Sunset Passive House

Sunset Passive House

1600 sf. House in the Bitterroot Valley, MT

Completed 2021 by Hone Builders

This home is 5.5 miles away from where I was born and spent the first 17 years of my life. Having moved away, I returned with my partner to a piece of land so spectacular it required that a home here be integrated into and take nothing from it. As such, we planned for a net-zero small house on the edge of the property.

The land had been subdivided into 13 different lots; it is now protected through the local land trust as a mix of agriculture, ponderosa pine forest (with a year-round spring for wildlife), and sage fields. We sited our home on an area previously disturbed as a riding area, with storage sheds nearby that have been repurposed as a garden shed and a bunk house. Two 14′ diameter grain silos were moved from nearby on the property to become an outdoor kitchen and a heated bathhouse, both used extensively for gatherings.

Our home is the first in Montana to be certified Passive House through PHIUS. The process was challenging at times (our 3rd party rater had to travel 4 hours and had never done one before) and involved a lot of teamwork and head-scratching. Our walls are 14″ wide double stud construction. This required extra modeling through WUFI, a dynamic hygrothermal modeling software, to be sure they would dry safely throughout each year.

The property looks directly at the Bitterroot Mountains range. Set up on a natural bench looking west, the view is spectacular. As this view cannot be ignored and happens to be to the west, the challenge of capturing the views while mitigating overheating in the home was one of the main design goals. We oriented the home east/west with a long south wall where much of the glazing is located but focused on large sliding doors and the front patio on the west mountains, with a covered porch to shade the glazing as well as the outdoor dining. In addition, we use outdoor shades that fix the steel posts as the sun drops lower in the sky. The large south windows have steel shutters on the outside, should we want to add shade to the inside. The patio posts are steel railroad tracks, a nod to one owner’s profession.

Photographer: Chuck Schmidt