Passive in Energy, Not Style

Departure's Southwest Hills Passive House has style as advanced as its sustainable materials and construction.

By Kristin Belz March 11, 2013

It's called a Passive House, but it's a house that actively surprises: beneath the sleek, modern design is a super high level of green, sustainable cred. It's the work of Portland architect Michelle Jeresek, co-owner of the firm Departure. And it's a calling card for not only the beauty and elegance of sustainable design but also the time-tested relevance of modernism as a style for our day.

Jeresek thinks of modernism as not necessarily a stylistic norm but a philosophy of "taking a little more forward-looking approach, both inside and outside" of a building. It's a method of design and building that "simplifies and creates flexibility in both aesthetics and function." And her home for Lisa Whitridge, in the Southwest Hills of Portland, is a fine example of what Jeresek sees as the essential "exercise in restraint" that is a modernist architecture distilled to its essence.

The house was on the Build It Green! Tour (put on by the City of Portland Bureau of Sustainability) last fall, when it was barely completed. That tour attracts the green building geeks, but this past weekend, the  house – a.k.a. the Full Plane House – attracted the modernism freaks (i.e., most of us?) when it was open to the public as part of the Portland Modern Home Tour.

By now, Whitridge and family have settled into the new house, and the permaculture landscaping and  garden have been brought along a lot further. Certification as an officially designated Passive House is in process, so the house doesn't have its documentation papers (its green card?) proving passivity yet, but that's just a matter of time. Being both net zero energy and net zero water, as well as filled with loads of other sustainable features, the house is as green as Kermit the Frog.

Take a slide show tour of some of the visual aspects of the house that make it a compelling new modern space.

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