First “Active House” in the country to be built in Webster Groves

Alex Nash/The Journal – Though the architects for the Active House are still in the preliminary stages of planning, the house will be constructed at this location on South Gray Avenue.

After living in his dad’s childhood home in Brentwood for eight years, David Smith is moving back to Webster Groves — two blocks from where he grew up — with his wife Thuy Smith and 4-year-old daughter Cameron.
The Smiths’ new home, on South Gray Avenue, will be an “active house,” an environmentally-conscience building approach. Architects involved with the project say the home will be the first active house in the United States.
According to The Active House Alliance’s website, an active house is a “green” building technique that started in Denmark and has since been used throughout Europe. The Active House Alliance was established in Copenhagen in 2010 to support the active house building concept.
David Smith said he and his wife hope to move into their new home by the end of 2012. For approximately one year, the Smiths looked for a new house in the Webster Groves and Brentwood areas. David Smith approached Jeff Day, principal architect of Jeff Day and Associates, about building a home. Day, who built an addition on the Smiths’ current Brentwood home, suggested the Smiths get involved with the active house project.
Hibbs Homes will build the Smiths’ new house.
“We (when building the active house) give equal weight to the resource efficiency, the indoor environment, the sustainability of the environment, as well as the conservation angle,” Kim Hibbs, of Hibbs Homes, said.
The principles of active house focus more on what Hibbs called a, “holistic approach.” He said many green building certifications in the U.S. focus on conservation and the building process.
The New East Academic Building will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Hibbs said the construction process for the active house is similar to green building certifications such as LEED.
“The approach is similar. You’re focusing on many of the same items,” Hibbs said.
Day said they will take their plans to the Webster Groves Architectural Review Board in February for approval. Day hopes to break ground on the project sometime in March.
David and Thuy Smith have been working with architects to design the home, which is still in the preliminary design stages.
“The main idea is smart building and following guidelines to make sure the house is as efficient as possible,” David Smith said.
David Smith said the goal is for the new home to be a zero net energy house. Along with energy efficiency, the active house concept focuses on the indoor climate and environmental effect of the home. As the Smiths and architects plan the layout of the new house, they are considering which time of day each room is most used so the house can utilize natural light.
The University of Missouri and Laclede Gas will monitor the house for at least one year to observe how the house performs. They will monitor the electric consumption and efficiency of the heating and cooling systems. Hibbs said it’s rare to see monitoring of green verified homes in the U.S.
“I’m excited to see exactly how well we build this house to make sure we deliver a good product for our clients,” Hibbs said.
David Smith said building a green home isn’t going to cost a significant amount more than they were planning to spend on a new home.
“The most attractive thing is the cost of operation,” David Smith said.
By utilizing reusable sources, such as solar energy, David and Thuy Smith will have lower monthly costs. Day said he has seen a similar motivation in other clients.
“My clients that are building green homes are doing it because it has a positive impact on their pocket book when they’re not burning all these utilities,” Day said.
The Smiths and the architects involved have preliminary drawings for the Smiths’ new home, but don’t yet have an estimated cost of the new house. The Smiths want a traditional style home similar to other homes in the Webster Groves neighborhood.
The Smiths’ bought their current home in Brentwood from David Smith’s grandmother. When they move, David Smith will leave his father’s childhood neighborhood for his own. The Smiths plan for their new home to be slightly larger than their current house.
“With our daughter getting a bit older, we are looking for a little more space,” David Smith said.
Matt Belcher, a green construction specialist and consultant at Hibbs Homes, and Hibbs were searching for a client interested in this project. Hibbs is excited to be involved in construction of the first active house in the U.S.
“I would like to see any kind of home that takes into account what many of these green programs take into account,” Hibbs said. “It’s (green buildings) what has to be done in order for us to address the long-term issues (regarding the environment) that we will face.”

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