Praxis House - Part 1

May 24, 2023

Through experience, error, forethought and collegial exchange, there is much to be learned in the work of a homebuilder.  Always challenging oneself to “build better” is one of the things that keeps us motivated and engaged at Pheasant Hill Homes.

As one of the company’s site and project managers,

I have spent most of my training and career as a carpenter focused on energy efficiency, super insulated building assemblies, and sustainable design features.  When it came time for my wife, Paula, and I to build a home for our family, it was only natural that I wanted to put everything I’d learned about those topics into getting our build up to the high performance standard we believed in.  “Praxis” is the practical application of one’s beliefs or skills, so seemed a fitting name for the project.

This will be a series of blogs about our project “Praxis House.”

The core concept is to make a Net Zero house.  This is a building which, over the course of an entire year, produces all of the energy it consumes on site.  The energy is typically produced by technology that harnesses renewable energy such as solar or wind, and must offset all the energy demands of the home operation, including heating, cooling, hot water, as well as all lighting, plug and appliance use.  As long as our budget can tolerate it, this is the goal we hope to achieve.  Should we not be able to afford the installation of this renewable energy production system, we will at the very least be constructing a super-insulated structure.  Doing so will minimize the energy demands of the building so that the cost of the photovoltaic array (which turns sunlight into electricity) will be as modest as possible.  In this way, the home will at the very least be considered “net zero ready.” It will have a drastically reduced energy demand compared to a new code-built home, using about 80% less energy to heat or cool, and about half of the energy overall of a typical new house of the same size.

Energy is only one resource that we believe should be consumed sparingly.  We also believe that clean, fresh water is a resource that should be cherished and well-considered.  We foresee a future in which its consistent supply could be disrupted, even in our temperate rainforest climate.  To that end, we are installing the sub-grade infrastructure which will allow us to very easily add a rainwater harvesting system in the future with the simple addition of some cisterns, a pump and filtration system.  That, and several other elements of the design and construction will be highlighted in the blog series over the coming months.

To avoid rewriting articles that have previously covered what a super insulated, energy efficient home looks like, we will just stick to the particulars of the Praxis House construction.  If you feel like a primer is necessary, please dive into our blog about the world of sustainable building programs by clicking HERE.

In a nutshell, Praxis House will be a home designed and built to be one of most energy efficient homes in the country.  This isn’t a boasting feature.  It’s our sincere belief as homeowners, and as a company, that all new buildings should be designed and constructed in this manner for two key reasons:  One- we believe we have a responsibility to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, old and new alike.  And two- building a superinsulated home is the surest way to make a home incredibly comfortable for it’s inhabitants.  It is about finally delivering a “high performance” home, not just something that merely appears to be.

Stay with us over the coming months as we dig into the details and reasons that Praxis House will help us achieve these goals.  We hope you’ll find inspirational ideas and education insights into how you can “walk the talk” on your own energy efficient projects.

Praxis House - Part 2 - Underslab Insulation

Praxis House - Part 3 - Exterior Walls

Burke explains the process of building his exterior walls, the successes and the things he would change.  Read the full post HERE.

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