WEBSTER GROVES David and Thuy Smiths new house at 215 Gray
Avenue blends well with its neighbors, some more than a century old.
From its clapboard siding and stone-trimmed foundation to its
wraparound porch with tapered Craftsman-style columns, the Smiths
house appears at home, so to speak.
But behind the old-time appearance is the latest in residential
energy efficiency and low maintenance. Going green was the Smiths
goal when they decided in 2011 to leave their 1940s bungalow in
What they are getting in Webster Groves is the first active house
in North America, according to those involved in the project as well
as specialty trade magazines.
Active construction combines energy efficiency, healthy indoor
air and designs that take advantage of sun, shade and breezes. To
compare, active house techniques are similar to those in LEED houses
in the United States.
An open house is scheduled for today to give builders, real
estate brokers and mortgage lenders a chance to inspect the Smiths
innovative house. A public open house is set for Saturday.
The Smiths and their daughter, Cameron, 6, plan to move in next
In his design for the house, architect Jeff Day of St. Louis
included numerous skylights to brighten the interior and, when open,
to provide ventilation. The broad porch something common before air-
conditioning shades first-floor rooms and protects part of the
homes fiber cement siding.
The durable siding is attached to the homes structural insulated
panels. That, in builder talk, is a term for energy-efficient
exterior walls. SIPs, as theyre called, have a foam insulation core
thats sandwiched between sheets of high-strength oriented strand
The use of SIPs remains rare in St. Louis, but Matt Belcher, a
specialist in green construction, said they have advantages over
traditional building methods. One is quick construction because SIPs
arrive at building sites ready for use. Belcher, manager of the
Smith project, said the homes walls went up in a week. InsulSpan, of
Blissfield, Mich., provided custom-made SIPs shipped by truck to
Belcher works with Velux Group, a Danish manufacturer of
skylights and solar panels that helped form the Active House
Alliance in 2010 in Copenhagen.
The group has promoted construction in Europe of about two dozen
active houses, many of starkly modern design.
Kim Hibbs, whose Hibbs Homes, of Chesterfield, is building the
Smiths house, said last year when the Post-Dispatch first reported
plans for the project that active construction is a Danish version
of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) construction
without the detailed documentation of efficiencies required for LEED