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A Passive Case-Study for Generations to Come

Theresa Passive House boasts an array of green/energy efficient qualities 

By Hanna Heiss

Originally built in 1914, the Farmers, Trey and Adrienne began working on plans for Theresa Passive House in 2015.

Originally built in 1914, the Farmers, Trey and Adrienne have lived in the house since 2011 and dreamt of renovating from day one. In 2015 they started drawing and working on making something happen, for what was to become Theresa Passive House.

Trey Farmer is the Owner and Lead Architect of Forge Craft Architecture + Design, a professional architecture firm offering design services with a primary focus on architecture and related tactile arts such as interior architecture, industrial/product design, furniture design, exhibition design and an ongoing active interest in pursuing private and civic real estate development opportunities.

Farmer, with his dream of renovation, hired Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects as a collaborator for the project.

The house produces more energy than it uses, has the best indoor air quality of any home in Texas, is a certified wildlife habitat, and was built using pretty conventional techniques on a reasonable budget.

Hugh Randolph and his team are known in Austin, Texas as experts on blending playful contemporary additions while maintaining the historic character. Farmer had worked for Randolph during grad school. The renovation/addition project was completed in February of 2020, just a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown.

The Farmers wanted the home to be an open-source case study on healthy homes and sustainability that they could share with our community and use to test out ideas. A big part of that was designing something that was beautiful but also accessible – that would win awards and be attractive to others and the design community without being overtly “green”. 

Because of the home’s close proximity to a highway and train line, improving the indoor air quality was a high priority – especially with a new baby in the family.

The home was renovated to meet the rigorous sustainability standards set by Passive House Institute U.S. (Phius) and was certified upon completion. Phius-certified Passive Houses are designed to maintain the internal temperature – even during outages – for significantly longer than standard built homes, they are proven to use 40-60% less energy than code-built buildings, have superb indoor air quality and are uniquely built or renovated to stand the tests of time even in unpredictable weather zones, like Texas.

The home also has a SunPower integrated battery storage system to provide backup solar power during power outages. The Farmers were able to use this during the Texas freeze which lasted for several days.

The home is PHIUS+ Source Zero, DOE ZERH, ENERGY STAR for Homes and EPA Indoor airPLUS certified. It is also an Austin Energy Green Building program 5 star rated project.

Hanna Heiss is the senior editor or Builder and Developer. She may be reached at hanna@builder.media.