It's Official ... Marsik House World's Tightest

Mar 13, 2013

On Wednesday, March 6, Tom Marsik and Kristin Donaldson of Dillingham had their home on Gauthier Way tested for air tightness. A conventional blower door test was used, which is common practice for energy audits. But Wednesday's was no ordinary test; it was actually an attempt to secure an official world record for "Tightest Residential Building."

Tom Marsik and Gordon Isaacs run a blower door test on March 6, 2013.
Credit Adam Kane

On Monday, March 11, Tom and Kristin were notified by email that their results had been certified by the World Record Academy, and that they indeed are now recognized as having the most air-tight house known to exist in the world.

"We are certainly excited about this," said Marsik. "The purpose of this world record attempt was to help bring attention to energy efficiency, and hopefully motivate others to be energy efficient. With this official world record recognition, I think it really helps emphasize our message of what's possible."

The Marsik home tested at 0.05 ACH (air changes per hour) at 50 pascals of pressure.  That's an extraordinarily low number; some experts point to buildings in the 1-2 ACH range as being exceptionally efficient.

That tiny amount of air measured leaking into the Marsik house is also well below the efficiency standard that the state of Alaska requires of homes financed through state-funded programs.

"Our current Building Energy Efficiency Standard, when you're talking about ACH, is seven. Not point-seven. Seven." says Jimmy Ord, Energy Program Information Manager at Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. "That's the tightness a house has to meet in order to be financed by AHFC. Marsik's point-zero-five is very impressive."

Tom and Kristin began building their super-efficient home in 2010, modeled after a "Passive Office" designed at the UAF Bristol Bay campus. A "passive" building relies on heat from passive solar gain, body heat, and "waste" heat from lighting and electrical appliances to maintain a comfortable inside temperature. Key to the Marsik place's efficiency are both the 28" thick, fully-insulated walls, and the extremely air-tight seal.

The 600 sq. ft. house and all its amenities run entirely on electricity.  Tom says it took just 3700 kWh to power the place through all of 2012. To keep it warm, he calculates the house needs an electrical equivalent of just 35 gallons of heating oil per year.

Marsik House on Gauthier Way, Dillingham
Credit Adam Kane

Tom and Kristin say it's ok by them if someone beats their world record in the future; actually, they'd be happy to see people try. Building the house and advertising the success has never been about personal recognition so much as they hope to spread the word about energy efficient designs and the new technologies that make them possible. Marsik, who teaches in the Sustainable Energy program at UAF's Bristol Bay campus, is always looking for opportunties to share what he's learned with anyone who's interested.