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This Stylish Passive House Doesn't Need to Show Off

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The Right-Sized Passive Home in Oak Park, Illinois. Photos by Eric Hausman.
The Right-Sized Passive Home in Oak Park, Illinois. Photos by Eric Hausman.

While passive homes often get play because of the technical wizardry involved in constructing such efficient structures, comfort doesn't necessarily have to come at the expense of conforming to rigid environmental standard. The recently completed Right-Sized Home in Oak Park, Illinois, designed by architect Tom Bassett, puts time-tested techniques above making a statement, according to the architect, an example of his belief in a more authentic, durable and efficient style of homebuilding (his manifesto is quite eloquent).

"Bringing together performance and aesthetics so they reinforce each other is a great challenge to complete in an elegant manner," says the architect.

The owners wanted a Craftsman-style home that fit the way they live, a responsible, open floor plan without a radical façade. Bassett, who has worked on passive home projects since 2010, focused on a more transitional design, with a dynamic, angled roof and overhangs offering a literal and figurative edge to the relaxed interior and screened-in porch. For all of the talk of next-generation insulation, computer-calibrated sun shading and green building materials, this energy-efficient project exemplified Basset's decidedly classic building philosophy. The north-to-south incline of the shed-style roof, combined with the positioning of the interior stairway, created a horizontal vista point and clear view from within the home, a challenge in the dense Chicago suburb. The small footprint of the 1,900-square-foot residence also paradoxically helped open up the living space by leaving room for the open porch, which encouraged interaction with the neighborhood and the "primal sound of wood crackling" in the fireplace.

"It's interesting how the Passive House level of efficiency nudges you towards massing and fenestrating a building like the old days," he says. "Seems like they had a reason for what they were doing."

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