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When thinking about which wires will have to run through the house, it helps to envision a dream end product. A rough image of that dream is what follows in this post. Now, before continuing, keep in mind two things. First, I’m not a network engineer so don’t blindly follow my direction. Second, a lot of this is overkill and can be built up gradually. It’s just as much of a hobby as it is practical, so I eventually plan to consider what equipment I already have, and look at different setups with cost in mind. But, for fun, let’s dream up something cool and spend $10,000 monopoly money.
As we’ve gone down this path of trying to design a proper house with no building experience, each step has become more confusing. Starting with wall assembly, we gained some confidence that we can do this. Next, roof assembly required more thought and reading to propose something that may have potentially. And if the roof introduced a trickle of doubt, the basement opens the flood gates. Let’s be honest – without talking to experts, we’ll only be able to take the design so far. Still, we’ve given it a shot, and will continue to refine it. Hey, at least we now know more about basements and foundations than we ever thought we would.
Passive House Explained in 90 Seconds I specifically remember the “ah-hah” moment I felt when reading about a Passive House for the first time. It’s similar to electric cars. You don’t want an electric car because it is green – you want it because it is faster, quieter, smarter and easier to maintain than a traditional car. The same goes for homes. It’s nice to have a green home, but the tangible gains brought by a Passive House are what make it appealing: cleaner air, lower utility bills, better sound, stronger buildings and a more comfortable space.
For better or worse, our general site location was chosen for us. We knew that we wanted to build on family land, and we also want to be near my wife’s parents. That pretty much narrowed us down to acreage in Colwich, KS. Aside from that, there were still plenty of unknowns. Where are the best views? What is best for farming? Which areas can support an event venue? What sort of choices are too complicated and expensive? How many acres should we purchase? The list goes on and on. So, last winter, we went there and found answers for as many of these questions as we could.
For a Passive House, there appears to be two dominant wall types: a double stud wall, or continuous exterior insulation. Hammer & Hand details these options nicely. While there are only two main designs, there are still plenty of products and approaches that make for infinite ways to assemble. After throwing cost, eco concerns, and ease to build into the equation we’re left with a lot to consider.
For our house, we’re leaning towards continuous insulation for two reasons. First, we’re guessing that framers in our small town will be more comfortable and familiar with it. Second, since we’re only in climate zone 4, it doesn’t take too much insulation to meet standards. When you’re dealing with 4”-8” exterior insulation, a double stud wall starts to become more appealing. With our choices narrowed down, we can take a look at targets, products and installation details.