I was so excited to see the headline in today’s New York Times featuring Seattle’s first Passive House. The article does a very good job reporting on the basics of the PH Standard as well as some of the controversial topics surrounding the debate on how to build high performance buildings that don’t cost that much more. As a Certified Passive House Designer I am trained to integrate the complex construction details of the PH Standard in well considered architectural designs. I can understand how the targets of PH are daunting to some, but for me this is just the new normal.
I find it unfortunate that the article reports an estimated 5-20% additional cost associated with PH, without mentioning the extra money put into the high performance building enclosure is nearly offset by smaller mechanical systems and dramatically reduced monthly utility bills! It’s true that extra insulation, triple pane windows, and air sealing tapes are extras costs not associated with typical houses. But what is also not expected in typical houses is chance to live in a supremely healthy and comfortable indoor environment. In the coldest northern winters the ventilation system provides a constant supply of fresh air (in contract to most buildings which tend to be stuffy in the winter). In a PH all of the interior surface temperatures are much closer to body temperature so that means you don’t experience the same effect of cold drafts, even though there are no heating registers placed in front of windows!
While it’s great to see Passive House being featured in the NYT – I hope that this article furthers an in depth conversation about the benefits of what I recognize as the new normal in building design and construction.
I am happy to report exciting news coming out of my alma mater’s Architecture Program. My thesis advisor at UVA, John Quale, is leading the EcoMod program which is redefining high-performance residential building in neighborhoods that need it most. His dedication to the concept of sustainable and affordable high quality design continues to inspire me. Read more about the exciting work in Architect magazine. I can’t wait to see data from annual monitoring that will compare the efficiency and comfort of the 2 homes. One is built to Passive House Standard and the other complies with current local energy code.
I am thrilled to see an magazine article in Fine Homebuilding select a Passive House in Carmel, California as their “best new home for 2013”. While the standard is easier to apply in a temperate climate like California, the article demonstrates universal energy efficeint building techniques. I also love the modern farmhouse style of this Passive House. The 2013 Spring/Summer edition of Fine HomeBuilding is a great issue to pick up as it tells the story of numerous energy efficeint houses accross the coutry.
Maximizing gains and minimizing losses
This morning I came across an article on Shrink that Footprint that provides a simple visual comparison of why the Passive House Standard is so important. All houses built to current energy codes balance energy consumed with energy lost – this is how we maintain a consistent internal temperature. But with a Passive House you minmize the losses and maximize the “free” gains. Through a Passive House you can get that much closer to Net-Zero building.
Here’s my favorite quote from the article, “Take one step inside a passivhaus in the dead of winter and you’ll get it. The passivhaus is all about superior comfort. In most houses some parts are too cold, others areas too hot while some bits are just right. A bit like Goldilocks and her porridge. Not so in a passivhaus. In a passivhaus every square meter is close to the temperature you want it. And comfort is truly valuable!”
Passive House stands for healthy, comfortable living and impressive energy efficiency, regardless of the regional climate. Developed in Germany, the Passive House standard is the most stringent building energy standard in the world. Buildings certified by the Passivhaus Institut use 80 percent less energy than conventional equivalent buildings.
Simply, the Standard is a set of design principles and a quantifiable performance standard applied to any building project, producing radically less energy needs, unparalleled comfort, and the most healthy indoor air quality.
As a Certified Passive House Designer and LEED AP I am passionate about energy effcient design and construction. Much of what we think of as super-insulating techniques are simply commonsense building methods carried out with an unusual degree of care and attention to detail. I appreciate that the performance of a certified Passive House is scientifically defendable and evidence-based.
The total total winter season utility bill for a Wisconsin Passive House could be less than $200! I look forward to sharing the benefits of what a super energy efficient house can look like for you.