Menlo Park’s passive home is first in San Mateo County

Menlo Park’s passive home is first in San Mateo County

  • Charles Jacob
  • 02/10/22

Menlo Park’s first zero-energy passive home debuted a couple of weeks ago, and you can take a look for yourself this Saturday and Sunday (6/18 and 6/19) from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. The home is located at 1206 N. Lemon St.

On a recent tour, John Suppes (pictured right), president of Clarum Homes, which built the house, talked about the hallmarks of a passive home, which are all very well-insulated and air-sealed. “There’s neither a tremendous heat gain nor loss,” he said. “The house operates passively, needing little heating or cooling. And the house is designed and constructed to use 90 percent less energy than a traditional home.

“As an example, we built a passive home in Danville. When it was 105 degrees outside, it was 76 inside and the owner hadn’t turned on the air conditioning.”

Suppes said Clarum built the N. Lemon St. house as a demonstration house at a cost of about 4 percent more than a non-passive home. “People often mistakenly think that for a house to be green and energy-efficient, it has to be a modern design,” he said. “That’s why we chose a Mission style, to show that there are many architectural alternatives.”

Clarum is billing the house as “extremely comfortable, healthy, economical, and sustainable.” Among the energy-efficient features are solar tubes that provide daytime natural light in closed spaces like closets, an insulated exterior that serves as a thermal bridge, an air and moisture barrier that provides air-tight construction, and a super-insulated roof and vaulted ceilings. In addition, the home has solar power and a hot water system. In place of a furnace, there is a single 1,000-watt heater.

Suppes said passive home certification is different than “points accumulation” green building standards. Explains the Clarum website: “Passive Home certification is based on actual performance results that require that the home uses less than 1.4kWh per square foot for annual heating demand and total annual source energy cannot exceed 11kWh per square foot. In addition, the building shell must be airtight with less than 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals.”

Clarum Homes began its dedication to sustainability and green building in 1995. The Palo Alto-based company introduced a passive home prototype. Suppes thinks his interest in energy efficiency and home design was prompted by his architect activist mother. “She rattled quite a few cages, and I learned a lot from her.”

The Menlo Park passive home is on the market for $2,695,000.


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