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Heidelberg Passive House now complete, first in Western Pennsylvania

The first Passive House in Western Pennsylvania is now complete.  A project of ACTION-Housing Inc., the home is a prototype for affordable housing that drastically cuts energy consumption by 85 percent.  An open house celebration will be held tomorrow, November 1st, at the newly-constructed home in Heidelberg.

Passive House design was first developed in Germany as a performance-based standard which limits energy consumption to 4.75 KBTU per square foot, per year.  According to Linda Metropulos, sustainability and development consultant with ACTION-Housing, that amounts to just 10 to 15 percent of what a typical house uses.

“It’s a very ambitious, but very possible standard to reach,” Metropulos says.  “We wanted to be able to demonstrate how that standard could be applied to a house in Pittsburgh.”

The Heidelberg Passive House is built with minimal ductwork and no furnace.  Instead, the home achieves its energy performance through super-insulation, by eliminating thermal bridges, maximizing air tightness, and features high-performance windows and doors, among other techniques.

ACTION-Housing hopes to replicate this house, or versions of it, throughout the region.  But Metropulos hopes it will also inspire other developers and contractors in the region to take-on the Passive House challenge.

“We would like other people to recognize that this is possible in Western Pennsylvania,” she says.

Although the home’s Passive House certification is still pending, a quality control consultant oversaw the construction process, and conducted performance tests using robust modeling tools, Metropulos says.

ACTION-Housing has been a weatherization assistance program provider for the past 30 years.  Additionally, it does renovation and new construction of houses that are for sale to moderate income households.  The Heidelberg Passive House is for sale to a household that is at 80% area-median income or less. 

The project is a partnership between the Allegheny County Economic Development and the Borough of Heidelberg, among others.  The home was designed by Thoughtful Balance Architects.

ACTION-Housing is also in the process of conducting a Passive House-standard retrofit of the McKeesport YMCA, built in 1922.

Tomorrow’s open house will be held at 1606 W. Railroad Street, Heidelberg, PA, from 3 to 6 p.m.  Speakers include County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Heidelberg Mayor Kenneth A. LaSota and Katrin Klingenberg, executive director of the Passive House Institute US.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Linda Metropulos
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