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This home is so energy efficient, it even uses body heat for temperature control

There are environmentally friendly homes. And then there are super-duper-energy-efficient-isn’t-science-amazing homes that do incredible things like use body heat and household appliances to help regulate a room’s temperature.

On Thursday, Jeff Greaves and Sue Duffy hosted an open house for their “passive house” in Olympia’s Eastside neighborhood.

“Basically they’re super energy efficient,” Greaves said. “They use about a tenth of the energy that a regular house does.”

The nearly 1,500-square-foot single-story home at 604 Boundary St. SE, which is scheduled to be finished in the spring, has roofing, windows and exterior walls that far exceed code requirements. For example, all of the windows are triple-paned and placed in locations that will maximize solar energy gain.

“I think what makes these houses special is they’re kind of the ‘keep it simple stupid’ of architecture,” said architect Tessa Smith, co-owner of Artisan Group, which designed and is building the home. “So you build a really good shell, and you put really good doors and windows in it, and then you get really fresh filtered air in all the time, but you get to keep that heat with an air exchanger. The homes are super healthy and super energy efficient.”

So far, the Artisan Group has built about 10 passive houses in the Olympia area, Smith said. The firm also has built passive houses in Seattle and Portland, she said.

Greaves didn’t provide the cost of the project, but he said the house is expected to cost about 30 percent more than a traditionally built home. Smith said it takes about five to 10 years to offset those extra costs with savings in energy bills.

On a flier handed out at the open house, the couple explain that they chose the design because it’s modern, and it will be “less stressful on the grid and on the beautiful Olympia we love.”

Greaves said they’re excited to have a home that’s so close to downtown, and fits their lifestyle. For example, the house was designed with places for their bicycles in the utility room.

“I like that form follows function,” Greaves said. “There’s nothing wasted.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

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