November 19, 2015

475 On-Site: Net-Zero Upstate NY, Passive-esque House On A Budget

With Ben Freed of Prossimo and David White of Right Environments


Ben Freed is emblematic of the people who catch the Passive House bug. First, we see them try everything out on their own home. They work through the details, feel the difference, get sold on the concept, and want to spread the word. Ben went a step further and started his own company: Prossimo, LLC. We’re excited to present Ben’s unique and incredible story.

From the Prossimo website:

In 2012, Prossimo cofounder Ben Freed needed an affordable energy efficient house. Why? Because he and his wife couldn’t afford the massive, oil-sucking monstrosities that were on the market in his locale in upstate New York.

Then Ben caught a break. He got connected with Passive House legend/building science genius David White, principal at Right Environments. David took on Ben’s challenge to build an affordable, safe, comfortable and energy efficient home. Little did they know the challenges that lay ahead.

We won’t get into the nitty gritty here, but suffice to say, after a grueling, 2.5 year journey, Ben and his wife actually managed to build their home, with a bank loan, for around $170k. He designed it, drafted it and GC’ed it himself with no prior construction or architecture experience.

Of course, he couldn’t have done it without the tireless help of David White, who became a great mentor and friend to Ben throughout the project.

Ben and David’s Pro Clima recipe for a budget high performance home using post and beam framing:

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12 Responses to 475 On-Site: Net-Zero Upstate NY, Passive-esque House On A Budget

  1. Michael Johnson November 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    What was the name of the company that supplied the Pole Building Kit? Quite intrigued by the precast concrete bases that are attached to the poles. Wonder if anyone does this in Washington state.

    Ben you have inspired us to stick to our guns on creating our own net-zero Passivhaus for under $200k.

    Thank you,
    Michael Johnson
    Olalla, WA

    • John November 20, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Michael. We’ll ask Ben how he went about finding the pole kit. Stay tuned.

  2. Ben Freed November 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Hi Michael!

    I’m honored to hear that I’ve inspired you to go for an affordable passive house.

    The precast piers are by Perma-Column (permacolumn.com). They distribute nationwide. Our kit was provided by New Holland Supply (http://www.newhollandsupply.com/). But they are pretty much only NY,NJ,PA.

    What I’d recommend is to look up pole barn builders in your area. They will be able to put up a shell for super cheap. There are nationwide Pole Barn kit providers as well, just do a little googling. And of course, we can ship you awesome windows!

    Ben

  3. Jeff November 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    What was the floor/wall/roof R value?

    What was the ending wall thickness and/or layers?

    • Ben Freed November 20, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

      Hi Jeff!

      Under Floor: 6″ Type II Eps R=23
      Slab Edge: 5.5″ Type IV EPS R=21
      Walls: 8.5″ Roxul Batts. Clear R= 36.5 Whole R= 30. (1.5″ AFB + 5.5″ ComfortBatt + 1.5″ AFB)
      Attic: 16″ Loose Blown Cellulose R=60

      Thanks!

  4. Malcolm Appleton December 10, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    with the pole barn structure how did you deal with bracing to prevent the frame from racking especially the walls as there appears to be no bracing in the walls at all ?

    • John December 10, 2015 at 9:32 am #

      I believe the secondary framing (upstanding 2×4 and 2×6 boards) that they discuss beginning minute 2:25 provides the racking – but we’ll want to check with Ben on that.

    • Ben Freed December 14, 2015 at 9:24 am #

      Actually, it’s the earth itself that provide racking resistance. Because the posts are buried 4ft down, the wind would have to move a lot of dirt to blow this house down!

  5. Justin Tribitt April 10, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    Would you be willing to share the wall section details for your house? I am working with a client on a house in Montana and we are considering the wall assembly you used on your house.

    • John April 12, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Justin,
      475 doesn’t have details beyond what is explained in the video, but I’m sure Ben would be happy to talk more about the construction. We suggest you contact him over at http://www.prossimo.us/

      As far as the membranes go, we’re happy to walk you through how to best use them. Just give us a call any time.
      Best of luck

  6. Michael Adams June 13, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

    What is the product between the horizontal 2x4s, between the posts? White nailer of sorts…is that Compac 100?

    • John June 21, 2017 at 9:34 am #

      We’re not completely sure, you may need to contact Ben from Prossimo, but I believe it is just EPS foam boards. There are chunks fitted between the studs as well has the big pieces used as sub slab. Hope that helps!

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