Initial Design Layout of 1st Passive House Single Family Home in Pennsylvania

The First Single Family Passive House in Pennsylvania

Design Layout of the First Passive House Single Family Home in Pennsylvania (PA)

First and foremost, Lisa and I wanted our home to appear as any other "luxury home."

A building associate of mine, suggested that we build our custom home to a certain "formula," to maximize its appeal to a [large] audience and maximize its marketability.

The basic formula that we followed was:
  • Four bedrooms
  • Three and a half bathrooms
  • Sufficiently large enough to support a family of five
  • The master bedroom on the first floor 
  • The value of the house to be three times the value of the land it was constructed on
Having lived in a townhouse community for nearly twenty years, we were ready to have some privacy and some serious living space--not just for us, but for our many pets!

We started the "design" stage in the summer of 2010.

The land had already been purchased, in Montgomery County, PA, nearly a decade ago.  It had all of the elements that we desired.  The lot was secluded and located at the end of a cul-de-sac, it was heavily wooded with sufficient acreage for quiet seclusion, there were a very limited number of existing homes on the street, yet even though it was a rural setting, we were close enough to population centers.

We considered employing an architect, but we found several that wanted to charge us an "arm-and-a-leg" for a custom floor-plan and the ones we spoke to were not cognizant of the special design requirements that make PH attainable.

Lisa and I had very specific elements that we wanted, including:
  • A very open and spacious floor and ceiling plan--one that essentially had no hallways
  • A (primary) master bedroom on the 2nd floor (making two total) with a large master bathroom 
  • A (secondary) master/guest bedroom on the 1st floor for 'age-in-place' considerations
  • A very bright, naturally lit interior (ie; one with a lot of windows)
  • A home that was NOT colonial style, as so many are in our area, but was French provincial
  • A home that was pet friendly 
  • A circular driveway in the front
  • A three or four car garage that was connected by the equivalent of a closed-in "breezeway"
A source of inspiration of design, came from my sister and brother-in-law, whose house was built in a fashion that was integrated to the outside.

For example, their breakfast/dinette area overlooks, through a bay window, a shade-garden which is rich in early-morning bird feeding activity.  Their second story master bedroom has an adjacent deck which provides a great view of their backyard.

So with some assistance, we devised a floor plan that conformed to these above specifications and one that was structurally sound.  The orientation of the home was to be due south (more on this later), which meant that the rear of the home would be on the relative "dark-side."  As such, I did not want to have a wooden deck particularly if it were to sit above our walk-out basement entrance.

But, I did like the idea of having a deck of some sort off the back of the house, so I designed two cantilevered patios/verandas, one off the master bedroom (on the second floor) and one off of the family room, each of them enabling the view of the wooded rear of our property which will include a koi-pond with a soothing waterfall feature.

Once we had our floor plan pretty much solidified, I began to investigate the building materials as well as the structural design and engage a engineering firm to develop a site plan that would gain approval from the township.