The Design Process

HLW is a full service design firm focusing on original contemporary design and materiality. Our process encourages a long term view of the well being of occupants with minimal environmental impact for generations. Comprising three main threads hyperlocal architecture is a contextually based contemporary approach to developing forward thinking and humanly engaged shelter.


Massing is resolving the character, footprint, and shape of the overall living and working space. This is informed using a contemporary design sensibility, engagement with place thinking in three dimensions and time. Critically the massing of the project is in harmony with a human scale, sensitive to the experience of being in a space conducive to well being.

Materials is from finish to construction systems and structure. Being both seen and unseen they are the fabric of shelter and are experimental, environmentally generous, and appropriate. Materials are what we interface with constantly, so we prefer natural, unfussy finishes utilized in unique and often playful ways.

Metrics is the energy and comfort component using Passive House modeling and methodology. The project is treated as a dynamic environmental insertion in a landscape and copes with environmental stresses for occupant well being and minimal energy inputs. Monetary value is carefully evaluated as a core metric to realize a project’s viability both for construction and optimized operation.

Typical Passive House Design Process


Site Analysis


Schematics for Architectural Massing

3D Modeling

Physical Model Making

Floor Plan Design

Passive House Planning Package

Structural Design

Material Specification

Contactor Coordination

Cost Analysis

Construction Documents

Passive House Coordination with Certifier

Site Visits

Air Tightness Test

Project Documentation and Passive House Certification Submission

Project Construction Finalization

Passive House or Passivhaus (meaning “passive building” in German) is a certified building system developed in Darmstadt, Germany and administered internationally by the Passive House Institute.

The most important design motivator for a PH structure is to achieve low annual energy consumption. In order to predict energy usage, an essential tool for every PH designer is the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) modeling software, which parametrically provides feedback to optimize design decisions. The goal of PHPP is to help the designer meet the stringent energy targets of 4.75 kBTU per square foot a year for heating and cooling, 38 kBTU per square foot a year for total primary energy usage, and a number of other criteria.

The standard focuses on two interdependent goals. Energy reduction is achieved through a fabric-first approach utilizing high performance windows and doors, increased insulation levels, air tightness, reduced thermal bridging, and reduced envelope penetrations. These elements are synthesized with program, budget, and aesthetic values to provide the core of a passive house design process. A balanced energy load accounts for all heat gains and losses in the building on an annual and peak basis resulting in a small amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable environment.

Occupant comfort is achieved though stable indoor air temperatures, especially near windows, and a nearly silent fresh air system that eliminates stale air and improves overall indoor air quality. Buildings don’t need to breathe but people do. The high performance building envelope greatly reduces outdoor noise but still allows flexibility for occupants to open and close windows whenever they want. The effect is an optimal level of well-being throughout the year, unmatched by any other building system. 

A robust interface with the building’s surroundings also results in a host of benefitsincluding durability, resiliency to heat waves and cold snaps, and predictably even when used outside of the scope of the original design intentions. Due to their inherently low annual energy consumption, these buildings are also well suited to achieve zero net energy goals with minimal renewable energy infrastructure. 

Our design team is composed of Certified Passive House Designers (CPHD) with years of experience in design, evaluation, consulting, and construction of very low energy homes including the first certified Passive House in Colorado.