Hudson Passive Project: quality in today's home


The Hudson Passive house achieves its energy independence in a simple and ancient way; solar orientation, insulation, and a snug envelope.  The only equipment required is an air exchange device that allows air to refresh without altering the interior temperature.  It takes quality craftsmanship to build a house that seals up as tight as a submarine.  The quality of the Hudson Passive house will not stop at the shell.  It will be present in every component - from the parts that the homeowner interacts with daily, like the kitchen and bathrooms, to the parts that disappear when they function perfectly, like the systems that keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  The quality workmanship required to achieve the performance standards of a passive house brings numerous benefits.  Quality work is durable and stays out of the waste stream.  It also inspires respect and motivates maintenance when generations of users respond to something well made by taking care of it.

Quality design is perhaps the most important but usually the most absent component of mass-produced housing.  The Hudson Passive Project recognizes that a house must provide far more than energy performance to be valuable to its owners and their larger community.  A house that conserves material and energy resources without scrimping on quality details and workmanship needs to be much smaller than the developer housing that has proliferated like an invasive species over the last 20 years.  Until recently, Americans' taste for ever larger homes has been on an upward trajectory while their appreciation for quality design and workmanship has all but disappeared.

This is the inevitable outcome of a market where houses are viewed as investments valued primarily by size and location.  Even though quality workmanship brings the highest long-term value, it has fallen out of the equation for consumers raised on cheap, throw-away products and resale value houses. Even while architects and planners were deriding 'McMansions' as the apotheosis of waste and bad taste, developers were spewing them out like SUVs off the assembly line.

Now, big houses and big cars have become dinosaurs in a suddenly changed environment.  The Hudson Passive house is an adaptive response to an environment where fossil fuels are expensive, harmful, and finite, and where homes are fortunately becoming places valued more for living than investing.

The Hudson Passive Project represents a refinement of green housing endeavors by making quality architecture an equal partner with energy conservation and sustainability.  The technology to produce a net-zero energy house has been with us a long time.  It is the architecture that will determine whether this new kind of home is sufficiently inspiring to succeed in the marketplace.  Americans have been chastened by the bursting of the housing bubble and are getting the message about building green.  It may be that the Hudson Passive Project has appeared at just the right time.