I do things a bit differently from most architects.
The traditional architect-led design and building process can work very well for some types of projects but High Performance homes require a high performance process. A High Performance process requires an integrated team from day one…before the design sketches start to fly! Ideally, the builder becomes part of the team very early in the design process to help vet the design for cost, detailing, and buildability
What is a high performance home?
1. Low energy use both during construction (materials and methods with low Embodied Energy) and during operation (low monthly bills)
2. Energy modeling and third party verification (Energy engineer and certifications) to insure #1
3. Appropriate size – go for function and feel over square feet to help achieve #1
4. Durability and maintenance – how easy is it to live there? How can we minimize monthly/seasonal/yearly maintenance.
5. Is there a manual? – You should get a manual and continued support.
6. Maximize air quality and interior comfort. – Always breathe fresh clean air – no mold, pollen, allergens. Also, thermal comfort is prioritized.
7. Universal design – Design for a wide range of occupants, thinking both about the cycles of life (aging in place) and who is going to be living there over the next few centuries?
8. Beauty and Simplicity – Will you LOVE it!?
Helpful resources for more information:
Pretty Good House – more detail on what a High Performance House is and how to achieve it.
Energy Star Homes – A basic, better-than-code certification program with excellent support in Vermont
Passive House - The gold standard for energy use. Many local builders are trained in construction techniques to achieve this standard.
Living Building Challenge – the Really Really gold standard for energy use and a lot more. Part of the International Living Future Institute
Hers Rating – A good metric for comparison
Residential Energy codes – Here is a link to Vermont Codes but remember that a house built to code is the worst house you can legally build!