Richard Pedranti Architect Nears Completion of its Third Passive House, The First Passive House in Berks County, Pennsylvania
Richard Pedranti Architect (RPA), a full service architecture firm focusing on energy efficient design, is nearing completion of the Soeder Residence, RPA’s third Passive House and the first Passive House to be completed in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Passive House is the most stringent building energy standard in the world and homes built to this standard use 80 to 90% less heating and cooling energy than conventional homes.
Shawn Soeder, in addition to owning the house with his wife JeanAnn, is serving as general contractor on their home. Mr. Soeder discovered Passive House after researching environmentally friendly building design and found a number of Certified Passive House Consultants (CPHC) in the process. After interviewing various firms, Mr. Soeder decided to work with RPA because of the firm’s extensive experience designing beautiful homes that achieve the Passive House standard, as well as Richard Pedranti’s willingness to educate him about Passive House building. After meeting with RPA, Mr. Soeder attended Certified Passive House Builder (CPHB) training.
“My father and grandfather both built their family homes, so building my own home was always something that interested me,” said Mr. Soeder. “I knew that if I was going to build my own home, I wanted it to be special. After I learned about Passive House, it was obvious to me that it was the kind of house I wanted to build and live in.”
The Soeder Residence is situated perfectly on ten acres of land in the rural hills of Berks County and sits between a historic Pennsylvania limekiln to the west and a mountain view to the east. The home’s southern exposure allows for solar gains while providing beautiful natural light to the open kitchen, dining room and living space. In addition to the home, RPA designed a shop and a garage outside the insulated building envelope so that Shawn can enjoy his woodworking into retirement.
Do-it-Yourself Passive House IoT Climate Monitoring and Reporting System
During the design phase, energy modeling software is used to engineer the Passive House building enclosure based on regional climate data and optimized solar orientation. Testing during construction certifies the building is meeting the requirements for insulation levels, air tightness, and mechanical efficiencies, but only a small percentage of Passive House buildings are monitored on an ongoing basis.
After discussing with Mr. Pedranti the idea of doing ongoing testing throughout the life of the house and finding the monitoring systems on the market to be expensive, Mr. Soeder leveraged his computer engineering expertise to develop a DIY Passive House Climate Monitoring and Reporting System with an Internet of Things (IoT) capability. The monitoring devices use inexpensive, readily available components to measure temperature and humidity and each includes a small data transmitter. System sensors are placed around the interior and exterior of the house and collected data is transported through the home’s Internet connection to the cloud. Mr. Soeder also developed a cloud-based data analytics solution that collects the data provided by the sensors and displays home performance information for the homeowner.
The system will be piloted in the Soeder House. When the pilot is complete, the specifications and installation instructions will be shared with the Passive House community so anyone can install an affordable Passive House IoT Climate Monitoring and Reporting System. The team envisions a time when performance data from PHIUS certified Passive House projects in various climate zones will be shared in a single repository and inform climate-adaptive standards.
“Shawn not only showed an enthusiasm for learning about Passive House construction, but it was clear from the beginning that he felt a responsibility to create a high performing, energy efficient home,” said Mr. Pedranti. “Shawn further proved his commitment to this belief by developing a monitoring system that will help advance the Passive House effort in our country.”
Workshop for Interested Members of the Public
On April 22, 2016, Mr. Soeder and RPA are hosting a private workshop for guests of the Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF). SEF’s mission is to promote, research and invest in clean and renewable energy technologies, energy conservation, energy efficiency and sustainable energy enterprises that provide opportunities and benefits for Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) electric ratepayers.
“Passive House standards are remarkable. Integrating these rigorous guidelines within new construction or retrofit projects helps reduce a home’s ecological footprint, while also putting money back in the wallets of homeowners,” said John Costlow, president and CEO of SEF. “We are excited to work with Richard and Shawn, and would like to thank them for their willingness to highlight this great project during SEF’s April workshop.”
In addition to a tour of the newly constructed Soeder Passive House, workshop guests will learn about Passive House standards, discuss Passive House principles and see a demonstration of a blower door test that is used to measure a building’s airtightness.
Richard Pedranti Architect is an innovative architecture firm located in the heart of the Upper Delaware River Region specializing in environmentally conscious building strategies. The firm is distinguished by its proven ability to create beautiful buildings that achieve the rigorous Passive House standard. Combining intelligent modern design and 21st Century building standards, RPA creates simply extraordinary places that exist in harmony with the environment and fulfill the unique aspirations of each client.