• Simplified building forms help this house meet Passive House's stringent heat loss standard.

    Credit: Courtesy Holst Architecture

    Simplified building forms help this house meet Passive House's stringent heat loss standard.

A private residence under construction in Yamhill County, Ore., is on track for certification under three separate sustainability regimes: Passive House, LEED for Homes Platinum, and Minergie-P-ECO. Minergie, a Swiss program, is the keystone of this unprecedented trifecta, says architect Jeffrey Stuhr, a principal at Holst Architecture in Portland, Ore. “The owner read an article in a science journal published by MIT that covered the Minergie process, and he contacted the Swiss folks,” he says. A trip to Switzerland, where Stuhr and the client met with representatives of the parent organization, convinced Stuhr that Minergie deserves a place in North America.

With its rigorous approach to both energy efficiency and sustainable materials, Minergie combines complementary strengths of Passive House and LEED, Stuhr explains. Because Minergie (P-ECO refers to its highest-level certification) had not yet been translated from the metric system when the project began, he says, the organization agreed to accept the Passive House yardstick for energy performance. The design adheres to Minergie’s material-sustainability guidelines, which consider environmental impact throughout a material’s life cycle. Because the Swiss program’s sustainability standard and its points-based rating system are similar to LEED’s, Stuhr explains, “we thought, ‘What the heck. We can get [the additional LEED Platinum certification] done for a reasonable cost.’”

Superinsulation, meticulous air-sealing, elimination of thermal bridging, and a package of German triple-glazed windows result in energy consumption that Stuhr projects at 60 percent less than the code maximum (a wind turbine on the property is expected to bump the project to net-zero energy use). However, achieving Passive House–level thermal performance without site-blown urethane—a Minergie no-no—posed a challenge, as did sourcing certain Minergie-specified materials. In Switzerland, Stuhr explains, “manufacturers all follow the protocol. It becomes this kit of parts. Over here, you have to start from scratch. We’re having to find some acceptable alternatives.” Thus far, though, Stuhr’s firm and builder Hammer & Hand have put a check in every box, establishing not only the feasibility of the Minergie program on this side of the Atlantic, but also its compatibility with first-rate architecture.

Material selection coordinates the overlapping guidelines of LEED for Homes Platinum and Minergie-P-ECO, a Swiss program new to North America.

Material selection coordinates the overlapping guidelines of LEED for Homes Platinum and Minergie-P-ECO, a Swiss program new to North America.

Credit: Courtesy Holst Architecture