“50 Houses” is an open-source, collaborative project to bring together cross-cutting expertise to build fifty high-performance retrofits of common Maine building typologies, using passive house principles.   In the process, we will develop best practices that can be reproduced economically throughout the state and other northern latitudes.   We have established a number of local, regional and international partnerships. The Institutes of Energy and The Environment at Penn State have offered to help us measure and evaluate the retrofits through data collection and analysis. The United Nations Global Building Initiative will help share best practices throughout northern latitudes.

The existing 600,000 housing units in Maine have compromised building envelopes and inefficient heating systems. While cities and their dense communities receive much needed attention, rural communities are often left out of the conversation. The “Rural Efficiency Gap” the financial and logistical barriers as described by the Island Institute,Rockland, Maine  is a product of multiple problems, “Islands and other rural communities throughout the United States pay some of the highest costs for electricity and heating fuel. With such high energy costs, the financial benefits of energy efficiency can be significant, but if you live in one of these rural and underdeveloped places it can be difficult to find financing for energy upgrades or a contractor who will work in your area.“, culminating in exasperated income, housing, food, and medical scarcity. This problem isn’t solely a Maine problem, nor a regional New England issue but a global issue in Northern Climes. House building typology in the northern climes are a similar: stick built and wooden components.

The goal of 50 Houses  is to investigate and develop prototypes, strategies and best practices for deep energy to passive house standard retrofits of typical construction ie: single family, duplex housing, triple deckers in Maine to be replicated and shared with regional and international partners whose climates and housing stock are similar.


50 Houses Steering Committee

Naomi C.O. Beal, Executive Director, passivhausMAINE

Hans Breaux, Board Chair passivhausMAINE

Rachel Conly, Architect, Rachel Conly Design

Will Manion,  Professor Construction Management, UMO

Ali Memari, Professor of Architecture and Engineering and Director of Residential Building Construction Penn State University

Mike Pulaski, Architect, Thornton Thomasetti

Liz Trice, Development Consultant

Robert Cavey, Development Consultant Praxis (Senior Advisor)

Jim Freihaut, Professor Architecture and Engineering Penn State University (Senior Advisor)

Naomi Mermin, Energy Consultant (Senior Advisor)

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