Custom Homebuilding

Modern, Passive House Design at Lang St. Marie

The home illustrates the possibilities of rapid and efficient creation of sustainable custom-designed homes

By Hanna Heiss

Energy efficient features include ENERGY STAR appliances, and smart home technology among others.

A full-service architecture firm, Richard Pedranti Architect (RPA) creates environments that unite unique client values with extraordinary natural landscapes all across the United States. RPA is based out of Milford, Pennsylvania and specializes in Passive House design, as well as high-performance strategies by putting modern sciences to work to create beautiful, healthy, comfortable and energy-efficient homes.

The Lang St. Marie House is among many RPA projects and reflects the firm’s attention to detail. It is a net-zero prefabricated home in Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey. 

The architectural firm’s objective is to carefully connect people’s lives with their homes. RPA’s projects begin with a site walk-through with the clients, an essential first step in creating fundamental connections between the project brief and the site.

“By identifying site conditions such as solar orientation, views and landscape characteristics we can discover the ‘essential nature’ of the place. The building form grows from these underlying qualities and ensures that each project achieves a unique unity of climate and form,” said RPA Founder and Director of Design Richard Pedranti.

Passive House homes remain comfortable year-round without having a traditional HVAC system in place.

RPA worked closely with the to-be homeowners. “The foundation of our work is rooted in the understanding that architecture is about people. Our clients drive our process,” said Pedranti. “RPA aggressively fosters the partnerships necessary to create buildings that bring joy to their inhabitants.  Our innovative and elegant design solutions are without stylistic preconceptions and are as unique and diverse as our clients.”

The custom home project was built in collaboration between architect RPA, landscape architect Lea Landscape Architecture, LLC and builder Herrmann Construction.

What came to be of Lang St. Marie is a home that blends into a well-established beach neighborhood in scale and appearance, something the owners valued alongside their need for integrated indoor/outdoor living. With a 10-foot high by 25-foot wide retractable glass wall, unifying the rear of the home and backyard, a strong connection to nature was evoked and true indoor/outdoor beach living was enabled. The home achieves a harmonious flow, between the interior and exterior with blurred lines separating the two living spaces. 

As RPA specializes in Passive House design, such principles were employed in the design of the home, resulting in low energy consumption for heating

Passive homes emphasize indoor air quality, energy efficiency, sound insulation and durability and resiliency.

and cooling allowing for a healthy indoor environment. High-performance triple pane windows were utilized, which allows for large expanses of glass, and with the addition of a roof-mounted photovoltaic solar system, the home achieved a net-zero building.

Passive House builds offer an advanced technological approach to creating responsible, comfortable and healthy homes. These types of homes use sustainable building principles that include higher levels of insulation, airtight construction, triple-pane windows, the use of a heat recovery ventilator and passive solar orientation concerning the home and homesite. Passive House homes remain comfortable year-round without having a traditional HVAC system in place. 

“This home requires less than half of the energy needed to heat and cool a typical American home yet feels more comfortable as drafts are eliminated and a stable temperature and fresh air quality is maintained throughout,” said Pedranti. 

Among the previously mentioned aspects of Passive House homes, these residences emphasize indoor air quality, energy efficiency, sound insulation, durability and resiliency and are low maintenance. 

Typically, a person spends 90% of their time indoors, and more often than not, the air quality is typically three to four times worse than it is outside. In a passive home, a continuous supply of filtered fresh air is provided by the ventilation unit which also transfers the thermal energy from the air leaving the house to the fresh air coming into the house. This process results in comfortable, fresh indoor air with greatly reduced dust, pollen and other pollutants.

A 10-foot high by 25-foot wide retractable glass wall was incorporated to encourage indoor/outdoor living.

With energy efficiency, passive homes consistently reduce energy for heating and cooling by 80% to 90% over typical construction built merely to code.

In combination with passive design and off-site manufactured wall structures, the home illustrates the possibilities of rapid and efficient creation of sustainable custom-designed homes. This process allows for greater specialization than other prefab construction techniques, using high-grade building materials and advanced manufacturing technologies in a controlled factory environment to create homes that expressly meet customer needs while saving both time and money.

The Lang St. Marie residence was uniquely designed and translated from the architect’s building information modeling software into machine language understood by robotic manufacturing systems. Using such instructions, personalized wall assemblies were created from the machines, which were then transported from Maryland to New Jersey. Job site assembly was completed in just two weeks.

In the end, homeowner Theresa Lang said, “The architect’s work with us from the very start was both creative and collaborative. They took our wish list and transformed it into a beautiful design through a shared belief that functional passive house principles are consistent with a minimalist modern aesthetic.”

Hanna Heiss is senior editor for Options Magazine. She may be reached at