Prototype House

We redesigned a prototype for a developer who had been building infill single-family housing for people with below median income. The developer wanted to improve energy efficiency, make the house visitable, and improve the quality of their product. They had been building houses that maximized square footage, had poor energy performance, and were made with inexpensive, poor quality finishes and materials. Thoughtful Balance suggested that building smaller, more durable, and energy efficient houses would help people with modest incomes have a greater rate of success in affording utilities and maintaining their homes.

The 1800 square foot, three-bedroom home was the first certified Passive House in Western Pennsylvania, and was constructed with the following upgrades for the same price as the developer’s earlier prototype: cement board siding, European triple-glazed windows, solid surface countertops, super-insulation, ceramic showers, and bamboo strand flooring.

The prototype house has a glycol loop in the ground that pre-conditions the air from the ERV. There is a small heat pump to take care of any residual heating or cooling that is required. The house can be heated and cooled for less than $30 per month.


  • 1,842 sq ft
  • Built for $124 per sq ft
  • EUI of 23
  • Heating and cooling bill less than $30 per month


“The real benefit to us as people who are building for low- to moderate-income families and households, is if we can find a way to lower utility bills substantially, we're enabling them to have much more money in their pockets at the end of the month."

Action Housing