Active House USA is a custom green home built in 2013 located in Webster Groves, MO. The design and construction of this home relied on leading green, sustainable, and environmentally conscious building practices from around the world. The home’s design and operation take an holistic approach to sustainability and community conscious home construction.
During the first year of residence in the home, the Smith family allowed the University of Missouri’s Center for Sustainable Energy to monitor energy consumption and indoor air quality as part of their research efforts and to help improve green living standards around the country. The family is also provided anecdotal evidence and data to support and complete the metrics.
Other homes have been built around the world under the Active House umbrella utilizing Active House specifications. Active Houses can be found in countries such as Portugal, Austria, Norway, UK, Italy, Netherlands, and Russia.
Active House USA in Webster Groves, MO is situated in the center of the United States in a bustling suburb located 15 minutes away from downtown St. Louis, MO.
Energy | Environment | Indoor climate
By focusing on three main sustainability factors – energy, environment, and indoor climate – during planning, construction, and after the homeowner takes residence, Active House USA aims to have a positive impact on both the homeowners and the immediate community.
Traditionally, green building standards are concerned primarily with the construction materials and building process. Active House standards are the first residential building standards to focus on what happens once the homeowners are living in the home. The immediate goal is to provide the homeowner with a cost-effective, easy to operate, and low maintenance living space. A focus on those goals creates a healthier and more comfortable environmental for the occupants without impacting the climate.
Active House prototypes were first built in Europe, and were developed with the goal of giving back more than they take. Homes built using the Active House standards are energy efficient and are conscious of using only renewable resources. The indoor climate is built to be comfortable and healthy, and the home itself is built in a way that has little to no impact on the local and global environment.
The Smith residence
When the Smith family moved into the First Active House in the USA, it was the beginning of something new as well as a return to the past. David Smith grew up near the Active House site in Webster Groves, MO and even has fond memories of playing wiffleball, a variant of baseball for confined areas, in the yard just across the street from where the house is being built. When David and his wife Thuy decided they wanted to build a new home, they called on Jeff Day of Jeff Day and Associates, a St. Louis architecture firm they had worked with in the past, to help them begin their journey.
It was Day who proposed to the Smiths that they build an Active House, as he had been discussing this project with home builder Kim Hibbs of Hibbs Homes, and project manager Matt Belcher of Verdatek Solutions. The Active House project was looking for the right family, and after talking with Day, Hibbs and Belcher, the Smiths thought this type of home would be interesting to build and was the right fit for them as well.
The Smiths worked closely with interior designer Kristen Zivic of Lusso at Home and decided on a plan that embraces the character and traditional architecture of the surrounding neigborhood, and yet incorporates the innovative technologies and techniques that represent the best in sustainable and green building around the world. David Smith (CPA and owner of accounting firm Smith Patrick), Thuy (a stay-at-home mother) and their daughter Cameron moved into their new home mid 2013. They could not be happier with all of the benefits that come with building and living in an Active House.
"I always say that our first impression when we moved into the house, was an excellent air environment. One of the nicest aspects about this house was the incredible amount of daylight, which we get into this house. Rarely, do we turn on lights in the house during the day." says David Smiths, father of the family who lives in the Active House. "The really important thing with any project is certainly to build a home which fits the community, fits the neighborhood. And I think our group here did a fantastic job - designers, builders and everybody working together. All in all, the community has loved it and certainly we got a lot of attention. Oftentimes now, when people ask me where I live, I would just refer to it as the Active House. They know where it is."
The Active House Prototype Home
The Active House concept is based on the idea that comfortable and healthy living conditions are compatible with sustainable and energy efficient construction.
Active House is a holistic specification, meaning it takes into account everything involved with a house − the resources used to construct a building, its impact in terms of energy and water consumption, occupant comfort and even such external parameters as storm water run-off. Several prototype homes have been built around Europe, and one in Russia, using the Active House principles, which were proclaimed in Brussels in April 2010. These geographical areas have provided a wealth of experience and knowledge of durable construction in harsh climatic conditions and planning for dense concentrations of population. This experience also includes dealing with scarcity of materials and managing the impact of those population densities on existing and future resources. These issues, combined with an ever-increasing demand for energy, created an opportunity to merge that knowledge and experience to address these issues, while promoting better comfort and health for building occupants.
In the United States, the resource efficiency in today’s American green standards (like Green Globes) stems from post-war construction and the limited amount of natural resources such as timber, due to deforestation. The continued growth in demand for energy efficient developments, buildings, new homes and retrofitting of the 128 million existing homes that account for the bulk of the nation’s residential energy consumption, means that innovative concepts capable of addressing this energy efficiency are crucial. Sound business planning, including risk management, is also essential to be able to operate and compete in the rapidly evolving construction market.