The Mini-B, a small passive house | Joseph Giampietro

The Mini-B is a small prototype dwelling intended to demonstrate that building to the Passive House standard is achievable and affordable in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, and will result in comfortable, energy efficient homes.

The Passive House standard (Passivhaus in German) is a voluntary standard for energy efficient buildings developed by German and Swedish researchers. As described by the International Passive House Association:

A Passive House combines high-level comfort with very low energy consumption. Passive components like thermal windows, insulation and heat recovery are the key elements. A passive house doesn’t need to be heated actively, because it essentially uses passive heat gains to heat itself. The heat stays inside.

Passive heat refers to passive solar heat gain as well as the heat given off by occupants and appliances. Over 25,000 buildings have been built to the Passive House standard, but there are few in North America. The Mini-B is one of the first in Washington State. The Mini-B achieves the Passive House standard by, among other things, using high-performance windows, eliminating air leaks in the building envelope, heating water with a solar collector, and using a heat recovery ventilation system to bring in fresh air while recovering heat from the exhaust air. The Mini-B also has a very high level of insulation. There is 3.5″ of fiberglass in the walls and then the whole structure is wrapped in 9″ of EPS foam:

9″ EPS foam insulation

The Mini-B is a studio dwelling with a loft for sleeping. Architect Giampietro designed the Mini-B to meet the City of Seattle requirements for a detached accessory dwelling unit, a small dwelling built in the backyard of an existing house. Although only roughly 300 ft2 (29 m 2), the high ceilings make it feel larger. The kitchen is compact but functional with a two-burner stove, a microwave and an under-counter fridge.

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Built by students of the Seattle Central Community College Wood Construction Center under the guidance of instructor Frank Mestemacher. Photographs courtesy of Mini-B Passive House.

Text copyright 2012 SmallHouseBliss. All Rights Reserved.

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