Madrona Passive House Wall Assembly, Illustrated: Fourth of Four analyses of high performance walls

NOTE: This is the last of four posts delving into the anatomy of high performance wall assembly. The last post featured the wall at the Glasswood Passive House Retrofit. This week’s explains our approach at Madrona Passive House. All four analyses are part of our building science exhibit, “Evolution of Enclosure,” that recently completed a 5-week showing at AIA Portland’s Center for Architecture.

Madrona Passive House Wall Assembly Sample | Hammer & Hand

The wall assembly at Madrona Passive House shows how Hammer & Hand’s approach to high performance envelope construction is evolving. With each project we are working to simplify assembly and hew as closely as possible to standard construction techniques. This is good for our installers in the field and for project budgets. The wall at Madrona Passive House takes advantage of the compressive strength of mineral wool to suspend the home’s exterior insulation with the rain screen battens’ fasteners.

Madrona Passive House Wall Assembly

ZIP System Sheathing (sheets of OSB covered in a weather resistant coating) with fluid applied sealant at seams, serves as the assembly’s air barrier (and WRB).

Madrona Passive House Air Management | Hammer & HandA 3.5” exterior, monolithic layer of ROXUL mineral wool insulation adds R-14 of insulative value to the assembly, while 5.5” of high density fiberglass insulation brings another R-23. The wall’s total insulative value in assembly (adding insulation, sheet goods, air films, etc.) is R-39 at center of cavity and R-34 whole wall.

Madrona Passive House Heat Management | Hammer & HandMadrona Passive House’s 1×6 knotty cedar siding serves as the primary barrier to water intrusion. As in the other three wall assemblies described in this series, the rain screen cavity behind the siding allows water to drain away. The ROXUL mineral wool is hydrophobic, so provides another barrier to water, while the ZIP Sheathing WRB serves as the final barrier.

Madrona Passive House Water Management | Hammer & Hand

Because the OSB of the ZIP Sheathing is a vapor retarder, the assembly is semi-permeable to the inside, slowing vapor diffusion from the home’s interior into the assembly. The mineral wool warms the ZIP Sheathing, preventing moisture accumulation there. And because the mineral wool is very vapor open, vapor diffusion to the outside is fairly unimpeded. The assembly’s ventilated rain screen adds drying capacity, and therefore durability, to the wall.


Madrona Passive House Vapor Management | Hammer & Hand

With Madrona Passive House’s wall we have simplified the assembly down to six material layers; by comparison, Karuna House and Pumpkin Ridge Passive House both have seven layers, while the Glasswood Retrofit has ten. That’s progress!

See an annotated photo tour of the assembly’s layers:

Check out the other posts in this high performance wall assembly series:

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