Oct 2020 ARCHITECT Magazine
South Dakota State University Department of Architecture Students, Charles MacBride, Robert Arlt
By Madeleine D'Angelo
This article appeared in the October 2020 issue of ARCHITECT.
It’s not only the charcoal-colored exterior, or lack of a traditional porch, that makes PH01:BRK stand out in its Brooking, S.D., neighborhood. In a state that has failed to adopt energy codes, the 2,013-square-foot residence is also South Dakota’s first custom-designed passive house and the first house in the region to sell energy back to the grid. Designed by students from the South Dakota State University Department of Architecture and their instructors Robert Arlt, AIA, and Charles MacBride, AIA, the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house is a showcase for environmentally conscious housing in the region.
After receiving a grant from former governor Dennis Daugaard to launch an SDSU design-build studio in 2016—where the sale of one house would fund the construction of the next one—Arlt and MacBride worked with sixth-year graduate students to design a house for a narrow infill site near campus. After reviews and a final class vote, MacBride, Arlt, and their students selected a simple, gabled structure with fiber-cement lap siding and a detached garage in the rear.
Due to the site’s size, the team chose a linear program with a front-facing entry and an exterior courtyard between the residence and garage. In lieu of a traditional front porch, they carved out a cantilevered, clear-finished cedar-lined entry from the structure’s south side. “Not only do you get the change in wood when you walk in, but it also provides the necessary shading on those south side windows,” Arlt says.
The residence’s dark exterior contrasts with a light interior lined in white walls and wood accents. A double-height living and dining area is anchored by a CLT-and-solid-glulam stair; shaded windows offer south light with minimal heat gain.
The house’s simple design lent itself to the technical challenge of meeting passive house standards in South Dakota’s continental climate. “The first thing with the passive house is that the whole point is to be dumb and to make it passive,” Arlt says. “The technology is actually what you do with physics.” The designers crafted an airtight envelope and specified systems such as an energy recovery ventilator, a mini-split heat pump, and a PV array that “almost, not quite, brings us to net-zero electrical usage” overall, says MacBride (who has since moved to the University of Texas at Arlington).
After its completion, PH01:BRK was sold to a private owner who helps track the house’s energy use and output via an online portal for a whole-house energy modeling system. The construction of a second passive house by SDSU has since stalled, but Arlt has applied elements of the curriculum to retrofit studios, testing passive house construction strategies for cool climates. “We’re trying to build a body of research that checks a lot of boxes for what housing looks like here, and provides an alternative,” Arlt says.
Project: PH01:BRK, Brookings, S.D.
Client: Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Design Architect: South Dakota State University Department of Architecture (DoArch) Students, Brookings, S.D. . Anthony Dyk, Assoc. AIA, Beau Prest, Emily Hamer, Emily Nelson, Ethan Millar, Spencer Sommers, AIA (design team); Charles MacBride, AIA, Robert Arlt, AIA (instructors)
Structural Engineer: Rise
Mechanical Engineer: Luke Langals
PV Consultant: Reinaldo Tonkoski, SDSU Department of Electrical Engineering
Passive House Consultant: Passive House Institute US
Passive House Verifier: David Holtzclaw
General Contractor: Brookings Built Green
Size: 2,013 square feet