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Local Virginia Contractor

Wins National Green Builder Award

Structures Design/Build of Roanoke is featured in the December issue of GreenBuilder magazine, singled out for a new energy-efficient custom home the company built near Thaxton, Virginia. Winner of the Best Mainstream Green prize, the Specht home incorporates cutting-edge Passivhaus design to deliver phenomenal energy savings – at cost parity with conventional construction.


Roanoke, Va. (December 11, 2013)—

Passive House builder Structures Design/Build, LLC, of Roanoke, Va., has won a prestigious GreenBuilder Home of the Year Award in the Best Mainstream Green category. The winning entry is the Specht House, a new 1,800-square-foot home near Thaxton, Va., which is featured in the December 2013 issue of GreenBuilder magazine. Built in a style adapted from the traditional Virginia farmhouse, the home fits naturally into the surrounding countryside. But it is also a certified Passivhaus, which means it meets the highest contemporary standard for energy efficiency, comfort, and sustainability. By design, the house uses 70% less energy than conventional code-conforming new construction. This is not just a marketing claim: During its first year of operation, the all-electric home used an average of $1.50 per day in total energy – an annual total of only 5,760 kilowatt-hours – ­including heat, air-conditioning, hot water, lights, and plug loads. By contrast, a new building-code-compliant home would have used over 19,000 Kwh. Because of the proven accuracy of the Passivhaus modeling tool, the energy savings was factored into the mortgage by the bank and will benefit the homeowners for decades to come.


So what’s it like living in a Passivhaus? Owner Jason Specht answers that question: “After living in this house, we really notice the difference when we visit other homes – they seem stuffy by comparison, and we’re always glad to come home. It’s a much fresher feeling.” Credit for that goes to the home’s energy-recovery ventilator, or ERV, which constantly exhausts stale indoor air and brings in fresh outdoor air, relying on a heat exchanger core to maintain steady indoor temperatures while moderating seasonal humidity levels.


When they decided to build, Jason and Stephanie Specht knew that they wanted an energy-efficient home, but they had trouble finding a contractor who shared their vision. Then they met Adam Cohen.


“Sustainability and reducing our footprint was important to us, but in the beginning we thought that energy efficiency would cost us more than we could afford,” says Specht. “Adam gave us a book about Passivhaus and showed us how the financing would work. We went from wanting to build an energy-efficient house to building the most efficient house possible. We feel fortunate that we had an opportunity to do something like this and work with someone that passionate about it.”


“Working with Jason and Stephanie was wonderful,” says Adam Cohen of Structures.  “They were open to exploring Passivhaus, and through the process of educating themselves became dedicated to the creating this home. The thing about this technology is that it is not magic or voodoo – it is building science. In the hands of a experienced design/builder, the Passivhaus approach delivers a future-proof, low-energy home at a cost equal to that of a standard home.”

Structures Design/Build, LLC, founded in 1999 by Adam Cohen and Steven Strauss, specializes in high-performance commercial and residential construction. Adam Cohen is a certified Passive House consultant in both North America and Europe. To date, Structures has completed three certified Passive House residences and four commercial Passive House buildings, including a school, a cultural center, a dental office, and a college dormitory.

Cohen is a recognized leader in the Passivhaus movement and has presented technical papers at both national and international Passivhaus conferences. He is vice-chair of the technical committee of the Passive house Institute US (PHIUS), and co-wrote the manual and teaches the builder training curriculum for PHIUS.  Because of his groundbreaking work in commercial Passivhaus, Cohen is a sought-after speaker, consultant, and teacher of advanced courses in ultra-low-energy design.

Contact Structures for more information, or to obtain images of the Specht House.



Structures Design/Build: 540-774-4800

Steven Strauss:

Adam Cohen:




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