Zero foam off-grid and first certified International Passive House in Colorado. Read more past the images.

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Passive House Project Documentation (PDF)








Imagine a self supporting building that can last for many generations but when the metal roof and triple pane windows are removed the structure will decompose back into the environment, providing resources for a perhaps a future garden. The approach uses the Cradle to Cradle model by carefully selecting materials that are either fully recyclable or completely organic.

MARTaK Rest/Work Space is a vision of how sustainable building can resolve current needs without compromising the needs of the future generations. Built off-grid in a Ponderosa Pine mountain forest the project uses only solar energy for electricity and primarily for heat (with a small back up hydronic system) to maintain comfort.

Natural materiality takes a prominent role. Only naturally regenerative materials or fully recyclable products will be used, and using Cradle to Cradle methodology materials it will be easy to separate at the end of their use cycle. Most of the materials will have the capacity to be reabsorbed into the mountain environment when the building reaches its lifespan. No foams or other petroleum based products will be used below grade besides drain pipes. In fact we don’t have to use foam anywhere. Remaining materials can be reabsorbed into current industrial technical cycles. The project reuses most of the material from an existing shop, including a tire wall foundation.

The 1200 square foot building holds a guest room, bath, sleeping loft, office and shop which can be easily reconfigured for multiple uses in the future. The unique wedge shape is informed and inspired by the local hogback mountains in the area. The angled face of the building also increases solar gain improving performance while reducing materials and cost. The advanced Intus triple pane windows are a pivotal technology, providing excellent solar gain and low energy loss with a tilt and turn operation that encourages natural ventilation and cooling. A 1500 gallon rainwater catchment tank feed from the roof supplies non potable water needs including the toilet and gardens. Firewise construction adds to the fortification of the building. An Air Pohoda Heat Recovery Ventilation unit running on a dedicated power inverter uses tempered air from the earth tube to replace stale air with fresh air at more than 92% efficiency.

Using high solar heat gain glazing and active phase change thermal mass the home’s heating is provided primarily by the sun. In summer earth tubes keeps the home cool. The balance of maintaining comfort with a minimal heating source was modeled using the PHPP software, which allowed us to carefully find the balance levels of insulation, windows and shading. The design process was a constant give and take with Passive House requirements, aesthetic, material and program needs, and the budget. The design techniques use user activated measures for the home to meet season variably, something common 100 years ago. In fact many of the design solutions in creating MARTaK borrow from technologies developed before synthetic materials and HVAC became the norm: organic felt, mineral wool, cellulose. We discovered looking to the past was an invaluable guide in developing the future of sustainable design.floor-plan section