Chris is something of a renaissance man with an interest in all things sustainable and the drive to self-educate about them until he can do them well. In the past decades he has done extensive organic gardening growing much of the fruit and vegetables he eats, and has kept bees for pollination, honey and beeswax, and has harvested maple syrup. Since the land we are building MI Passive House on is relatively devoid of edible plants compared to our current home, one of the first things he began doing after purchasing the land was to start planting a tiny orchard of miniature fruit trees, berry bushes, and perennial vegetables and medicinal plants, knowing they will take years to start bearing well. Right now everything planted has to be fenced to protect it from the deer, coons, and other hungry critters, as well as weeded & watered, and pest insects must be trapped, but the goal is to establish a permaculture of micro ecosystems that are more self-sustaining and can sustain us, too.
Chris has been tinkering with all kinds of electronics, mechanical devices, and a chemistry set since high school, and continues to have a passion for figuring out how to make things work well that he puts to good use on this project. For decades he has implemented renewable energy systems for himself and for others, and typically does his own plumbing and electrical repairs on our current ancient farmhouse, and even often does his own car repairs rather than hiring someone else to do it. If he doesn’t have the answers he will find them. He’s not satisfied learning a quick “how-to” answer, but seeks to understand why things work as they do, and to hold a bigger multi-generational integrated picture of where we want to go.
On this project he has created most of the hot wire cutting tools we need, has made modifications to the concrete mixing and spraying equipment to make it work better, has designed and installed most of the plumbing and electrical systems (consulting with an electrician friend), and has found a workable Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete Mix Recipe (through trial and error) that will work with our local available Portland cement. He cares as much about how things are done as he does about how they come out, so he thinks through processes carefully, and is particular about each step to conserve materials and preserve tools in good working order. He may be a demanding taskmaster, but is also a good teacher, and has a generous heart.
Christina is Michigan’s first Certified Passive House Consultant since 2008, and is also an Registered Architect and Licensed Residential Builder in the State of Michigan. She has been pursuing sustainable design since her thesis project at the University of Cincinnati for a cohousing community featuring passive solar design and renewable energy systems as well as barrier-free design, and began taking a leadership role in Michigan when she coached architecture students through winning the state’s first (and last?) two Zero Energy Design competitions and then through a 2007 Solar Decathlon entry which was exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC. She grew up volunteering on construction projects in her summers beginning in grade school with church groups and Habitat for Humanity, and pursued both industrial arts (the only girl in her classes) and a college prep track through high school. These formed a sound basis for an intuitive grasp of construction details and the physics of building science that still serves her today.
Her learning experience in the first class of Passive House Design Consultants offered by the Passive House Institute US gave her a whole new perspective on the art & science of energy efficient building which exceeded anything she was ever taught in college and was a mind-blowing experience for her, as she learned more building physics than a decade of college offered, and even discovered errors in what she was taught in college. Now she knows that we can power our world and buildings with energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies using the free energy at hand, it just takes the political will to choose to do so instead of spending on the extraction of fossil fuel energies from other parts of the world where we live and work. She does energy consulting for renovations of homes and businesses as well as new construction projects, and has lectured widely around the state and region to educate people about the possibilities of building or renovating to meet goals such as Zero Energy or the Passive House Standard, and occasionally serves as an adjunct professor teaching about energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Christina really enjoys the experience of owner designing & building most days, and sometimes will even break into song if there is no one around who minds. Since she has spent the last decade or so living in an aging uninsulated farmhouse and heating with wood for part of that time, she is really looking forward to living in the Passive House that should stay comfortable by itself; never having to worry about what will happen if she has to leave the house vacant for an extended period winter or summer, and never having to share house space with the local wildlife, though she hopes to entertain lots of human guests. She highly recommends owner-building as a fitness program that builds endurance and strength at the same time as building a home, and it can be a great family activity, which is how she learned building. She’s hoping that having a stable home/ office base will better enable her to mentor young people in the skills she’s learned. Next she’d like to take what she learned about building full size passive houses and aim towards building tiny self-sufficient (possibly mobile?) dwellings for others who want security and sustainability on a lower income budget.