Follow along as TDS builds a passive house just outside Madison, WI in McFarland

Here at TDS, we have a history of providing remodels and additions to clients that are more durable, environmentally-sensitive and healthy than conventional construction. We are excited to announce the start of a new home project that furthers our goal of providing energy-efficient, high performance homes to our clients. This new house in McFarland, Wisconsin has been designed and is being constructed using Passive House strategies. The following is the first in a series of blog posts that will follow along with the construction of this house. As we go along, you will become better acquainted with the Passive House design and building principles mentioned below and how they are being specifically utilized on this house project.

When homeowners Jeff and Lynn Reneau came to us, they already had a design in mind. Their original intent was to build an energy-efficient, healthy and comfortable home that was designed in an innovative, practical and aesthetically-pleasing way. After visiting with the architects at GO Logic in Belfast, Maine, they chose to build the “House on the Knoll,” which had been featured on the cover of Fine Home Building in December 2012. Lynn had initially fallen in love with the European style windows and both appreciated the small size and efficiency of the floor plan and the building envelope.

While some reading this may be familiar with the concept of Passive House, others may not be so sure what that means. Simply put, Passive House uses an integrated, conservation-based approach to drastically reduce the amount of energy a building uses. A combination of super-insulation and excellent air-tightness, high-performance windows and doors, passive solar strategies, and continuous ventilation with energy recovery, work together to achieve the end goal of deep energy use reductions, which results in vastly reduced utility bills. Beyond this, a small, affordable amount of solar panels can further reduce the energy use of the house to zero – achieving what is popularly known as Net-Zero energy use. Passive Houses, by their nature, also provide superior comfort and indoor air quality. You won’t find the drafts and cold spots and large temperature swings you find in conventionally-built houses; and the constant flow of filtered, fresh air reduces allergens, pollutants, and CO2 levels. For further information on Passive House, see Christi Weber’s most recent presentation on the subject to a group of Door County residents.

The major project elements of the Passive House portion of the project include the following, all of which will be discussed in more detail in subsequent blog posts.

  • Frost protected shallow foundation with slab-on-grade and R-38 foam insulation.
  • Walls with R-27 cellulose cavity insulation and R-24 continuous Roxul insulation.
  • Roof with R-90 cellulose insulation.
  • Windows & Doors by Kneer-Sud (U-value 0.11, SHGC 0.5)
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation by Zehnder

TDS is happy to announce that we have become Wisconsin’s first company to have a Passive House certified designer and builder all under one roof with the recent addition of designer Christi Weber to our team, which had already included Ben Blodgett, a certified Passive House builder. We are excited to be able to offer the entire design build package for high-performance buildings (including Passive House and Net-zero) to our clients. If you’re thinking about building a new home like this one or even a deep-energy retrofit of an existing house, we’d love to hear from you!


Ben Blodgett, Operations Manager at TDS, became a Passive House certified builder in 2015. He is passionate about building environmentally friendly homes. From a smaller carbon footprint to healthier indoor air, Ben loves to talk about the ways homes can be durable and sustainable.

Christi Weber, a Project Designer at TDS, became Wisconsin’s first Certified Passive House Consultant in 2012. She has been in the design field for 10 years, specializing in residential projects, Passive House, Net-Zero and High Performance homes.