps with airtightness. R-values are very high and continuous. Both the garage as well as the exterior steel stair and deck structure are self-supporting and do not interrupt the building envelope.

The North side of the home is largely covered by the garage, which is essentially built up to the home but does not share any assemblies with it—making the house’s envelope continuously the same. There aren’t any windows on the North side at all. The south side opens up for maximum solar heat gains, which are managed by motorized exterior shades.

Covered entry and garage access are located on the main level from the East. The main stair is located along the North wall with storage cabinets lining it on each floor. The main level holds the kitchen, dining, and living area, as well as a powder room. Storage, mechanicals, and a guest suite/ family room are located on the walkout level, which provides access to the backyard.

The upper floor contains two bedrooms and a joint bath/ laundry room. Both the main and upper floor offer access to the exterior decks on the West side, as well as the exterior stair structure on the North side, which connects all levels from the ground to the rooftop terrace. The rooftop terrace holds part of the photovoltaic system and the solar thermal panel. It offers spectacular views over the St. Croix River valley.

The building was designed from the outset to become a Passive House. The first energy model was completed during schematics and subsequently kept current with design evolutions. The construction methods were selected specifically with airtightness in mind. Fenestration and glazing were fine-tuned using the energy model.

In an effort to deliver a holistic and sustainable design, the building was also designed to meet the Minnesota GreenStar Gold level of certification focusing on energy efficiency, resource efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, and site and community impact.

Fast forward to 2015

This project is our first ever Zero Energy Capable Designated home which means it was designed and tested to be a low energy usage home and be completely offset by renewable energy. Not only that but the Konkol family has gone to great lengths to actually prove the home can obtain Zero Energy in their utility bills and have produced 300 more KWH than they used. This is why we are awarding them with our Zero Energy Hero award for the year 2010 – 2015. They produced 300 kwh more than they had used.  You can see their energy use and generation here. Zero Energy Hero Award Konkol Residence

Tim Eian, the project architect explains this in more detail. 

“In year 1 we identified a couple of commissioning errors, which upon evaluation, were fixed. This lead to lesser consumption in subsequent years.  In 2014 we understand that the solar thermal preheater panel failed (after repeated issues with the solar thermal hardware) and it took some time for it to be replaced, during which electric resistance hot water generation caused a higher than normal energy consumption. In addition, the tracker mechanism on the PV array failed repeatedly and is, as far as I know, defunct now, leaving the panels at a static position, rather than tracking. It is very frustrating to see the renewable systems causing many problems but re-assuring for the envelope-first approach we chose.

You will note at the bottom, that despite the issues with equipment, the overall balance for the site as of last month is still net positive. Please also note that the site is on a well with water filtration, which accounts for approximately 700 kWh per year (we monitored this for a few years), which a home on the water grid would not incur. The owner also maintains a large edible garden, which needs watering in summer and fall. The meter is accounting for all site loads, including the water well and filtration system, exterior lights, etc.”

You can read more about the project costs from this recent Fine Home Building Article

• Passive House solar design
Certified Passive House, PHIUS+ and GreenStar GoldKonkol PHIUS+ Certificate
• 4.7kw Photovoltaic and solar thermal renewable energy systems
• Modern custom design, compact floorplan layout
• Very high-performance thermal envelope R-70 walls, an R-60 slab and an R-95 roof.
• Rooftop terrace and green roof
• Interior walls are made with American Clay Plaster which healthier material that manages moisture
• Extensive gardening
• German-made Optiwin windows and motorized exterior sunshades
• Heat-recovery ventilation system with earth loop

Full Gallery 


Project Team 

Design: Dipl.-Ing. Tim Delhey Eian, TE Studio, Ltd.
Interior Design: Christine Frisk, InUnison, Inc.
Landscape Design and Civil Engineering: Laurie McRostie
Structural Engineering: Mattson MacDonald Young
Lighting Design: Carol Chaffee, Carol Chaffee Associates
Construction: Morr Construction
Renewable Systems: Energy Concepts
GreenStar Rater: Pat O’Malley – Building Knowledge




Pages from Phoenix Haus_SIPs+Tech_2015

Cellulose SIPS and Prefabrication of the Performance Shell in new construction – free webinar



Join us as we talk with Bill Mcdonald, Certified Passive House Consultant  of Phoenix Haus about how these panels are designed, manufactured and installed. Bill has been testing this out on an actual pre certified passive house project in MI and we will still current and future predicted results.

Now SIPS are being prefabricated with Cellulose and are performing just as well while relying on local, recycled materials that are just as durable when sealed correctly.

Cellulose SIP Manufacturing Pic

Phoenix Haus is setting out to share with designers, builders, and owners who are in search for an innovative approach to building. Trying to create low energy buildings with a goal of avoiding foam can be difficult, one such method we will discuss is the development of prefabricated cellulose SIPS to achieve goals of efficiency, airtightness and avoid foam when desired. We will discuss how design should be done in 3D, and carried all the way through from the design process to site installation. From resource efficiency to time efficiency, details for accuracy and resulting performance – these elements are married together with our prefabricated approach to building.

Lessons Learned 

1. Understand What is a Passive House
2. Understand a CAD 3D component model
3. Understand what “diffusion open” assemblies are
4. Know where to learn more about air tight but natural pre assembled wall systems

Continuing Education – 1 hour 

State Architect / Builder License.

NARI Green.


Pending: AIA(HSW), BPI, GBCI.

Sumac Grove Pobst Residence LEED Platinum Home

Webinar: Journey to Almost Passive House & LEED Platinum Near-Zero Home

Finally it is here – after 2 years of filming and a big thanks to four Grand Valley State University Interns, 2 hours of video detailed in over 10 sections on the how and why of LEED for Homes and Passive House construction specifically to Sam Pobst’s home.

Sumac Grove Pobst Residence LEED Platinum Home

Sam and some of the other high performance building professionals take us through many aspects: site selection/design, insulation, heating and cooling, passive building, water efficiency and renewable energy. 

What makes it Green? For starters, Michael Holcomb – President/CEO and owner of Home Inspector General has called this “the tightest home I have ever tested.” It comes in at 0.44 ACH @50PA (for all you energy geeks). Michael has test thousands of homes and buildings in the Midwest in his 20 years of experience, so that is saying something.

Next, this project almost achieved Passive House standards! Sam worked with an experienced PHIUS rater “John Semmelhack” to use the advanced modeling software to design his house. The house tested below the air change requirements of Passive House but only made 7.20 KBTu’s as opposed to the required 4.75 (energy geek talk). Sam’s reasoning: “The primary driver of that cost was the building geometry. Since a primary objective was to build a barrier free home, we designed it all to be on one level. This meant that the ratio of exterior wall and roof area to the floor area was not optimal for thermal design (of Passive House). It was more important to us to have the barrier free design than to meet the PH requirements, though we came very close. The only changes we made from the original PH design was to reduce the thickness of the perimeter walls from 22” to 19”, and specify a window that was not quite as high performing as the one that would attain the PH rating.” Sam told me that there was 99 year back on the window required to meet the standard (at that time).

LEED Label for Sumac Grove Sam Pobst LEED certified PlatinumLast, LEED for Homes Platinum Certification has been achieved. This
requires 3rd party onsite verification that proves through actual testing that the home is green.

This must have cost millions right? 

“We spent $167.00/Square Foot, but if you add in O+P, design fees, and my sweat equity, I estimate about a $200/Square Foot cost to construct.” – Sam Pobst

•         Gross Square Feet                         2010

•         Basement Square Feet                851

•         Conditioned Square Feet           2547

•         Garage / Workshop                      621

•         $167/Square Foot  Hard Cost

•         $200/ Square Foot Buildable Cost

  1. + Overhead and Profit
  2. + Design Fees
  3. + Sweat Equity


Continuing Education

  • 2 GBCI – LEED Specific
  • 2 AIA – LU|HSW
  • 2 MI Contractor (Code & Green)
  • 2 MI Architect
  • If you need continuing education units for a license in another state, this course may apply. Please consult your state’s requirements.

Project utility data update and ROI data

These webinars are free to review. If you are interested in continuing education credits, you must follow the following steps:

1. Read the info above, watch the webinars for FREE and check out the Project Profile.

2. Take the 13 question quiz and score at least 80% to be approved. Please also post a comment below and help add to the conversation.

3. Pay the fee below if this is not taken as part of our GreenHome Associates series to get your certificate and CEUs. You must be a member to pay the reduced member fee.

Webinar Pricing

Further Resources 

Read back on Sam’s progress documented on his Blog and stay informed as he monitors the home’s energy use, durability, comfort, indoor air quality and water use.

PHIUS_low res

PHIUS+ Passive Certification for Building – Recorded Webinar – CEUs

PHIUS+ Certification for Building Projects is the only voluntary certification program on the US Market at an affordable cost that requires both: a thorougPHIUS_low resh third party review of the design and energy/hygrothermal modeling of a project as well as a third party verification of the actual implementation on site through expert trained PHIUS+ RESNET Raters. A successful project earns the PHIUS+ Certified passive house or building plaque/certificate as well as the DOE Challenge Home and Energy Star labels.

GBCI / AIA – Recorded webinar instructions below 

Learning Objectives:

1) Understand why Quality Assurance is essential to verified performance

2) Learn about the pre-certification process and what is required for the design review

3) Learn about the onsite verification performed by a Certified PHIUS+ Rater

4) Learn about the collaboration and endorsement by the DOE challenge Home program

Review the Webinar here 

Presenter Katrin Klingenberg

Co-founder and Executive Director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)
Katrin Klingenberg

Katrin Klingenberg is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS). PHIUS promotes the wide adoption of passive building principles in North America through specialized consultant training and certification, project and product certification, and educational efforts for building professionals and the general public.

Ms Klingenberg designed and built the very first home built in the United States using the European standard and design specifications in 2002-2003. She has designed and consulted on numerous passive projects since across North America’s varied climate zones and has made proposals for the possible refinement of current passive house standards to North American climate zones. In addition to her executive role she is the lead instructor for PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant training. In that role she directs curriculum. She also directs the technical and research programs of PHIUS. She holds a Masters Degree in architecture from Ball State University and is a licensed architect in Germany.

In order to be approved for GBCI/AIA you must follow the below steps

1. View the Audio/Visual Recording Here 

2. Complete Survey + 10 Question Quiz and get a passing score of 80% 

3. In order for CEUs to be processed we will need a  small donation based on what value you found on the course. As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses throughout the Midwest at minimal cost and at no profit. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.

Gulyas Interior LEED for Homes Platinum Indiana

Real numbers for a LEED for Homes Indiana Success Story

The Gulyas residence in Bloomington, Indiana was one of the first homes in Indiana to receive LEED for Homes Platinum certification.  Through the use of passive house techniques and additional sustainable design strategies this project easily met and surpassed the criteria for LEED. 

A home energy metric measuring energy per square foot calculation and spreadsheet was created by Allison Bailes III, PhD, to help effectively measure electric and gas usage in a house.  used this spreadsheet on this project to help get an idea of how efficient the Gulyas residence is.  The number of kilowatt hours per year for electric (no gas is used) at the Gulyas residence is 6,675, which averages to 556.25 kilowatt hours per month.  The cost per year in 2011 was $960.07, averaging to $80.011 per month for all energy heating, cooling & electricity.  The spreadsheet also contains a helpful key which describes the efficiency of the house in terms of kilowatt hour per square foot per year.  Anything less than 5 is considered “super-efficient” and anything above 20 is considered an “energy hog.”  The Gulyas residence uses 4 kilowatt hours per square foot per year, describing it as super-efficient.  Click here for Gulyas’ actual electric bill for the past two years.

In terms of water use, contacted the City of Bloomington Utilities Department to find out the average water use per household in the city.  Each person uses approximately 2,500 gallons of water per month, which equals 2.5 units (1,000 gallons equals 1 unit).  This means that the average 2-person household uses 5 units of water per month, which is substantially higher than the Gulyas residence, which uses approximately 2 water units per month.  Click here to view the Gulyas residence water bill for the past two years.

The Gulyas house is still a work in progress.  Gulyas prioritized energy conservation technologies in the envelope design of the house, and integrated a separate ducted ERV system for exceptional air quality and energy conservation.  He also plans to install a low voltage cable lighting system throughout the open areas of the house, which will have high output 12v LED mr16s.  The new products have a very high color rendition index (CRI) in a variety of color temperatures, making it realistic to create very high quality lighting design while using a fraction of the energy of halogen (8-9 watts per lamp would be used as opposed to 50 watts).  Gulyas would also like to implement rainwater harvesting system, as well as a photovoltaic and/or solar thermal system. 

In summary, the statistics regarding the Gulyas residence are impressive.  He has implemented a variety of energy saving approaches and is looking toward the future to implement additional technologies to create a home that is even more efficient.  Stay tuned to find out what new developments take place as the Gulyas house progresses.

Read more on the project profile here.


2012 IECC

2012 IECC Energy Code vs Green Home Certifications

2012 IECCMany states are in the process of adopting in whole or with modifications the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).  This new code raises the bar in construction design for residential and commercial structures, and as a result, architects / engineers / contractors building to the new code will be affordably offer a choice to their clients for pursuing several above-code certifications such as Energy Star and LEED without too much additional effort or cost.

The new national energy code includes mandatory blower-door testing for building air leakage (less than <3.0 ACH at 50 pascals), which will measure how well contractors have sealed up penetrations between the outdoors and indoor conditioned space. This testing will be required for all projects permitted after the new code goes into effect. Some states have made modifications to the adopted code, such as Illinois which has changed the ACH rate to 5.0 ACH @ 50.  View our archived July 12 webinar to learn more about IL Energy Code changes.

Other aspects of the 2012 IECC such as requiring hot water pipe insulation and mechanical ventilation are new items that projects will need to implement.  Learn more on a free webinar held Thursday July 12.

So, how do national IECC 2012 requirements relate to voluntary above-code programs like Energy Star, LEED and Passive House?  Pretty well actually. has assembled a matrix identifying several energy-related items as written in the code and indicated what the impact or requirements would be in one of these above-code third-party green certification programs. Download national comparison matrix as PDF.
(Illinois-specific modifications are shown in the image below)

What does this mean?  Well just by building to the new code, these projects will be very close to meeting the Energy Star for Homes program requirements, and will score very well in programs that require Energy Star version 3 such as LEED or Green Communities. Other green programs that don’t require Energy Star, such as National Green Building Standard or local green home programs will also heavily reward these projects.

LEED for Homes will be requiring Energy Star version 3 beginning at the end of the year, so right now a project can still earn LEED certification by building to Energy Star version 2 requirements which should be easily met on any home that meets IECC 2012.

Take advantage of this sweet spot and earn market recognition by attending a LEED workshop or sign up to earn LEED certification today!

Newenhouse Passive House LEED

Wisconsin Passive House owner says drop on by anytime!

“I want as many people to come into this house as possible. Anyone who reads this can knock on my door and I’ll give them a tour. The whole point is to share and learn from each other, to take ideas from here and do them elsewhere.” – Sonya Newenhouse

With Carly Coulson as the certified Passive House designer. This tiny (968-square-foot) kit house has a treated floor area of 888 square feet (82.5 m²). This project sports local windows and Cardinal triple-pane glass, while the doors are Energate. The NewenHouse is wrapped in a jacket of cellulose – and similarly comes in well under the specific space heating demand.

Carly recently presented the project at the Hannover Passivhaus conference. Here are some of the project specs:

  • Space heating demand: 11.4 kWh/m²a (3.61 kBTU/ft²a)
  • Primary energy demand: 104 kWh/m²a (32.9 kBTU/ft²a)
  • Blower door: 0.51 ach50
  • Wall U-factor: 0.09 W/m²K (R-63)
  • Slab U-factor: 0.10 W/m²K (R-57)
  • Roof U-factor: 0.06 W/m²K (R-94)
  • (7,795 HDDs)

The project is also rocking a solar domestic hot water system (Velux) that is expected to provide nearly two-thirds of the domestic hot water needs, and a PV system for site net zeroenergy.

The project went through BRE in Watford, UK, for Passivhaus certification, is Energy Starcertified, and is expected to hit LEED for Homes Platinum after Landscape verification by the Green Rater Laura Paprocki.

Total cost for NewenHouse – including solar DHW, PV, and accessory structures – is a whopping $173/sf. If there was a LEED Titanium, this über-tiny Passivhaus in an “extreme” environment would surely qualify.

Newenhouse, who aptly describes herself as an eco-entrepreneur, is also founder and president of Community Car LLC in Madison, and just sold the Madison Environmental Group, a business she founded 13 years ago, to an employee. In the next year, she plans to launch a business selling three house designs — a 500-square-foot one-bedroom, an 800-square-foot two-bedroom, and a 1,000-square-foot three-bedroom. An option for a detached stuga, Swedish for “cabin,” includes storage space, a root cellar, sleeping loft, sitting area and wood stove. With her business, Newenhouse says she is trying to bring together three movements: the green building movement, the small house movement and the sustainable- or simple-living movement.

A brief overview of her kit house can be found at

You can contact Newenhouse at 608-220-8029 or A link to her blog is on the a at Or if you’re planning to drop in, which she says she welcomes, she lives at 422 Hickory St. in Viroqua WI.

Want to learn more about Passive House features & LEED?   is hosting a free webinar of another Homeowner’s journey in Michigan who attempted passive house & is on track for LEED Platinum. Missed it? It will be recorded and a 2 hour video series on it’s construction & post occupancy living will be out by Fall.

This article is a mash up between Joe Orso of the Lacrosse Tribune and Mike Eliason of Green Building Advisor. Their stories can be found here


Pobst Unfinished Front

Lowell MI House Tour – "Tightest Home around?"

Sam Pobst has offered to host a LEED for Homes meeting and tour at his house under construction.

Sam is targeting a LEED Platinum House. He has incorporated many very efficient features. In fact, the recent blower door test came in at “0.26 ACH, the lowest reading the Green Rater, Mike Holcomb has ever had. ”

This house attempted Passive Haus certification but fell short. Many lessons are to be learned as to why it was not achieved.

MARK YOUR CALENDER if you want to see this stellar construction in process:

Date: Friday, February 3, 2012
Time: 10 am – 12 pm
Address & Info:

13691 Beckwith Drive NE

Lowell, MI 49331


Follow the project here

USGBC and Passive House Alignment

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) have released the following letter of alignment:

USGBC’s LEED for Homes rating system and Passive House standard are complimentary green building systems. Both programs share the goal of making the US building stock more efficient, comfortable and sustainable places to live. While the Passive House standard focuses primarily on greatly reducing the heating and cooling loads of the home, LEED for Homes also promotes efficient material use, site selection and development, and rewards projects that improve their water efficiency and indoor air quality.

A Passive House is a very well‐insulated, virtually air‐tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides terrific indoor air quality.

LEED for Homes is a national, voluntary certification system, developed by national experts and experienced builders, that promotes the design and construction of high‐performance green homes and encourages the adoption of sustainable practices by the homebuilding industry.

LEED certification is based on 18 prerequisites and 67 credits across 8 credit categories. Beyond energy and indoor air quality, LEED for Homes also takes into consideration material selection, water use, site selection/landscaping, location to local amenities/mass transit and homeowner education.

USGBC works regularly with Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) representatives to further green home building nationwide. USGBC and PHIUS agree that building and certifying a Passive House is a seamless compliance path for LEED for Homes Energy and Atmosphere section, and that homes are beginning to achieve dual certifications. In fact, USGBC is exploring the incorporation of the Passive House Standard into future iterations of the LEED for Homes program.

Musings on LEED and Passive House

LEED for Homes has always required ENERGY STAR (a HERS rating of 85) as a prerequisite, and rewarded increasingly low HERS ratings with more points in the rating system. However, significant changes in the next iteration of the rating system (LEED 2012) will be even more performance-oriented, which should play well to Passive House customers. Especially those customers who want not only energy-efficient performance and good IAQ, but also those that want to go beyond and incorporate broader aspects of sustainability into their homes. This is where Passive House and LEED become intertwined. Read more


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