Carbon Neutral Architecture
The built environment is responsible for three fourths of annual global greenhouse gas emissions: buildings alone account for 39 percent. Eliminating these emissions is the key to addressing climate change and meeting Paris Climate Agreement targets.
The American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment sets a goal for all new buildings, developments, and renovations to be carbon-neutral by 203 Read More →
Passive House at a Glance
The term 'passive' in the context of passive house refers to the reduction or elimination of 'active' mechanical systems. There are many compelling reasons why this is a more intelligent and responsible way to build. Here is a quick list of benefits - in no particular order:- Increased comfort.- Improved reliability.- Pristine indoor air quality.- Dramatic cost savings.- Redirect money from equipment to architectur Read More →
400 Mile Per Gallon Architecture
Imagine you are considering the purchase of a new car that gets 40 miles to the gallon... when you learn about a similarly priced high performance alternative that is far better built, looks great, and runs 200 to 400 miles to the gallon, depending on your driving habits. It uses some German parts and a lot of German technology, but it is mostly a domestic product. Oh, and another thing; the maintenance is a Read More →
High Performance Architecture Pays Big Dividends
Once we have a conceptual design solution that has been approved by a client, we typically provide them with a financial analysis of the costs and benefits of building to the passivhaus level of quality as opposed to simply building to current code minimums.
"By building to passive house quality instead of code minimum, our client is investing in their equity rather than spending even more money on utility bills."&n Read More →
Advanced Design Technologies
We design using cutting edge tools and technologies to create - truly - the highest quality environments for human habitation in the history of our species. It's far beyond the incorporation of high technology in components of the buildings... the buildings themselves are technologically advanced outcomes of rigorously applied building science.
Some people think about our work as Read More →
Rammed Earth Architecture
It comes as a surprise to many people to see an architect working in the Pacific Northwest designing and building with rammed earth, which is generally associated with very arid, hot climates and low tech, indigenous building traditions. I became interested in working with rammed earth as an unexpected outcome of research I was doing during the programming phase of a project for a writers' retreat that led me t Read More →
Passive House Northwest
Sam Rodell Architects is featured prominently in the recently published book Passive House Northwest 2016, including several projects recently completed and currently underway and a brief overview of the firm:
"The work of Sam Rodell Architects is characterized primarily by thoughtful attention to the client and the site. Passive house design and certification is simply presumed for any project that inv Read More →
HERS Index: The Home Energy Rating System
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured.
HERS scores are designed for new homes (or homes after a complete renovation). When builders need to meet efficiency standards, they use the HERS Index, which has become the accepted industry standard for documenting the energy performance of a building.To get a HERS score, a Read More →
Architecture and Water Vapor
Water is one of the most powerful forces of nature, and one of the primary variables determining the durability and performance of buildings. Depending on the climate, regional building design responds directly to rain, snow, and ice, but another powerful form in which water interacts with structures is vapor. The glass surface seen here shows behavior of water in all three phase states: solid, liquid, and vap Read More →
The Language of Mechanical Comfort Systems
“Environmental control systems tend to be treated rather like the Cinderella of architecture; given only the plainest clothes to wear, they are relegated to a back room to do the drudgery that maintains the elegant lifestyle of the other sisters: light, form, structure, and so forth." ~ Lisa Heschong 
Early in 20th century, architecture was profoundly impacted by the industrial revolution and increasing avail Read More →
NOT Passive Solar
One of the most common misunderstandings we see about our high performance architecture is that we are preoccupied with passive solar design - which is actually something we don't have any particular interest in.
It's easy to see why this confusion happens: Passive House (or Passivhaus) sounds just like passive solar, and both are associated with lower energy use in buildings. That's about where the si Read More →
Triple Glazed Window Benefits
Triple glazed windows are the new stars of window energy efficiency... but why should you care? Comfort. Comfort is the reason you will want to use triple glazed windows. Before we get too far on why you should be excited about energy efficiency and comfort, here is a brief history of US windows. In the 1930’s, double glazed window technology came to the US. Over the following 20 years double glazed windows w Read More →
Why We Build Airtight Architecture
Passive House architecture: Healthy, comfortable places to live and work that use a fraction of the energy of mainstream construction. Many people presume this must be all about insulating really well, and while that is important, the amazing performance of a Passive House project actually begins with extremely well controlled ventilation.
As much as forty percent of the energy loss in a building built to current Read More →
Saving More With Commercial Passivhaus
The savings to be realized by Passivhaus architecture are exponentially increased when we build institutional and commercial projects. We are pleased to have one of the most experienced commercial/institutional Passivhaus architects in the world on our design team. Adam Cohen brings thirty years of experience as both a builder and an architect. He has amassed a notable list of projects, including several 'firsts':& Read More →
Your Home or Office Can Power Your Car
Passive House: Designing and building buildings so well for a specific site and climate we can eliminate eighty to ninety percent of the energy demands of space heating, cooling, and humidity control. This is fully achievable and affordable today, using readily available technologies and materials. And trust me, the architecture will be stunning, but not odd; I can create nearly any character working in this realm.Th Read More →
Effortlessly Increase Your Disposable Income
Does it seem like you just paid all the monthly bills... but it's time to do it all again? Whether you are running a business or a household, all those little piles of cash flowing out the door every month add up.The utilities are costing more every year, and the the cost of energy is likely to increase dramatically moving forward. But what if you could cut your heating and cooling bill by eighty to ninety percent? W Read More →
Shading Data - No Guesses
One of the many aspects of site specific architectural design now standard practice in our pre-design research process is to acquire a forensic understanding of the shading conditions that will alter how our architecture will be exposed to the sun over the course of each year.Designing high performance buildings, there is far less room for intuition and assumptions commonly taken for granted in the design and const Read More →
The Intelligent Choice
Europeans have lived with high energy costs for a long time, and have a strong pragmatic awareness of the costs associated with heating and cooling buildings. So it may come as no surprise that the leading standard in energy savings comes to us from Germany: The Passive House standard.
It's not a brand - anyone with the knowledge and desire can use these technologies. The advantages are clear: a means to create be Read More →
The First Step to Net Zero Energy
A 'net-zero energy' building generates more energy than it needs. The most important item in Net-Zero design is reducing the demand for energy. This is the main principle behind the Passive House concept, so it should be a natural progression for architects designing to the passive house standard to also pursue Net-Zero Energy. A passivhaus project is already over half way toward being a Net-Zero Energy project.Here Read More →
Breathing Clean Indoor Air
Optimum interior air quality has become an increasingly prominent concern in my work. Passive house interior air quality is pristine because highly filtered fresh air is constantly being exchanged with the interior air. The passive house standard requires filtration systems that achieve a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 12 or better - meaning dangerous contaminants have been removed from the air, Read More →
Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
It is no secret that our dependence on oil reaches into every aspect of modern life. This must change - actually, will change, whether we like it or not. Not only are we wreaking environmental havoc burning fossil fuels, it is certain the costs will continue to dramatically rise, impacting every corner of our economy. Global demand is steadily increasing as supplies are steadily tapering. It is a problem of epic scal Read More →
Optimizing Walls for Energy Performance
We assign a very high priority to comfort in buildings - specifically, thermal comfort. One of the basic distinctions between being inside' and 'outside' is that when we are inside, we expect to be comfortable. We essentially live in two climates - interior and exterior - and the construction assemblies that make up the floors, walls, and ceilings of our buildings, often referred to as the building envelope, mediates Read More →
All Around Us, Obsolete New Buildings.
Because they use such exorbitant quantities of energy, new buildings built to code are actually going to be obsolete from day one of occupancy.
"Built to code is a euphemism for built to the lowest legally permissible standard." ~ Sam Rodell
Most buildings currently under construction are fated to become dramatically more expensive to occupy and lose value as energy costs increase, Read More →
Phase Change Materials
Putting Nature's Magic to Work For Us: Phase Change Materials
We see it all around us, all the time; temperature changes make stuff freeze, melt, or vaporize. These 'phase change' transformations, in which molecules change from one state of matter to another, are so common we take them for granted. Ice cubes in a drink, no big deal!But there are some interesting physics involved in every instance of these little m Read More →
Zero Net Energy Owners Speak Out
A Zero Net Energy Home produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in zero net energy bills and zero net carbon emissions. But the story does not end there. Zero Energy Homes have many other advantages over standard homes and so-called 'green' homes. They are very quiet, they provide fresh filtered air, they are very comfortable, and they are very sturdy homes. When the modest extra cost to build a Zero Read More →
Lessons From Being a Developer
Becoming licensed as an architect is a long, challenging process, but that is just the first step toward becoming an Architect, which is a lifelong journey. In my particular case, it has included decades of experience as a general contractor, building our designs for our clients... as well as becoming a project developer, simultaneously acting as the architect, contractor, and client for a multi-million dollar invest Read More →
Responsibility and Gratitude
"Our life work is built on a foundation of reverence, responsibility, and gratitude." ~ Sam Rodell
Imagine building a scale model of the earth 75 yards in diameter. The biosphere in this model would be roughly the thickness of the skin of a tomato. It is here, between earth and sky, where the story of each of our lives, and indeed the history and future of all terrestrial life is written. It's a dynamically Read More →
Designing with Thermal Analysis Tools
Our buildings are designed to isolate the interior climate from the exterior climate, which means we need to consider every way energy moves between the interior and exterior, including the roofs, walls, floors, doors, windows... literally every square inch of the places where heated or cooled spaces encounter the outside world. Most of these 'boundary conditions' consist of a variety of materials assembled in fair Read More →
Evolution to Rainscreen
Effective long term management of water, in vapor, liquid, and solid form, is crucial to building durability, comfort, health, and safety. Much has been learned in recent years in the building science field about the behavior of water in building assemblies. This film looks at the history of the wall, from the earliest examples of human construction forward, all the way to the sophisticated assemblies now used to m Read More →