Fagin Partners is one of the leading designers in Dallas with a passion for creating sustainable and stylish modern homes. The designers, Kyle and Connor Fagin, are a talented father-and-son team who are building the first International Passive House in Texas to reach the next level of efficiency. Their mission is to construct homes that are mindful of the environment while still achieving a modern aesthetic and long-term affordability for homeowners. We had a chance to talk with Fagin Partners about their design process and their upcoming Lively Lane Passive House.
What is your motivation behind energy-efficient housing and how does it affect your process when creating a custom space for your clients?
At Fagin Partners, we feel a sense of responsibility to our homeowners to build homes that will save them monthly on their utility bills, but also give them the tools that they need to reduce their impact on the environment. Even though this makes the building process a little more complicated and expensive, we feel that the results are worth the effort. Efficiency can be achieved in two ways — by owning the right house or by sacrificing comfort. We believe that passive home design is the way of the future and we are excited as a company to be building the first certified International Passive House in the state of Texas.
What do you factor in when designing a home in a warmer climate such as Texas?
Warm, humid climates like we have here in the Dallas, Texas area pose a unique challenge to the conventional passive house model which originated in Germany. Texans cool their homes much more than they heat over the course of the year, so the biggest factor in making a home energy efficient in our climate is air tightness. The last thing we want is for our conditioned air to leak out so we use air barriers and tape to seal up even the smallest of gaps. Additionally, throughout construction we try to keep wall and roof access points to a minimum. We use triple pane windows imported from Europe to increase efficiency and have incorporated a fresh air system into the home’s A/C to keep the air inside the structure as fresh and healthy as the air outside. The combination of this tight building envelope and unique fresh air system gives our clients total control over the air they breathe. The results are a home free of the indoor allergens and stale air that leave one feeling like they need to take a break and step outside.
The next challenge is the insulation. We insulate underneath and around the perimeter of the foundation and additionally add nearly a foot of blown-in and rigid insulation in the walls and roof to meet passive house efficiency standards. All things considered, these measures may sound like overkill, but the 3846 Lively Circle Passive House wouldn’t be one of the most efficient homes in the state of Texas without them.
Do you find people becoming more understanding of the importance of building green residential homes?
We have found that it’s relatively easy for people to understand the importance of a green home. The bigger problem seems to be just getting the word out that they are available and affordable. You can pay out the relatively small expense of building efficiently in your mortgage over fifteen to thirty years and can literally save hundreds of dollars per month for as long as you have the home. It’s really a no brainer. On top of that, you are doing a really great thing for the earth and future generations
When and why do you use Infratech heaters?
One of our goals as homebuilders is to blur the lines between the indoors and out. We find our customers love to be outside as much as possible and by installing Infratech heaters we can extend that time for them. On cooler evenings and during the colder months of the year, Infratech heaters help keep our customers comfortable outside. The benefits of outdoor heaters
are clear, but we choose Infratech over other gas powered alternatives because we are able to offset the heaters’ electricity consumption with the solar panels we install on all of our projects. Why bother building a super-efficient passive house if you are just going to install an appliance on the porch that spews CO2 every time you use it?
Do your customers’ outdoor lifestyles influence your designs?
Absolutely. Whether we are putting in a pool, creating an outdoor entertaining area, or adding things like a screened in porch to our floor plans, we want to create functional and comfortable outdoor experience for our customers. A pool, for instance, is often a personal touch and is an expression of a homeowner’s personality and taste, but as homebuilders, we express our personality and taste by offering features that our competitors aren’t. Infratech heaters give us a competitive edge in our market by allowing us to cater to our customers’ outdoor lifestyles.
Where do you see outdoor design headed?
Outdoor design in Texas is a must because time outdoors is a mainstay in our culture. Our customers enjoy many varied activities outside and would prefer to use their outdoor spaces up to nine or ten months out of the year. These activities include cooking and dining, sitting around a fireplace or TV, or just simply enjoying one another’s company in the peace and quiet of their own backyard. But the reality is, people will go inside in the winter if they are not comfortable. Infratech allows us as homebuilders to give our homeowners what they need to cope with Texas winters in an environmentally responsible way, and to use their outdoor entertaining areas as many days of the year as possible.