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The Gingery House –
A Passive Home

The Passive House or, “Passivhaus” in German, refers to a home that’s designed to have ultra-low energy consumption, whereby reducing its ecological footprint on the environment. This idea originated in Germany during the late 1980’s.

The concept of the Passive House was one of the driving forces behind our design of this modest home in Colgate Wisconsin. With a total living area of 2,060 square feet, and a footprint (including the garage) of less than 1,500 square feet, it is nestled into the landscape of a wooded ravine. By design it has a minimal presence from the street, instead it focuses the building mass with its large open views toward the ravine and the natural surroundings.


This home was designed using many passive design features in order to increase its energy efficiency:

  • Compact Design- The building mass is shaped to minimize the amount of surface area exposed to the exterior.
  • Well Insulated- This home not only has a high R-value for the roof, walls and floor, but also eliminates breaks in the insulation for a continuous insulating envelope. It utilizes 12” thick ICF exterior walls, 10” to 14” thick foamed-in-place roof insulation, and rigid floor slab insulation under the lower level. The design also eliminates breaks in the insulation system common on most conventionally framed homes.
  • Thermal Mass- The use of dense, heat absorbing materials within the structure help to moderate the internal temperature of the home. The ICF wall systems provide thermal mass within the insulation.
  • Well Sealed- Extensive attention to detail was maintained during construction to avoid air leakage. Also the use of ICF wall systems and foamed-in-place roof insulation avoids the need for conventional vapor barriers and air barriers that are difficult to maintain a continuous seal.
  • High Quality Ventilation System- A mechanical ventilation system provides fresh make-up air from the outside. This unit also recovers the heat from the air being discharged to warm the incoming air.
  • High Performance Windows and Doors- Windows and doors make up a large percentage of the heat loss in a well insulated home. The quality of these items and the detailing of how they are installed have a major impact on the homes efficiency.
  • Location of Windows- The design concentrates the distribution of windows where they are most needed. They are located to maximize the primary views and provide solar gain in the winter.
  • Location of Trees- Large existing deciduous trees shelter the windows during warm weather. During the winter when the leaves have fallen, sunlight penetrates the woods and provides the home with solar gain.
  • Contours of the Earth- The contours of the earth buffer the north side of the home to provide added protection during the cold months.
  • Location of the Garage- The garage also buffers the north side of the home to provide added protection during the cold months.
  • Reuse Rain Water- Rain water is stored below grade at the high side of the hill to water landscaping on the low side of the hill using only gravity to move the water.
  • Contractor Selection- It is imperative to use a builder who has experience and a strong understanding of passive design and construction. Excalibur Builders has extensive experience building with ICF wall systems and a passion for building energy efficient homes.

Owners:                  Lars Gingery
Location:                 Colgate, Wisconsin
Builder:                   Excalibur Builders, Slinger, WI

  • First Floor                  1,030 SF.
  • Lower Level               1,030 SF.
  • Total Living Area        2,060 SF.
  • Total Footprint            1,480 (Inc. the 2-car garage)





Wydeven Architects LLC • 414.614.4677 •