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Passive House student design project is complete

Passive house ribbon cutting

The Passive House, the first of its kind designed by South Dakota State University Department of Architecture students, is complete. The house is located at 902 Third Ave. in Brookings, west of campus, and is available for purchase.

The department held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to recognize the hard work of Brookings Built Green, the Fishback Community Development Corporation and Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who allocated funds toward the project.

Several years ago Daugaard met with the Department of Architecture to complete the German-style architecture as part of eventually building many Passive Houses in the state. He said one motivation was to teach students about different building methods and energy efficiency. Daugaard said energy efficiency has been an interest of his since building his first house with his wife, Linda, in 1981, where they implemented similar technologies that are in the Passive House.

“We used triple-glazed windows and have since replaced them with quadruple-glazed windows just like these,” Daugaard said when looking at the large windows in the Passive House. “There is great pressure always on an architect to have great art … it is so important to always remember that houses are shelter first … the science is vital.” 

Passive house

The three bedroom, two-and-one-half bathroom house is built to the 2015 Passive House standard. It features a vaulted ceiling and an open floor plan.

The standards mean the house is airtight, with insulated walls, ceiling and floors. The house has an air exchanger, which provides a constant introduction of prewarmed outdoor air. There is no duct work inside the house, which features solar panels.

The Passive House standards also call for special appliances. A special washer and dryer must be used in the home because there is no duct work. There is also a water heat pump, rather than the traditional electric or natural gas water heater. The students’ research estimates that the monthly electricity bills for the Passive House could be as low as $40 a month.

Its location in an older, more established neighborhood was a deliberate decision by all involved.

“We believe very strongly that the site for the house reinforces our commitment to sustainable housing and sustainable building,” said Charles MacBride, an associate professor of architecture. “Building in the community and reinvesting in established neighborhoods is really important to us, and we hope that this house will increase property values and the livability of these kinds of neighborhoods.”

Graduate students completed the overall architectural design of the house, while undergraduate students took on other tasks, such as building the stairs and railing that overlook most of the house.

“What this [Passive House] represents to me is how change happens in society and community and how we live. I am just so proud that SDSU is a driving force of that change,” said SDState President Barry Dunn. “In higher education, everyone is bragging about experiential learning, and this is experiential learning at its best.”

Graduate architecture students are working on designing a second Passive House based on the 2018 Passive House standards. The location of the second house has not yet been determined.