The clients, both visual artists, approached Wyeth Architects LLC with clear expectations of a place to retire: a house and studios in an appropriate setting to inspire and support their Arts. They wanted a sustainable structure, respecting its environment and not requiring too much of their time to maintain. Wyeth Architects LLC introduced them to the Passive House concept. They saw it as an artistic adventure.

The new structures replaced a rambling old cottage next to a tidal salt marsh. This 1,850 SF, single-story house & studios is constructed to withstand the extremes of a hurricane zone, while also taking in the expansive views of the surrounding marshland. The project includes two attached studios located to the north of the house, outside of the Passive House envelope.

Given the site orientation, the best views of the marsh are to the east, making window placement tricky. Large expanses of east-facing glass are not optimal, but that’s where the views are. East- and west-facing windows and limited south-facing glazing were balanced to harvest and control daylight and solar heat gain. Morning daylight floods the spaces and deep overhangs block direct heat in summer. The east-facing windows enable generous views of the afternoon sun glowing orange on the salt marsh. West-facing glass overhangs and a frosted glass pergola are calculated to soften and diffuse the afternoon light, taking away the glare and tempering excessive heat gain.

The house is a cellulose-filled double-wall assembly with 2 inches of EPS insulation on the exterior and 10 inches of EPS installed on top of the slab, creating a thermal-bridge-free wall-to-floor connection.

An intelligent air and vapor barrier is installed with a 1.5-inch service cavity to eliminate any penetrations of the air barriers.

Heating and cooling are provided by air-to-air heat pump and another air-to-air heat pump delivers hot water. A fully independent ducted ERV system manages fresh air. The planned 12-panel PV array is projected to bring the building to net zero.

The all-electric building includes induction cooking and a new design of heat pump dryer. Despite the Passive House approach, the building preserves a New England aesthetic, with a pitched roofs and references to its New England neighbors.

Passive House Metrics (projected)

  • Heating energy: 1.15 kWh/ft2/yr to 3.91 kBtu/ft2/yr
  • Cooling energy: 1.31 kWh/ft2/yr to 4.48 kBtu/ft2/yr
  • Total source energy: 11.1 kWh/ft2/yr to 38 kBtu/ft2/yr
  • Air leakage (tested): Depressurization: 0.38 ACH50 | Pressurization: 0.15 ACH50
Passive House Institute (PHI)-certified Passive House Classic
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED Gold
U.S Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home
HERS Index: 5
ENERGY STAR (meets Energy Star v3.1)
2020 AIACT Sustainable Architecture Award
2019 EnergizeCT Zero Energy Challenge – Best Overall Thermal Envelope
2018 CTGBC Green Building Award Passive House Award of Honor


Wyeth Architects LLC
Leonard Wyeth AIA, Certified Passive House Designer
Sara Dodson Holmes AIA LEED AP BD+C, Certified Passive House Designer


David White at Right Environments
Consulting Engineering Services (CES)
Bogaert Construction Co.