Touring The Nation's First Passive House

I had the pleasure of touring the nation's first passive house, nano-grid backed multi-unit development. Not only are the homes beautifully built, but they are thoughtfully designed to achieve the extremely high levels of energy efficiency required to reach passive house certifications. This home is the future of green building.


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  • PHIUS+ Source Zero certified through PHIUS (Passive House Institute, US) “Source Zero” means it’s designed to produce all its own 100% renewable energy on-site to power the building.
  • US Department of Energy “Zero Energy Ready Home (US DOE ZERH) Certified.

The Sol Lux Alpha team used the combination of the two certifications above (instead of LEED) as an “Alternate path of Compliance” to SF Green Building Code. This is a superior metric to LEED and all other building ratings for energy reduction and healthy indoor environment in homes. The point of the alternate path of compliance was to demonstrate this superiority to the city of SF.  Sol Lux Alpha is the first and only building to date in SF to achieve this Alternate Path of Compliance.


  • Very air tight exterior. The Passive House standard allows only .6 ach (air changes per hour) while pressurized both positively and negatively. As a comparison, Ca. Title 24 energy code allows 6 ach, meaning we are 10 times more airtight than required code! Air tight means highly thermally insulated and quiet! We achieve this by “air sealing” exterior walls, using very airtight and thermally efficient windows and doors. If your home is air tight, it is also water tight!
  • Energy Modeled exterior assemblies (walls, windows, and doors) This process scientifically designs the building exterior and tells us how much insulation is required, and assemblies are designed to meet Passive House maximum energy requirement of 1.39 kWh per sq ft per year.
  • Elimination of “thermal bridges. A thermal bridge is an element in an exterior wall that allows heat or cold to be transferred into the building. PH design uses “thermal breaks” to minimize this effect.
  • Air Pahoda ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) Brings constant supply of fresh, filtered air into every room in the house. At the same time it exhaust stale indoor air. In the process, the incoming and outgoing air pass through a “heat exchanger” that keeps the heat (or cool) in the building instead of exhausting it with the outgoing air.

The 4 elements above embody the basic Passive House design principles. Once we have built a very energy efficient Passive House certified structure, we add the most efficient systems possible, in order to reduce energy use needed, and maximize excess PV energy generation for EV charging or for revenue from the local Utility.


To be Certified, a Passive House certified structure is modeled to  use only 6200 kWh per person per year. This means a condominium or home with two people can use only 12,400 kWh per year. 12,400/365(days) = 33.9726 kWh per day maximum, for 2 people living in it. We designed Sol Lux Alpha to be able to come in well below that target by using very high efficiency systems and appliances. Hitting these targets will of course depend to a degree on use/owner habits, and settings they choose for their building systems.

Heat Pump Water Heaters are more efficient to begin with. Our Sanden CO2 Heat Pump water heaters are the best of the best! (the condenser is outside and has CO2 as a refrigerant). CO2 is more efficient and 10,000 times less damaging to the environment that CFC refrigerants. Having the “Condenser” outside (on the balcony) means any noise and cold air is outside rather than inside. 

100% L.E.D. lighting LED lighting is the most energy efficient lighting (other than the sun) today. The typical incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, while 12-watt LED bulb lasts up to 50,000 hours. In other words, incandescent bulbs last about a year while LEDs can last up to 50 years!

Induction Ranges; Only the pots and pans get hot with induction cooking. This means there is a huge savings in heat-energy, which equals huge savings in electrical energy.  Advantages of induction cooking include the fact that the pot starts to heat instantly when current is applied; the pot stops heating instantly (and any boiling within also stops instantly) when the element is turned off, and 100% of the energy in the induction coils goes towards heating the pot, whereas on a typical electric or gas stove, a large percentage of the heat escapes into the surrounding air.

High Efficiency Bosch Appliances are not only high efficiency but high style and high end German engineered cooking products!

Heat Pump dryers; Our Whirlpool 7 cu. Ft, dryers are full sized models, and will save approx. $.29 per load in energy costs. They save a great deal of energy compared to normal electric dryers.

LG Mini-Split DUCTED Heat Pump HVAC All the energy efficient advantages of a US DOE recommended air-source” heat pump heating and cooling system, but it is hidden from view!


Sunpreme 380w GxB Bifacial Solar Panels Though the PV Trellis looks like one large array, it is separated into 5 independent systems. Each home’s 21 state of the art Solar panels are bifacial and BIPV. Bifacial means they have energy reception “cells” on top and bottom of the panel. BIPV means “Building Integrated Photo Voltaic”, they are a beautiful integrated architectural element that lets filtered light through. While the top cells are generating energy from direct sunlight, the bottom cells are generating extra energy, (up to 25 or 30% extra) from reflected and ambient light from the deck and surrounding neighborhood. There are 96 panels, and the remaining 12 are for the “common area” energy system which powers the lights, receptacles, and the elevator in the common areas.

Tesla Powerwalls Tesla Energy recommends TWO Powerwalls to fully self-power an “average” 1800 sq ft. home. We installed THREE Powerwalls for each home, to be sure your ultra-high performance home and EV Charging can remain fully operational if the grid fails due to natural disaster, grid “brownouts”, or if you simply choose to go “off the grid”. This also creates “redundancy”, as there is no single point of failure. If one Powerwall goes down for some reason the other two are still on. The same resiliency applies to the building as a whole. There are 5 separate energy systems in the building, making it a building with 5 individual and separate “Nanogrids”. 

A Nanogrid is a self-contained energy system that can “island” or disconnect and run independently from other surrounding energy systems. This means if a neighbor’s system completely fails, (which will likely never happen due to the “redundancy”), your system can still be fully functional and you could “help them out” as needed. You could also in the same way choose to be a community asset and help by “lending power in the event of a grid failure!

Blue Planet Energy “Blue Ion” ESS The Blue Ion Battery Chemistry is in our opinion one of if not the best in the world for cycle life, energy density, and high power DC output. We chose this state of the art LiFePo4 chemistry for our common area and high power 3 phase elevator systems. The two Blue Ion “towers” in the battery storage area push their energy through 3 Schneider Conext XW+ Inverters which are balanced and synchronized to create 3 Phase power from the high output DC current of the BPE Blue Ion system. This completes the 5th Nanogrid for the building, and further enhances the redundancy, resilience, and reliability of the building as a whole.

The homes and building of Sol Lux Alpha are designed to be capable of running “off the grid” for extended and potentially indefinite periods of time as a result. How many urban homeowners can say they are ready for the “Zombie Apocalypse”? ;-) In this way, the building can also be a “community asset”, as a “beacon of power and light” in the event of a grid disruption event or natural disaster.


Owners can choose the EV charger specific and best suited to their Electric Vehicle, and have it installed by any qualified electrician. The building is wired for not only EV charging, but also wired for future ready for “V2B and V2G” bi-directional charging. 


The CPUC has recently set rules for the Utilities to develop “revenue models” for using behind the meter energy storage systems such as exist in Sol Lux Alpha for “ancillary services” to the grid. This would mean the utility would offer the owners money to use their systems for energy storage and discharge, at the owner’s option of course.

This concludes our description of the main components and quality of design + development that set Sol Lux Alpha far above and beyond the average home or condominium. These are High Performance  Homes in a High Performance Building. We believe they are the first of their kind in the USA. We also believe this is the building model for the future, for your use and enjoyment today.

SOL = 100% Sun Powered LUX= Uncompromising Luxury ALPHA = The First of its kind in the USA, (and also Superior high performance). In addition, our high quality finishes and attention to detail delivers a living experience that is quiet, healthy, and almost decadently luxurious… and yet societally beneficial! The Roof Deck/Lounge area offers a sheltered place to relax at the end of the day, or for outdoor entertaining under the filtered sunlight canopy that is producing all your power needs for your home and your building. PLUS, if your “energy habits” are within designed parameters, there is excess PV power generation for potentially all your EV transportation energy needs as well!