Pretty Good House

What is a “Pretty Good House”?

Coined at a series of meetings by a building science group in the eastern US, a “Pretty Good House” is a playful take on scaling back the intense requirements of the ultra-energy-efficient Passive House standard, but still applying many of the same principles to create a home that has markedly improved comfort and energy efficiency.  The approach is defined by its simplicity, without any kind of complicated computer thermal modelling to determine the home’s energy usage, a lack of  very specialized construction practices or details, and a pursuit of improved building envelope goals according to common sense and budget constraints.  Pheasant Hill Homes has long employed these principles to help provide clients with homes that have much improved insulation levels, higher quality glazing and improved air-tightness to reduce heat loss.  The effect has been happy clients that are more comfortable, with lower utility bills and a cost that still worked with their budget.  We just didn’t have the catchy “Pretty Good House” moniker to go along with it!

What goes into a “Pretty Good House” to make it better than a basic house?

Below is a simple chart showing what is often agreed upon as the thermal properties of a “Pretty Good House” as compared to a basic code-built house.  Originally proposed by the Building Science Corporation, these values are considered prudent, but effective means to achieving realistic energy efficiency goals.

  • Assembly
    Component
  • Windows
  • Underslab
  • Below Grade Walls
  • Above Grade Walls
  • Roof
  • Airtightness
  • “Pretty Good House”
    (R-values)
  • 5
  • 10
  • 20
  • 40
  • 60
  • +/- 1.5 ACH50
  • Basic Building Code
    (R-values)
  • unspecified
  • 10
  • 12
  • 20
  • 40
  • unspecified

Why isn’t everyone making a “Pretty Good House”?

Good question!  For years, Pheasant Hill Homes has been helping clients implement every energy efficiency measure available that works with their budget.  Over those years, we’ve been able to determine what sorts of measures offer the most cost effective strategies.  Whether it is vapour permeable exterior insulation, different air-sealing techniques during framing and underslab prep, installing triple-glazed double low-e coated windows, or simply installing additional attic insulation, we believe that every builder should be employing these practices.   They not only reduce the energy consumption of the building, making it less impactful on the environment, but they lower clients’ utility bills, provide them with improved comfort and also make buildings more durable and resistant to moisture damage.  Sadly, many builders either don’t share our passion for these things, or they don’t possess the knowledge to implement them.  With time, we believe that the features of a “Pretty Good House” will become the code minimums of the future.  We just like being ahead of the curve!

"Pretty Good House" Examples

Here are a few images from houses that we’ve built over the years which employ many or all of the “Pretty Good House” features discussed above.