2019 AIA SD Honor Award – Passive House – SDSU DoArch


PH01:BRK is the most visible portion of the Passive House Initiative, an ongoing research project by the Department of Architecture at South Dakota State University to deliver high performance homes to the region that are faculty led, student designed, and contractor built. The initiative is seeking to become a regional leader and resource for design and building professionals in high performance strategies in cold climates.

The first design studio was led by Charles MacBride, AIA, NCARB in the Fall of 2016 with Robert Arlt, AIA, CPHC consulting and assisting the student design team through the first phase of research and documentation. After the student’s final review, the project’s design, specifications, and energy modeling was audited, coordinated, and developed into a CD set for construction bidding and a PHIUS set capable of precertification. The project has just recently been fully certified by the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and is sold with the new owners set to move in the next week.  


A housing grant from the from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) was obtained for the purpose of designing a single family, “case study house for the 21st century,” capable of meeting the high performance Passive House (PHIUS) standard and being net-zero energy ready. In a state that will not adopt energy codes, the design responds to showcase and demonstrate sustainable development to the region’s public, contractors, and building officials through site selection, systems, and assemblies.

A long-vacant infill site was chosen to serve as a catalyst for revitalization within an established neighborhood, a short walk to both the South Dakota State University campus and Main Street. The residence is 90% more efficient than a similar house built to code and is the first house in the region to sell energy back to the grid.


The design defers to the traditional front porch facing the sidewalk with detached garages behind. Splitting the linear program configuration allows an exterior courtyard to be formed between house and garage.

A simple, gabled massing responds to the neighboring context and implements contemporary detailing to read as a single, subtracted volume with deep set apertures. A front porch and entry are defined by a cantilever articulated by a notch along the south face and further emphasized with a material change from dark fiber-cement lap siding to clear finished cedar. The subtraction also provides necessary summer shading for south glazing.

The home contains three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms with service spaces adjacent to the heart of the design, a double-height living and dining area to allow views up, down, and through of the activities the home plays host to.


The dark exterior is contrasted with an interior composed of whites and light woods to ensure plenty of warm light in winter months. Careful attention to the material palette and detailing reinforce the “case study” experimentation including fabrication of the CLT (cross-laminated timber) and solid glulam stair, steel and locally-harvested basswood slat railing, interior casement “peek-a-boo” window, clerestory panels allowing diffused natural light in the upper level bathroom, and with the exterior courtyard canopy between house and garage.

Monitoring of air quality and energy usage linked to an online platform will quantitatively demonstrate the comfort and performance of the house in real time. Feedback will be tied to specific circuits in the electrical panel allowing the owner to view what aspects of the home are using the most energy and the opportunity to adjust behavior accordingly.

Photography by Vondelinde and Robert Arlt:

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