Western Technical College students build “passive homes”

May 9, 2013

From wpr.org: “La Crosse college will building homes with advanced energy efficiency” — Western Technical College will soon be building three “passive homes”:  buildings with a rare design that significantly reduces the amount of energy use.

A La Crosse neighborhood filled with quaint, single-family houses will become the home for three new, three-bedroom passive houses. In a passive house, heating energy usage can be reduced up to 90 percent. The wall insulation is much thicker than what’s found in a standard home.

Western Technical College architectural technology instructor Mike Poellinger says the air tight windows play a key role in the design.

“The windows actually become part of the heat source. We have a great amount of window glazing on the southern exposure as we’re collecting that heat. It’s minimized on the northern exposure; usually it’s there for lighting a stairwell or secondary lighting, and we minimize on the east and west.”

Poellinger says passive homes are quieter since they don’t have active heaters.

Western is hiring a contractor to start building the first passive home this summer. Western building system technology instructor Josh VandeBerg says students and instructors will be able to study the home as it’s built.

“We’re on this lesson here, talking about air tightness. Ding! Let’s go to the passive house and take a look at it in action. Not only is this house bringing my students to the passive house and the community to the passive house, but it’s also an opportunity to for my students to learn some of the very principles we’re talking about in the classroom.”

The Western Technical College Foundation will sell the homes. There are two other certified passive homes in Wisconsin.

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