Written by Jenne Nelson
Green is Dave Crawford’s favorite color, which makes sense when you see the dream home that he and his wife, Diane Peterson, designed and built just east of the golf course. If you drive or walk north on Lexington Avenue, surely you’ve noticed it: it’s big, modern, colorful, and passive. I had never heard of a Passive House before Diane and Dave moved into the neighborhood, and I was really curious about it, so I was happy to have the chance to interview them in early May. A Passive House uses insulation and airtightness to reduce the need for active heating and cooling. Theirs is the first certified Passive House in St. Paul.
The house is a marvel of low energy consumption that provides sustainable living. The exterior wall has 18 inches of insulation with minimal thermal bridges to the interior. A heat recovery ventilation system draws in outdoor air all year round. A high-performance heat pump heats in the winter and cools in the summer. Exterior metal blinds regulate the amount of solar heating. Solar panels hidden on the roof generate as much energy as the house uses. Pieces of the older house it replaced were repurposed. All indoor furniture traveled with them from their previous home in White Bear Lake, and they noted that the patio chairs we sat on for the interview were rescued from a curb. They installed rain gardens, a black cherry tree, and other pollinator plants native to Minnesota in the yard.
Who are these new neighbors and why did they choose Como Park? Dave is a retired DNR naturalist and describes his work as “environmental provocation,” a term used to describe a space where the environment is recognized as a teacher we can use and learn from. Diane is an environmental and social justice activist. They wanted to build a home that would be sustainable, model good energy design, and allow them to age in place. The process took nine years from start to finish, and after meeting their architect, Tim Eian, at the Environmental Fair held at the State Fairgrounds, they searched until they found just the right lot in Como.
Dave and Diane chose Como Park for many of the reasons that make it a great place to live. Natural beauty of the lake and park that encourage walking and biking. Strong neighborhood spirit and friendliness. In particular, the couple mentioned the supportive welcome they received from neighbors, like the Ziemans. They also wanted to be closer to their house of worship. The many Como Park residents creating pollinator and bird friendly yards played a part in their choice. During their 27 years living in White Bear Lake, they cultivated an extensive native garden that invited pollinators of all varieties. The couple gave educational tours there, and hope to do so in Como Park as well.
Most of us may never get the chance to create their level of environment sustainability, but the couple assured me that there are many smaller options. Planting native trees and creating pollinator gardens sustain the natural environment. Utility companies offer free or reduced cost energy audits for homes. Incentive programs are offered by the Minnesota State Pollution Control Agency and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the unique creation of the Passive House in our neighborhood, which is literally green, in every sense of the word.