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Low cost House Building

Simple House Building / December 1, 2021

Jason Morosko is the lead engineer for UltimateAir, a manufacturer of whole-house ventilation equipment, and the only Certified Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4, 755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. Consultant in Athens, Ohio. Morosko built a Passive House duplex for his own family a few years ago, regularly consults with builders, and rarely skips the annual conferences of the Passive House Institute U.S.

In short, the 39-year-old Morosko is completely invested in high-performance building, even when it comes to the handful of rental properties he owns with his brother Jeremy, 43, in the not-so-highfalutin southeast corner of Ohio.

The two of them late last year completed their first superinsulated modular, what they're calling a "Modular Passive House, " for well under $100 a square foot. They hope the modest building can become an example of what can be done on a shoestring budget for families who want comfortable, energy-efficient accommodations but can't afford steep rents.

"From a business standpoint for rental units, the math is terrible, " he said in a recent telephone interview. "But, on the flip side I hate seeing a poor family living so uncomfortably in a terrible single-wide mobile home."

Taking over a family-owned business

Athens is a city of 24, 000 close to the West Virginia border, an area Morosko describes as "economically deprived" where paychecks often fall below national averages. The Morosko brothers, both of whom work as engineers, got into the rental business through their parents. Although not by any means wealthy, the elder Moroskos had over time accumulated 10 or so rental properties.

When their parents wanted to retire, their sons bought them out, providing the nest egg their parents had never been able to set aside. The rentals included a mix of properties, but it was the manufactured housing that Jason Morosko especially loathed.

"With my history of Passive House and building science and the building industry, oh my gosh, I despise a mobile home for everything it stands for, " he said. "It’s a damned piece of Swiss cheese you’re trying to heat and cool.”

The brothers, doing business as Sustainable Path, owned one mobile home that was ready to fall apart. They originally planned to renovate it, but then decided to replace it with a more efficient, better insulated building of roughly the same size, about 850 square feet.

Their first step was to visit a local modular home manufacturer to buy a standard 13-6 by 70-foot steel frame on wheels. The seven-axle trailer had been used to deliver modular homes. Once a crane lifted the modular unit off the frame and placed it on a permanent foundation, Morosko said, the trailer was no longer needed. The modular builder had 30 spent trailers lying around and was happy to sell one of them.

Soon afterward, Sustainable Path started work on the first, and so far only, of its modulars. Morosko described the building as a wood-framed structure whose 2x6 exterior walls were insulated with cellulose in the stud cavities and an additional 4 inches of polyisoPolyisocyanurate foam is usually sold with aluminum foil facings. With an R-value of 6 to 6.5 per inch, it is the best insulator and most expensive of the three types of rigid foam. Foil-faced polyisocyanurate is almost impermeable to water vapor; a 1-in.-thick foil-faced board has a permeance of 0.05 perm. While polyisocyanurate was formerly manufactured using HCFCs as blowing agents, U.S. manufacturers have now switched to pentane. Pentane does not damage the earth’s ozone layer, although it may contribute to smog. rigid foam on the exterior. The 2x10 shed roof, as well as the floor, were insulated with a mix of polyiso and cellulose. In all, the specs sound something like a "Pretty Good" house and a lot more attractive than a built-to-code house: R-40 in the walls, R-50 in the roof, and something like R-40 in the floor. Windows are triple-paned, and the all-electric house came whole-house ventilation system using an UltimateAir ERVEnergy-recovery ventilator. The part of a balanced ventilation system that captures water vapor and heat from one airstream to condition another. In cold climates, water vapor captured from the outgoing airstream by ERVs can humidify incoming air. In hot-humid climates, ERVs can help maintain (but not reduce) the interior relative humidity as outside air is conditioned by the ERV..

A blower door test for airtightness has not been done.

Good, but not Passive House and not upscale

It took a crew of one or two carpenters about seven months to build the house in a local parking lot. When it was finished, the Moroskos swapped it for the dilapidated mobile home, with the tenants temporarily storing their belongings in a container on the site. What the tenants got was a snug, two-bedroom, two-bath house that is heated and cooled with a single 9, 000 BtuBritish thermal unit, the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit in temperature—about the heat content of one wooden kitchen match. One Btu is equivalent to 0.293 watt-hours or 1, 055 joules. /h ductless minisplit head even in sub-freezing weather.

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Source: www.greenbuildingadvisor.com