Jake Staub and Sonia Barrantes, two veteran former U.S. Navy Test Pilots in Portland, and Chris Corson, of EcoCor Design/Build in Belfast, have embarked on Portland’s first Passive House journey set to break ground in Spring 2012.
Partners Jake Staub, formerly of Addison, Illinois, and Sonia Barrantes, formerly of Scarborough, Maine, recently left the Navy in order to work intensively on matters related to energy. While in the Navy Staub and Barrantes followed nearly identical paths. Both graduated from the Naval Academy’s Aerospace Engineering program, he became a pilot and she became a flight officer, flew combat missions from aircraft carriers over hostile territory in support of the Global War on Terrorism, graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and served as test pilots on developmental projects. In order to return to her home state, Barrantes sought employment in Portland and found it with a position as a Mechanical Engineer at Colby Company Engineering. For 2012, Staub will work as a collaborative designer, engineer, and builder on the couple’s Portland Passive Project to be located on a four acre plot at 760 Ocean Avenue.
For Staub and Barrantes, the Passive House, or Passiv Haus for Europeans, concept was a perfect fit for its emphasis on energy efficiency, comfort, affordability, and sustainability. In recent years, Staub became heavily involved in automotive energy efficiency. Staub’s Insight 1G, a bid for a past contest known as the Automotive X-Prize, convinced him that there were great strides people could make in terms of energy efficiency in daily living with accessible pre-existing technologies. Barrantes has been a keen, nearly lifelong observer of both energy efficiency and renewable energy concepts. When Barrantes learned the Passive House Design course was offered in Seattle while stationed in Washington State, she enthusiastically took the course and passed the stringent written exam in order to become a certified Passive House Consultant. The couple knew that when it was time to build a house they would build it to Passive House standards.
Despite having a highly technical background and a do-it-yourself attitude, Staub and Barrantes decided they needed experienced help to ensure the Passive House objectives of energy efficiency, comfort, affordability, and sustainability were satisfied at the end of their Portland Passive Project. About the choice to seek outside help Staub said, “It took some time, but we finally conceded that although we know a little about a lot, we don’t know how to build a house…yet.” After a lengthy research and due diligence effort, Staub and Barrantes found EcoCor and Chris Corson in Belfast.
In order to determine whether or not Corson would be the right designer/builder for the Portland Passive Project, the couple drove from Portland to Knox to see EcoCor’s latest Passive House project for themselves. Of the visit Barrantes said, “We were impressed. Within the first few minutes it was clear that Chris [Corson] designs and builds to an unmatched level using Passive House concepts as his guide.” For Corson, building Passive Houses has become his life’s work. About the decision to build only Passive Houses Corson said, “This is it. At my age it’s too late to become a doctor and discover the cure for cancer. All I want to do is build Passive Houses and as many of them as I can to cut energy use in an affordable and responsible manner. Designs like Passive House are our only shot at a sustainable future.”
With a designer/builder secured the couple’s last hurdle was convincing Corson to participate in a collaborative open source framework on the Portland Passive Project. Staub and Barrantes decided early on that they wanted to open the project up to the community in general to spur innovation and adoption of coherent energy efficient housing concepts. Says Staub about the couple’s viewpoint, “There is no ‘secret sauce’ with Passive House. Secrets are meant more for pure profit than the type of rapid evolution the community needs right now. It is clear that rapid evolution in energy efficiency is in our own best interest as a society as well as a species.” Corson quickly signed on to the couple’s idea to make the Portland Passive Project open source in order to facilitate accomplishing his scalability objective of building as many Passive Houses as he can.
Although the Portland Passive Project has already begun it’s not too late to play a part. All details on the Portland Passive Project to include items such as design documents, build plans, home data, schedules and much more will be posted at: http://sites.google.com/site/portlandpassiveproject/. Right now the Portland Passive Project team is looking for photographers and videographers to document the build process. Feel like doing something to help make a difference? Need some help with a passive project of your own or want to speak to local people that have first-hand experience with Passive House? Contact the team at the Portland Passive Project website. We’re all in this together.