The Passive House Solution

I know something new. I know how to design and build homes that are dramatically better than any I’ve ever built. What I know is radically simple. It is systematically measurable and therefore proven. It …

Read the full story »

Then think again. It’s time to ask some fundamental questions. Sometimes all over again. It’s time to think clearly. Then act!


Design matters. When we learn to use all the tools in the design toolbox we discover more and make smarter choices.


Build better. Its time to make smart choices about how we build and the materials we choose to build with.


And energy sense. Our future literally depends on our ability to understand and use energy wisely.


Experience. Imagination. Familiarity. We depend on the sum of these part to offer and make good decisions.

Guidance »

Design Build Guidance: Smart choices and common mistakes
Submitted by

At our recent “Better Home: Better Life” Workshop we asked, “what does it take to make a good home great?” What unfolded was a look at the roadmap we rely on to answer that question. What it takes is a robust approach to what is broadly described as “design thinking.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.20.22 AM


We dug into each of these five steps of our design process, and concluded with a summary of what we think are the “smart choices” and “common mistakes” that people can make when approaching their own projects.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.18.15 AM

  • Don’t start with the solution (first understand the “problem”)

  • Observe the behavior of the system (and its limits)

  • Follow a systematic design process

  • Discover the home that could be (great!)

  • Bake high performance in (you can’t paste it on)

  • Move from the general to the specific (look thru the right end of the telescope)

  • Realistically establish what’s possible at what cost (don’t rely on $/SF)

  • If necessary do some now, some later

  • Work with the grain – then choose your battles

  • Think like a movie director (set the stage from scene to scene)

  • Document for clarity of communication so everyone understands each other

  • Make timely decisions

  • Build a palette of materials you love in your style

  • Integrate design with construction (don’t treat them separately)

  • Collaborate with the best team you can find (and trust in their pride of craft)

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.17.56 AM

  • Starting with a solution (“I need to build…”)

  • Focusing above the surface (not looking deeper)

  • Heading directly to execution (little attention to design)

  • Trusting: “That’s the way we’ve always done it”

  • Overspecializing spaces (a room for every perceived need)

  • Thinking short term

  • Mistaking cost for value (and favoring quantity over quality)

  • Imagining you can do more than you can (or should) yourself

  • Imagining people who build know how to design

  • Imagining people who design know how to build (and what it costs!)

  • Treating design and construction separately (and missing the benefit of integration)

  • Communicating poorly or incompletely

  • Designing as you go (to postpone decision making)

  • Considering design expendable


Interested in learning more or attending our “Better Home. Better Life.” Workshop?

JW arms out


Visit our EVENTS Page to learn more, download Jamie’s “Better Remodeling Guide” and subscribe for future Workshop updates.

Better Home. Better Life.
Better Home. Better Life.

This June 10 Workshop in Canton is for anyone eager to learn what it takes to make a good home great.

“Discover how design thinking clears the path to a great home with a process you can manage …

Local Harvest. Site Wood & Energy provide Net Zero Performance for a 50’s Farmington Cape.
Local Harvest. Site Wood & Energy provide Net Zero Performance for a 50’s Farmington Cape.

From great meals to great homes, it’s harvest season! With local food from farm to table it’s gratifying to know where your food comes from and that what you eat is supporting the local farm …

Did you miss it? We all learned a lot at the Net Zero Open House
Did you miss it?  We all learned a lot at the Net Zero Open House

This past weekend about sixty people came out in the rain to see, touch, and feel how different a future friendly home is from the homes most of us live in. The grand prize winner’s …

Open House for Farmington Net Zero Winner
Open House for Farmington Net Zero Winner

On Saturday October 4 from 11-3 you’re invited
to visit EnergizeCT’s 2013 CT Zero Energy Challenge Grand Prize Winner right here in Farmington.
Get directions at the end of this post.
What’s it like to live in …

Beautifully Done: The sun shines on another Net Zero Winner!
Beautifully Done: The sun shines on another Net Zero Winner!

This Farmington home produces more energy than it uses on an annual basis. Pretty remarkable, right? This “net zero” performance deserves recognition; that’s why energizeCT created its annual CT Zero Energy Challenge. And that’s …

Net Zero: The new goal posts
Net Zero: The new goal posts

This is a story about where we live and the energy we use to live there and the tantalizing prospect of actually producing all the energy we need on an annual basis – its a …

Saving Energy with a Thick Skin
Saving Energy with a Thick Skin

We’re just closing up the building “envelope” on a Passive House project in Farmington. This is always an important milestone in the project because we get to test how effectively our air sealing strategy …

Passive House Winner Meets the Challenges
Passive House Winner Meets the Challenges

CT’s First Certified Passive House wins the 2012 CT Zero Energy Challenge

The Passive House we designed and built in Harwinton this year has been recognized for meeting two significant challenges. It is the first house …

Designing and Building the Harwinton Passive House – Part One
Designing and Building the Harwinton Passive House – Part One

Paul and Diane Honig and their family moved into their new Passive House a couple weeks ago and are marveling at the indoor comfort as winter approaches. This is what it’s all about for us, creating a home that looks great, works well, and feels good to be in.

Building a Future Friendly Home

We are building a Passive House in Harwinton, CT. Over the course of its construction we are inviting people to visit and learn about the ways in which the remarkable comfort, health, durability, and efficiency of this home are technically achieved. This is a special chance to see how it’s done. Come inside and take a look around. Experience the difference.