VOLKsHouse 1: Completed 2012
VOLKsHouse Site: On the site of 1351 Ferguson Lane, looking towards Frenchy’s Park with the Sangre de Christo Mountains in the background and Agua Fria Road to the right.
Trenching: A panoramic view of the initial trenching of the VOLKsHouse foundation.
Setting the Foundation: The frost skirt perimeter insulation of the VOLKs House uses 2 lb. EPS foam. It is thick enough that no other form-work needs to be done before pouring the slab. It is protected on the exterior with a factory painted metal sheeting. The metal serves to protect the foam from moisture and bugs. The foam is placed on a bed of sand to allow for drainage and ease of leveling. The black tube running inside is the EPA recommended radon system, and will be covered in clean gavel. The gravel layer for the radon system acts as a capillary break for the additional rigid insulation that will be placed under the slab.
Under Slab Insulation: The detailing and execution of the under-slab insulation and air-barrier is the best place to start educating crews about the critical paths of Passive House construction. It was learned from previous projects that the poly used under the slab was susceptible to damage through wear and tear. For this reason, a reinforcing material was positioned under the slab insulation.
Slab Section Detail: The thickened slab sections of the “perimeter foundation” are designed to be 8” to carry load-bearing walls; the rest of the slab is 4”. 4” of rigid insulation provides the best balance between heating and cooling in the Santa Fe climate. Due to the high solar gain potential, too much insulation and the Passive House would not benefit from the cooling of the earth in summer; too little and winter heating loads would rise.On the site of 1351 Ferguson Lane, looking towards Frenchy’s Park with the Sangre de Christo Mountains in the background and Agua Fria Road to the right.

Framing: The framing for the VOLKsHouse is fairly typical, following standard practice for reducing material because of cost, thermal bridge reduction, and resource efficiency by framing with 2-stud corners, headers on only bearing walls, etc. The VOLKsHouse uses 2×6 framing at 24″ OC and in this case TJI joists. The framing cavity only carries 35% of the R-value our thermal envelope [R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance.]. One of the most challenging aspects of meeting Passive House Certification is the elimination of thermal bridging. A thermal bridge occurs when there is a gap between materials and structural surfaces, typically found at the junctions of facings and floors, facings and cross walls; facings and roofs, facings and low floors. They also occur each time there is a hole (doors, windows, loggias…).

Structural Sheathing/Airtight Layer:
The exterior of the structural framing receives the structural sheathing that also acts as our air-tight layer. The VOLKsHouse uses Zip-Panels, a wall system with a built-in energy-efficient barrier that keeps moisture out and reduces air leakage, while still allowing panels to properly dry. The system worked very well. The surface is extremely stable, easy to inspect, FSC certified [responsibly harvested lumber certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council], and relatively breathable for a OSB [oriented strand board, an engineered particle board].
High Performance Windows: Passivhaus Institut certified, triple-glazed Optiwin windows and doors were imported from Germany for the VOLKsHouse to meet the high performance standards needed to reach Passive House Certification. The windows were rated with a U-Value of 0.137 [U-value is a measure of the heat transmission through a building part (e.g. a wall or window) or a given thickness of a material (e.g. insulation) with lower numbers indicating better insulating properties]. Frames must be well insulated and skillfully installed. Growing interest in eco-building is leading to the development of higher performance construction components in North America.
Sealing: All joints and gaps on a Passive House must be sealed for air and vapor tightness.

Installing Insulation: High insulation levels can be seen as a form of insurance against rising energy prices. VOLKsHouse uses EPS foam insulation. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a thermoplastic, closed-cell, lightweight, rigid-foam plastic with properties of low thermal conductivity, high compressive strength and excellent shock absorption. The material is recyclable and can be reused. External insulation is an excellent way to prevent mold growth by increasing the temperature of interior surfaces and thereby preventing condensation.

Insulation Layer Completed: VOLKsHouse was built to be airtight and thermal bridge free. A thermal bridge can occur when insulation is not continuous allowing energy transfer. The Passive House standard specifies thermal bridge construction whenever possible; the aim is to reduce thermal bridge effects to the point that they are so insignificant, they no longer need to be taken into account in calculations.
Mechanical Systems: The main hub of the mechanical systems for the VOLKsHouse resides in a ”mud room” between the two car garage and main house. It is outside of the “treated” area of the home.
Ducting: Because of the dryness of the Santa Fe climate, the heating/cooling and ventilation systems does not need to address humidity and are accordingly simpler than in other climatic areas. In the VOLKsHouse, the ventilation system is an Ultimate Air ERV (energy recovery ventilation) system; heating and cooling are handled through ducted mini-split ventilation.
VOLKsHouse Marketing: In the interest of promoting the concepts of eco-building and the Passive House. Between extensive local news reporting, being listed on local green-building tours, winning a Santa Fe GreenBuilt Award for “Best Efficiency,” and its well-traveled location, VOLKsHouse had more than 1,000 on-site visitors.
Window Installation: If a window is incorrectly installed, significant thermal bridges can occur. Passive House windows are positioned within the wall’s insulation layer to minimize thermal bridge effects. Frames are installed true, square and plumb in all directions to within 1/25th of an inch. Specialized Butyl Tape must be applied at 42 degrees and higher t ensure air tightness.
Blower Door Test: Once the air-tight layer has been installed, all seams sealed, windows installed, electrical, and plumbing rough-in completed, a blower door test is performed. To achieve Passive House Certification, an airtightness or air pressure test must be carried out to ensure that the stringent Passive House airtightness requirements are met. The test measures total air leakage under both positive and negative pressure. The test is best conducted as early as possible so that leaks an be found and easily sealed. Airtight buildings have better acoustics, reduced energy requirements and increased levels of comfort.
Because of the radically reduced energy requirements of a Passive House, it is possible to meet all the heating, cooling and living energy requirements of an active family on an annual basis, and even contribute power back to the grid. VOLKsHouse 2.0 aims to achieve net-zero energy performance, meaning that the home will be able to demonstrate its ability to meet 100% of its energy needs with renewables.g tours, winning a Santa Fe GreenBuilt Award for “Best Efficiency,” and its well-traveled location, VOLKsHouse had more than 1,000 on-site visitors.