What Does It Take to Make a Sustainable House?

A stunning new book proves that passive, super-insulated homes can be beautiful and responsible

Textile House in Asse, Belgium

Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

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Julie Torres Moskovitz, designer of the first certified passive house in New York City, has released a stunning new book, The Greenest Home. In this 200-page exploration she takes us on a tour of 18 superinsulated and passive homes from various locales throughout North America, Europe, and Japan.

Another wonderful example shown by Moskovitz is the Textile House in Asse, Belgium. Designed by BLAF Architecten, the house’s first floor exterior is made of rubber while fabric created from glass fibers clads the second floor and gives the house its name. This home invites visitors to interact with it; they can draw on the exterior and play on public basketball court. Clearly, the design’s aim is to foster random interactions among neighbors.


It’s refreshing to see this shift to different types of potential residents. It often seems that sustainable homes are made soley for the privileged, This project reaffirms my belief that everyone deserves good design.

Moskovitz begins with a brief history of passive homes, and the common principles that define them. One of the most innovative projects is the Belfield Homes. These superinsulated Philadelphia townhouses geared toward low-income families and the formerly homeless, were designed and pre-faricated by Onion Flats. Onion Flats’s off-site fabricating facility gave them total control over details, a key factor in building superinsulated homes.

To satisfy our craving for eye candy the book is filled with glamour shots of homes. Yet, the book is more than just something to display on the coffee table. Moskovitz does an impressive job of exploring the hurdles that the architects had to face to accomplish their goals. Through floor plans as well as construction images, details about insulation techniques, and efficiency stats, Moskovitz provides a close look at what it takes to make a home sustainable.

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