More than 20,000 passive homes have been built in Europe, but the Hudson Passive Project is one of only a dozen in the U.S. so far. Built for $200 to $250 per square foot, it’s on the market for $595,000. That’s not exactly entry level pricing, although Stratton is quick to point out that not all of its hard costs went toward energy-saving features. “A lot of that cost is in high-end finishes,” he says, noting the prototype’s custom pine millwork, bluestone exterior cladding, and other goodies. “You don’t have to have marble countertops and custom cabinetry to build a passive home,” he says. “In the end, you are probably adding 10 percent in costs to build a passive house.”

Passive building certainly isn’t the only means to a more sustainable future, but it is an approach Wedlick hopes more builders will at least investigate. “If the ideal now is to create homes that are easier for builders to build and cheaper to heat and cool, then let those priorities drive the design,” he says. “None of this requires skills that builders don’t already have. For production builders, every development starts with a prototype, right? Why not start with the passive house as a prototype and then value-engineer from there? The hardest thing will be changing building codes as they currently apply to mechanical systems.”

As a passive house ambassador, this iconic dwelling certainly has some persuasive performance numbers to go with its good looks. And its architecture conveys an air of familiarity. Unlike the starkly modern passive homes that predominate in Europe, this barn-like abode feels very much a part of the American landscape. In fact, its backdrop isn’t unlike the one that inspired the immortal words of poet Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.” If this building approach lives up to its promises, more will follow in its footsteps.

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