Revolve Design Build

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Revolve wants to inspire the homebuilding community to rethink the way houses are built today.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

For more than a decade, Revolve has delivered better-built and pre-thought-out custom homes, additions and renovations to its clients. Today, the company is taking it a step further with a focus on “passive house” homebuilding, a concept from Europe it hopes will become mainstream in the United States and inspire homeowners to build homes for generations to come. 

Founder Jared Phifer and Operations Manager Gabe Wilson were both recently certified by Passive House Institute (PHI). “Passive house building is higher-quality built homes with low energy consumption,” Phifer explains. “It’s a different way of thinking about building and has been around in Europe for a long time. There are presently only 13 known certified passive homes in America, so we decided to pursue certification from PHI to take that knowledge, push ourselves forward and help change the way we all think about building homes.”

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Passive house or Passivhaus was developed by Bo Adamson of Sweden and Wolfgang Feist of Germany who wanted to build a house that would stay warm from the inhabitants’ body heat and appliances running in the home. In 1990, the professors built a four-unit townhome in Kranichstein, Germany, which was the first Passivhaus project.

“The passive house building standard exceeds most green building requirements; it’s well beyond current code in America,” Phifer adds. “People look at you funny when you say passive house because it’s really a new concept here. We think the passive house building standard dovetails with our goal of getting our clients to rethink.”

The Denver, Colo.-based company wants homeowners to think bigger than the home they build to occupy for just 13 years, which Phifer says is the average time a family stays in one home. “In Europe, homes are built to last 100-plus years,” he notes. “We build great homes in America, but most of us make decisions based on a 13-year or less life cycle before being sold or renovated. There’s not much forward thinking. We want people to completely rethink what it means to build a home and to be proud of that house.”

Built to Last

Building a passive house requires tweaks to ensure the structure is airtight. According to the Passive House Institute US, passive house design principles are:

* Employing continuous insulation throughout without any thermal bridging;

* Ensuring the building envelope is airtight to prevent infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air;

* Installing high-performance windows and doors;

* Using some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation and a minimal space conditioning system; and

* Exploiting the sun’s energy for heating purposes and minimizing overheating to cool the home.

“It’s really taking an extra step to realize the potential inherent in the product and structure,” Wilson says. “If you revolvedbbuild a wall correctly it should stand for 1,000 years, but you have to think about it when you do it. For example, where will moisture collect and where do you want it to go? It’s really addressing homebuilding with a long-term perspective.”

Some of Revolve’s clients see the value in passive house building while others opt to put money into finishes. “It comes down to the client, but we are really trying to implement at least three of the five principles in our custom homes,” Phifer says. “If you were to do all five, you are adding about a 10 percent increase to your total build cost.”

Similar to green building, it could take 15 years of energy savings to offset the cost of implementing passive house principles and most Americans don’t stay in one home that long. “It doesn’t seem valuable to Americans right now, but it could be valuable if we cared more about the home’s future inhabitants,” Phifer adds. “Building homes properly saves builders from having to rebuild homes.”

Moving forward, Revolve hopes to continue leading the way for passive house building in the United States. “I hope it will be mainstream in 20 years,” Phifer says. “It’s part of what drives us – the passion for custom homebuilding to the highest degree. We are not just designing a house that fits a neighborhood, but a home that grows with our clients and can evolve as their family grows. To be a part of achieving this reality is really what makes us love what we do everyday.” 

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