The Passive House Comes to Utah

Utah Passive House Design


Passive house building, energy efficiency and energy generation concepts are reinventing the Utah housing scene.

Until now, they have mostly existed in a rogue-type of one-off way. High performance homes have usually been undertaken by private homeowners or high-end custom homes built specifically for a single customer.

However, Living Zenith at Liberty Park, introduces a new trend with the launch of Utah’s first net zero community designed by a builder and offered as a net-zero product upon occupancy. Located near downtown Salt Lake City, Living Zenith is creating a dramatic shift in expectations for modern home efficiency across the state of Utah.
Redfish Builders brings a wide array of dramatic innovations to Utah home building, but perhaps no innovation is more thoroughly revolutionary and beneficial than integrating passive house principles into whole communities as they are built.

Current Home Efficiency Is On a Path of Major Improvement

Technologies that surround us are, in many areas, dramatically changing the way we live, the comfort we experience, and the sustainability of our lifestyles. However, home energy efficiency is one area where the current standard is far below what is easily possible. In order to maintain steady temperatures in the home, consumer costs skyrocket in terms of dollars and environmental impact. At present, 39% of the CO2 emissions in our valley are from buildings; while transport (32%) and industry (29%) contribute to our haze, homeowners rarely realize that their homes and lifestyle choices are creating the pollution that makes us sick. Our children should not inherit this haze when eliminating it is readily possible.

Passive House Principles Present a Clear Solution for Utahns

We are grateful to pioneering innovators who, on their own initiative, have experimented with passive house principles in homes in Salt Lake City and across Utah. Take Jared and Mindi Campbell. Carving a new way forward in energy efficient housing, they incorporated phase-change materials (PCM), solar-studies, and radiant flooring. They proved that passive house options can be both efficient and aesthetically attractive in a way that the typical new builds cannot even touch. Their example, among others, bolstered Redfish to redefine their standards through Living Zenith.

As we assess the most impactful steps that will allow Utah to minimize pollution and reliance on fossil fuels, improved home selection offers a major opportunity.

Typical home emissions and their respective energy profile represent substantive angles for improvement. If just 50% of news homes across our community adopted passive house standards going forward, grizzly projections for energy demand and valley pollution would be meaningfully mitigated. As soon as our community realizes the corollary energy savings and clean air impacts, this trajectory could lead to the majority of homes, if not all, being built to a passive house standard.

In fact, for homebuilders and homebuyers who aggressively combine passive house principles with modern energy generation techniques, the ability for a Utah home to generate more energy than it uses over the course of a year is readily attainable. It’s time to rewrite Utah’s future when it comes to air quality, energy costs and the demand on our resources.

What Makes a Passive House Different

A quick web tour of the U.S. Passive House Institute reveals core principles of passive house design:

  • Continuous thermal envelope wraps entire home (no thermal gaps in construction materials that allow heat/cool air transfer);
  • Airtight walls/roof that minimizes thermal transfer via indoor/outdoor airflow;
  • High-performance and low-E windows (usually triple-paned) and doors;
  • Heat and moisture recovery ventilation with minimal space conditioning system;
  • Natural solar gain managed to retain heat during cold seasons and for minimal heat retention during warmer seasons.

Principles are always proven through practice in passive house designs. Actual performance is well researched by a cadre of growing professionals working together to improve housing across the globe. The team at Redfish Builders rigorously reviews and incorporates cutting edge designs proven through case studies, best practices, and peer-reviewed research.

Redfish convenes a monthly group of innovators through the Net Zero Consortium of Utah to dialogue about sustainability with professionals across a wide spectrum (including government leaders, academics, tradespeople, builders, suppliers). Redfish also attends national and regional summits to build capacity through new research and innovation related to passive house construction.

Living Zenith at Liberty Park will be monitored and evaluated for 24 months post-occupancy in order to understand what works well, what can improve, and what can be shared to inform homebuilding across Utah. Prior to occupancy, each home is measured according to strict standards to ensure it achieves expected performance in terms of temperature retention and efficiency. The most widely utilized measurement system for home efficiency in the USA is the HERS rating system.

As an example of the power of combining passive house concepts with other modern methods and systems, Living Zenith’s Liberty Park community has achieved a HERS rating of 0. The standard code-built home is considered to have a HERS rating of 100 while the typical resale-home is generally assessed at a 130 HERS rating. By achieving that 0 HERS rating, Redfish Builders was able to achieve a truly massive improvement in home efficiency that’s primarily attributable to passive house principles.

The Living Zenith Commitment to the Passive House Approach in Utah

We consider it a part of our core values to help our state integrate the passive house approach into every home across Utah. We hope that as we continue to innovate and modernize our housing infrastructure that Utah will become the leader in net zero homes that incorporate energy-generating techniques like solar to be net contributors to energy demand reduction.

Learn More About Our Homes and the Passive House

If you are interested in learning more about our homes and what other innovative techniques we are employing to rewrite the future of Utah’s housing, we invite you to visit the following links:

See home details and pricing.