A Dallas home that has earned major bragging rights for eco-friendliness went on the market on Monday, March 26. The Northwest Dallas house, at 3846 Lively Cir., is the first internationally certified "passive house" in Texas, meaning it was built to some of the most exacting standards in the world for energy efficiency and air quality.
“The passive house originated in Germany and results in ultra-low energy usage,” said builder Connor Fagin, who with his father, Kyle Fagin, owns Fagin Partners. “We’ve got 14-inch thick [exterior] walls, an 18-inch thick roof, and even when we have a sharp temperature change outside, it takes about 24 hours for the heating or cooling system to have to turn on inside.”
The house is 3,230 square feet on two stories. For the past several weeks, the air conditioning as been at 71 degrees and the heat at 69. Lights were burning bright, appliances were buzzing, and people were walking in and out as the property was prepared for sale.
During all this activity, the house’s electricity usage has averaged $1 a day, about 90 percent less energy than a comparable structure built using standard techniques, says Fagin.
Built as a spec home, this passive house uses leading-edge materials and “green” technology to create a comfortable, beautiful dwelling.
“This is a high-quality, well-made house — but it’s just a house if you don’t know anything more than that,” said listing agent Vicki White with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. “But then you find out it’s the best of the best in Texas, something one-of-a kind, and it [creates] a whole different level of appreciation.”
Low energy bills are just one of the benefits of a Passive House. It also offers extremely high air quality, thanks to the structure being almost completely air-tight and having two systems to deal with air, each with its own ductwork.
“The typical home has one system to heat, cool, recirculate, filter, and de-humidifying air,” Connor said. “No single system is designed to do this well.”
This house instead has one system for heating and cooling and a second for air quality management. The latter pulls in fresh air, pre-heats or pre-cools it, puts it through a MERV 13 filter to remove impurities, and pumps it into the house. An intelligent energy recovery ventilator works through the return vents to take in stale air and exhaust it outside.
Other features include high-performance doors and windows, as well as a water harvesting system that holds 2,500 gallons of rainwater. In the yard, three miles of buried tubing create an irrigation soaker system that does not lose water to evaporation. There’s no roll off, which accounts for about 35 percent waste with traditional watering. Since there are no watering restrictions in Dallas for those using harvested water, a lush lawn is a real possibility, even in August.
Smart House technology makes almost everything controlled from a smartphone or tablet and the house is pre-wired for solar panels.
The inspiration for building a passive house started with Kyle Fagin.
“We were already building more efficient homes and a friend gave me an article about passive houses — I thought, I want to try to do that,” Kyle Fagin said. “You can build a comfortable, healthy house, with really good air quality, low utility bills, and it’s better for the environment.”
They used Ryall Sheridan Architects in New York City, a firm that is passive house certified.
“I think what Connor and I hope is that more people will know about passive houses, what they are, that they’re available, and they can have one, too,” Kyle said.
Kyle and Connor are so passionate about passive houses, they’re already at work on their second on Shorecrest Drive, near Midway Road and West Northwest Highway.
The Lively house is in the luxury category, listing for $1.145 million. But passive technology and design can certainly be used in houses in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, Kyle said.
“In the right situation, if a developer bought a bigger piece of land to subdivide, you might be able to get the price down to that range,” he said, noting that the additional cost for the passive designation was about 10 percent over the cost of building a similar, non-passive house.
There’s a Realtor tour on March 27; those interested can contact agent Contact Vicki White for more information.
A version of the story originally was published on Candy's Dirt.