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PNC SmartHome

During summer and early fall of 2011, visitors to The Cleveland Museum of Natural History were invited to tour a home that could represent the future of energy-efficient housing.

<br />PNC SmartHome site plan<br />Landscape design for PNC SmartHome Cleveland provides visitor access to and around the house site while demonstrating sustainable site practices in storm water management and using low-maintenance landscape enhancements with native or adaptable plants.PNC SmartHome 1st floor plan<br />Copyright 2011 Doty & Miller Architects<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

PNC SmartHome Cleveland was a real house constructed on the grounds of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and presented in conjunction with the exhibition Climate Change. The SmartHome was open for guided tours June-October 2011. Then it was moved to a vacant lot nearby and sold to a family. Thus the exhibit became a permanent investment in a Cleveland neighborhood.


SmartHome Cleveland demonstrates how humans can act to affect an energy-efficient future and can help change ideas about how we design, build and live in our homes in Northeast Ohio. The home was designed using the Passive House methodology, the world’s most advanced standard of energy performance (official Passive House certification was completed in 2013).

Designed to function without a conventional furnace, SmartHome Cleveland is about 90 percent more energy efficient than a typical home. It features sustainable materials and furnishings, advanced stormwater techniques, healthy housing techniques and biophilic design to connect occupants to nature.

Three key elements distinguish "passive house" structures from typical houses:

  • high levels of insulation, with walls up to 14 inches thick;
  • a carefully sealed building envelope with minimal air leakage combined with efficient heat-recovery ventilation for superior indoor air quality; and
  • ultra high-performance windows—at least double-paned and typically triple-paned.

The result is a home with no drafts, no cold spots and extremely low heating bills.

The two-story house has a net living space of approximately 2,500 square feet, including 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. The house also includes a full basement on its permanent site.


The home was designed by Chuck Miller of Doty & Miller Architects in Cleveland.

Certified Passive House Consultant Mark Hoberecht of HarvestBuild Associates oversaw SmartHome Cleveland’s adherence to the standards of the Passive House Institute US.

David Beach, director of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute managed the project for the Museum.

New building science and technology

  • Passive House Standard
  • Panelized Wood Frame Construction
  • SIP Panels
  • Air Barrier Details
  • Thermal Bridging Reduction
  • High Performance Windows
  • High Performance ERV and Mini-Split Heat Pumps
  • ICF Foundation Walls

PNC SmartHome impacts

  • Community – New conversations about green building, energy efficiency and affordable housing (including inspiration of passive design for new Near West Theatre facility in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District and the Butler-Nissen house in Cleveland Heights)
  • Neighborhood – Investment in University Circle
  • CMNH – Image as center of innovation and sustainability
  • Nearly 10,000 people on guided tours plus tens of thousands saw house from outside
  • Media coverage valued at $1.14 million

SmartHome Cleveland was funded by PNC Bank, The Cleveland Foundation, The George B. Storer Foundation, an anonymous donor and a number of other sponsors.

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