Skip to main content

Prefabricated passive homes keep you comfy year-round with almost no energy

Taking two building techniques the United States isn’t very familiar with and using them together may sound like a bit of a gamble, but RPA and Ecocor have teamed up to do just that with their prefabricated passive houses.

More than 80 percent of homes in Sweden use prefabricated elements, but the numbers are much lower in the U.S. As for passive buildings, while the numbers in Europe are between 30,000 to 50,000, “We have about 350” here, Richard Pedranti, architect and founder of RPA, told Digital Trends. Yet he and Chris Corson of Ecocor think prefab passive homes are poised to catch on.

Passive homes reduce the amount of energy used by 80 to 90 percent, when compared to a typical house. Unlike a spooky old Victorian with mysterious drafts, these homes are built air-tight with triple-pane windows and two or three times the normal insulation. “It’s really a lot like making a big thermos,” said Pedranti. A fan with a built-in heat exchanger passes the heat energy from the stale outgoing air to the fresh incoming air, keeping the air streams separate. Passive homes are often thermostat-free, and use small heat pumps for any additional heating and cooling and for heating water.

RPA uses energy modeling tools to engineer a building’s envelope. Taking climate data from the building’s future location, the tool factors in annual heating and cooling, precipitation, wind, sun, and other environmental factors to determine how much insulation is needed. “Our energy modeling tools give us the ability to get very direct feedback about what happens when we change the configuration of the envelope and what happens to our consumption,” said Pedranti.

From the prefab side, rather than building an entire house on-site, much of the construction takes place in the factory. “We’re taking our designs and we’re using our digital information to create instructions for semi-automated factory equipment and this creates a lot of advantages,” said Pedranti. The digital instructions are fed to the saw, which then cuts the wood with no need to measure twice. Skilled craftsmen then do some of the assembly at the factory before the panels are sent by truck to the site. Once it arrives, the crew can have it put together in seven to 10 days.

RPA and Ecocor partnered a little under a year ago. They recently completed their first project, a 2,215-square-foot, four-bedroom home. Though it’s located in Albany, New York, the home’s interior should stay between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

“It’s shocking you can design a building like this and we’re not doing this,” said Pedranti. “Why would anybody not do it?”

Jenny McGrath
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jenny McGrath is a senior writer at Digital Trends covering the intersection of tech and the arts and the environment. Before…
Samsung has the best Presidents’ Day kitchen appliance bundle deal
28 cu. ft. Samsung 3-Door French Door Refrigerator with Family Hub in a kitchen with dark gray cabinets and a wooden floor

Appliances are expensive, so when you can capitalize on an excellent deal, that's the best time to buy. Samsung is hosting the best President's Day deal on kitchen appliance bundles that you shouldn't pass up -- if you need a new appliance anyway. Right now, you can save up to $1,300 off select kitchen appliances, with up to an extra $300 off. Plus, you'll enjoy free home installation and the haul away of your old appliances with select purchases. The haul-out alone is worth it because it removes your old appliance, and disposal services are pricey these days. Why not head over to Samsung and start building your personalized bundle immediately? The sale will be over in just a few hours.

Why you should shop the Samsung President's Day Kitchen Appliance bundle deals
If you're here, chances are you need a new kitchen appliance or are considering upgrading. Either way, paying full price for brand-new gear doesn't make sense unless you have to. Thanks to Samsung's President's Day deals on kitchen appliance bundles, you can save big, and we do mean really big. Each bundle saves you upwards of $1,300 right off the top. But as you add to the customized bundles, you'll save even more, up to an additional $300. After all, February and President's Day sales are the best times to buy new appliances.

Read more
Wyze camera breach allows strangers to peer into others’ homes
A Wyze smart camera.

Wyze has built a following by offering reasonably priced smart security cameras and other gadgets for the home, and the company generally enjoys a good reputation among its customers.

But another security breach, this one in recent days, is sure to test some customers' trust in the company. The latest incident involved around 13,000 Wyze customers receiving images and video from Wyze cameras that didn’t belong to them.

Read more
Can you use a Blink Outdoor Camera without a subscription?
Blink Outdoor cam wet from the rain.

For security and peace of mind around your home, a Blink Outdoor Camera is one of the most popular choices for keeping an eye on your property. The outdoor cameras have features like motion detection, a Live View which lets you see what is going on at your property right from your smartphone, and an Activity Zones option that lets you choose which areas of your property you want to record -- which is handy if you live near a busy street where cars could constantly set off annoying motion detection notifications. The recently released Blink Outdoor 4 has improved on these features to make them even better than the previous Blink Outdoor 3.

Like most home security systems, Blink operates on a subscription plan, with a monthly charge starting at $3 to use the service. But if you don't want to pay for the charge, you might want to try using the cameras without the subscription -- though there will be some severe limitations if you do.
Does the Blink Outdoor Camera require a subscription to use?

Read more