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News > Context Winter 2023 > Design Profile: Red Clay Passive | Bright Common

Design Profile: Red Clay Passive | Bright Common

Photos: Sam Orbeter, Mike Magee
Photos: Sam Orbeter, Mike Magee

Red Clay Passive considers how a site with a rich cultural past can adapt to a climate-variable future. This Passive House sits on the footprint of an earlier farmhouse and is bookended by new volumes: a winter room and a garage workshop. Ancillary outdoor spaces such as a trellised breezeway, raised decks, and a vegetable garden encircle the home to offer all-season connections to nature. 

The home’s exterior takes inspiration from the site’s existing structures and adopts the restrained notions of Shaker architecture, restricting the use of decorative elements in a pursuit of function. This aesthetic simplicity allowed funds to be directed towards assemblies, systems, and passive energy strategies.  

The design prioritized passive strategies, a healthy indoor environment, and low carbon (embodied and operational) from the onset. With an efficient window-to-wall ratio, prime southern exposure, and air-tight assemblies, this all-electric house required minimal systems. A ground-source heat pump takes advantage of the earth’s constant temperature to efficiently heat and cool indoor air without burning fossil fuels while a roof-top solar array allows the home to achieve net positive energy. Downhill, a sunken cistern collects rainwater for reuse in the garden. On the interior, an energy recovery ventilator continuously replenishes stale air with fresh, filtered, outdoor air. 

The team utilized modular construction to advance the project’s low-embodied carbon goals and reduce construction waste. These assemblies are composed of wood framing, blown-in cellulose insulation, plywood, and exterior wood-fiber insulation. Compared to traditional stick-built framing, the modular assemblies greatly reduced on-site waste, allowed for quicker installation during construction, and minimized disruption to the existing landscape. The finished product is an air-tight carbon sink that passes the rigorous requirements set in place by the Passive House (PHIUS) standard. 

Project: Red Clay Passive  

Location: Kennett Square, PA    

Client: Private Homeowner 

Project Size: 3,375 gross sf  

Project Team: 

Bright Common (Architect)  

DL Howell (Civil Engineer)  

CKS Structures Inc. (Structural Engineer)  

Hugh Lofting Timber Framing (General Contractor) 

Blueprint Robotics (Modular Fabricator)  

Holzraum System (Energy Modeler)  

DBS Energy (PHIUS Verifier)   

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