Northwest Energy Star Super-Efficient Homes—#6: The Pumpkin Ridge Passive House

Posted by Neil Grigsby on May 17, 2013
Northwest Energy Star Super-Efficient Homes—#6: The Pumpkin Ridge Passive House
The Pumpkin Ridge Passive House married several programs to create a cutting-edge home that is no more expensive per month than a conventional custom build.

The Pumpkin Ridge Passive House is one of six super energy-efficient homes being highlighted this year by Northwest Energy Homes—in collaboration with builders, utilities and homeowners—to increase awareness and adoption of advanced building practices and products that can improve quality, comfort, and energy efficiency in new homes.

Read the whole series and details on the five previous homes: #1, The Inspiration Home; #2, The House of the Immediate Future; #3, The O'Neill in Meadow Ranch; #4, Kepler Ridge; and #5, The Montana Retreat.

A Passive House—Just Do It

When you work for Nike, you know a little bit about design. So when Bryan Farris, a Nike “Sneakerologist,” and his wife Stephanie, started thinking about their new home, they knew that the key ingredients to its design needed to be form and function.

And that they got with their 3,600 square foot Passive House in North Plains, on the western outskirts of Portland, Oregon. 

Based on past experience in houses and apartments that required constant inputs to heat things up and cool things down, Bryan and Stephanie had honed in on the concept of functional excellence in their home design from the start. How can the house itself provide comfort, fresh air, and warmth without big wasteful mechanical systems or internal gadgetry?

Hand-in-Hand with Hammer & Hand

The Pumpkin Ridge Passive House is a collaboration between the homeowners, Portland’s Scott Edwards Architecture and builder Hammer & Hand—a team who all shared the commitment to building a cost-effective and highly functional Passive House.  

Hammer & Hand owner and certified Passive House consultant Sam Hagerman explains that a Passive House is a systems-based approach to homebuilding that “allows us to remove complex mechanical systems from designs and focus instead on the simple, energy-efficient technologies and products at the core: super insulation, heat recovery ventilation, efficient doors and windows and smart solar design.” 

"When we met with the team at Hammer & Hand, we felt a sigh of relief," said Bryan. "Here were people we could connect with, who get it, and who are excited about building ‘our right house.’ And I mean ‘ours' in the collective sense of the term: The right house for our family but also for Hammer & Hand and its goals. In the end, we shared the same foundational values and understanding that the structure needs to be simple."

Anything But Passive About Energy Savings

With a high-performance structure such as a Passive House, it’s easy to focus on the energy performance because it’s so impressive. Cutting heating energy demand by 90% is a big deal. But the Farris’ are not losing track of the most important aspect of this home: the living experience it offers.

Passive houses are airtight structures with carefully calibrated, active supplies of fresh air and a smart balance of heat gains and losses. A ductless heating and cooling system, paired with heat-recovery ventilation (which uses a heat exchanger to pre-warm incoming fresh air), was given the nod for this critical job. Also known as a ductless heat pump, these systems provide highly energy-efficient, zonal heating and cooling and create a cozy, comfortable environment with excellent indoor air quality. The result is a quiet, draft-free, oxygen-filled living space with incredibly even temperatures throughout.

And something else that is high performance about this house is the payoff. Money saved on eliminating expensive mechanical systems can be reinvested into the building shell and remaining added costs are offset by ongoing energy savings.

Features of the Pumpkin Ridge Passive House:

  • 88% efficient heat recovery ventilator
  • Ductless heat pump
  • U-0.13 high solar gain triple-glazed windows
  • Heat pump water heater
  • Structured plumbing with demand motion sensor and push button hot water
  • Advanced framing envelope with R-90 attic and R-40+ walls, floor and foundation
  • Air infiltration of less than 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals of pressure
  • Solar thermal domestic hot water
  • Liquid applied flashing at rough openings
  • Diffusion open wall system with permeable wax-impregnated wood fiber sheathing

To view other super efficient homes across the Northwest, including the Pumpkin Ridge Passive House, visit


Neil Grigsby oversees NEEA’s Northwest Energy Star Homes initiative, which encourages builders across the region to build more efficient homes using new technologies and building practices. His experience includes a degree in urban studies from the University of Washington, and in designing, planning, and implementing energy-efficiency programs along with public outreach and education.  

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