VOLKsHouse = Passive House

Introducing the VOLKsHouse


VOLKsHouse is a response to America’s overuse of energy resources and the typically higher cost of green construction. Based on energy-conserving Passive House technology, it was built to prove that eco-construction can be fully cost-competitive with traditional construction and to pioneer healthy and affordable green housing. Designed by award-winning WAMO Architects in Santa Fe, it is the first certified Passive House on the New Mexico market using 90% less energy for heating and cooling, costing 6.5% less per square foot to build than a conventional home and designed to give power back to the grid. Energy performance is monitored daily and financial records will be audited to verify savings. VOLKsHouse is the third cost and energy-saving WAMO Passive House and plans are being developed to build sustainable housing in cooperation with the New Mexico Housing Trust. VOLKsHouse sets a baseline for driving down construction costs, serves as a model for training and educating builders, establishes new standards for affordable housing, and unlocks economic potential for the expansion of green living and eco-construction. If a Passive House uses far less energy and costs less to build, there’s no longer any reason to build anything else.

Partner and Investor: Bob Schneck, Director, VOLKsHouse, NY

Architects: Vahid Mojarrab, WAMO Studio, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Project Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Construction Cost: $161 per square foot

Total Estimated Sales Price: $415,000

Estimated Site Energy Use: 0

Completion Date:  April 2012

The VOLKsHouse is a site-net-zero  single family residence being built in Santa Fe New Mexico. The project has been designed to exceed Passive House requirements for certification which serves to bring the overall projected energy use down by approximately 85%. An integrated solar thermal system is designed to provide 100% of the remaining heating and domestic hot water needs. The balance of energy use, mostly due to domestic use such as lighting and cooking is generated by a small PV solar system.  All of this is currently under construction for approximately 20% less then typical construction costs and is designed to meet the the financial needs of workforce Housing in our area.

Please follow along as we detail the project and construction techniques used in Passive House construction, as well as discussion of how an integrated approach to sustainability can lead to dramatically reduced construction costs.

Helpful Links:
WAMO – Wamo Studio: wamostudio.com
Passive House Initiative Project (PHI): mo-s-a.com/category/passivehouse/
Passive House Institute, Darnstadt Germany: http://www.passiv.de/07_eng/index_e.html

Vahid Mojarrab   WAMO, Santa Fe   505-412-1242 / vahid@wamostudio.com
Bob Schneck   Director, VOLKsHouse, NY  212-786 0287 / Bob@VOLKsHouse.us

VOLKsHouse – Fact Sheet

VOLKsHouse is a revolution––a prototype for America’s affordable, net-positive, sustainable future. VOLKsHouse integrates Passive House conservation strategies and solar hot-water and electrical systems with contemporary design to create an exceptionally efficient home at lower-than-market construction costs.

Energy and Cost Efficient:   
Uses 90 percent less energy and costs 6.5% less than a comparable conventional home in Santa Fe.  German-engineered Optiwin 3-layer windows and doors deliver some of the world’s highest true R-values (standard measure of thermal efficiency).

Deep Green:
Certified as a Passive House, the global standard for energy efficiency, and rated Emerald by the National Home Builders Association.

Solar Energy:
Maximizes energy savings with passive-solar design, solar hot water and solar electricity.

Energy Recovery Technology:   
Minimizes thermal losses and maximizes gains while maintaining unprecedented indoor air quality.

Ensures comfort in every season in every room with a well-insulated thermal envelope.

Uses only low-VoC (volatile organic compound) finishes.

Protects owners from rising energy costs.

Award-winning design.

Special Features:
Includes energy-monitoring system and efficient LED lighting.

Building Specifications:
1,717 square feet (conditioned); 3 bedrooms/2 baths; two-car garage; rooftop patio.

1351 Ferguson Lane on Agua Fria, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Investment in the Future:  
Pioneering the way forward to sustainable living

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7 Responses to VOLKsHouse = Passive House

  1. Mike Duclos says:

    I’m very impressed by the Balance House and the VOLKS home, especially with the construction cost and the use of Optiwin windows. I wonder if there is an error in the Inhabitat photo essay stating Optiwin U value of 0.9, seems too high to me.
    Can you share some of the details of how you achieved such low construction costs ?
    Thanks, Mike

    • jonah says:

      Ya, your right .9 would be pretty high. I think they left out a zero in there. I believe they are rated at U- .11
      We would be happy to discuss, get in touch.

  2. Phyllis Jordan says:

    what would it take to get a house similar for Maryland?

  3. Jo says:

    Hey guys,

    Just wondering about the cost quoted per square foot ($161). The EcoHome website quotes ($121). Which is correct?


    • jonah says:

      Thanks for your comment. The heated sq.ft. of the house is 1,700, then there is a 550 sq. ft. garage. Our industry standard is to amortize the total construction cost by just the heated area.
      Total construction cost was $273,700. So- ($273,700 / 1,700 sq.ft. = $161 per sqft) . EcoHome decided to amortize the total construction cost over the total sq. footage. ($273,700 / 2,250 sq. ft. = $121 per sq. ft.) To be clear, neither one of these are all that accurate in understanding the cost of construction, they just follow an industry standard. Though it is not quite possible to totally separate the costs of the conditioned and unconditioned areas as they are related, here is what we feel are more accurate numbers. I am rounding numbers for ease.

      Garage costs around $50 per sq. ft. (550 sq.ft. x $50 = $27,500)
      The house or heated area cost around $145 per sq. ft. (1,700 x $145 = $246,500)

      I hope this helps- Best, Jonah

  4. jo says:

    Thanx for the detailed reply Jonah!

    One more question.. (for the purposes of some research I am doing on sustainable, affordable housing in Australia).

    Were there any government rebate/ grant/ incentive programs available at the time of the building/ designing this building that influenced the cost in any way? I’d be interested in any policy/ regulation/ incentive program that made the affordability of the passive house more or less achievable?



  5. Jonah says:

    The state of New Mexico does have some great benefits that we capitalized on.
    The project earned around $18,000 in state and federal tax credits. However these were not subtracted from the construction cost. Additionally the construction cost does include all of the “soft” permitting fees for water connections, impact fees due to the city as well as HERS rater inspections,etc. These totaled around around $12,000.
    So the actual what we would call the “sticks & bricks” cost of construction was around $260,000. – hope this helps – Jonah

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