Archive for the ‘Passive homes’ Category

The Passive House is the future of homebuilding. It’s not the same as the passive solar concept from the seventies, but it’s not new. It’s a design system that is just starting to come into its own. Imagine this: a house that is so well built that it doesn’t need a heating system.

That’s right. Does not need a heater, no matter how cold the climate might be. From Fairbanks to Foster City, from Tahoe to Tiburon, every single new home that is in the planning stages right now can be designed using the Passive Home principles that have already been created. Over the last twenty years thousands of these homes have been built throughout the European Union, most of them in Germany and Sweden, where the winters get cold enough to put the design principles to a real-time test.

In recent legislation, the European Union has mandated that ALL new homes, and ALL renovations, meet the Passive Home standard. That is to say, by 2020, every single 2000 sf home on the drawing board will be so well built that its entire heating demand, even on the coldest day of winter, can be met with a hair dryer. That’s right, an ordinary hand-held hair dryer.

There is nothing magic about this, nothing unduly expensive or complicated except getting builders and designers to pay really close attention to certain details of construction. The essence of Passive Design is in very the well though-out and executed sealing air barrier between the interior and the exterior, including flawless insulation of the foundation, walls and roof.

There is more to it, of course. A perfectly sealed house needs a carefully designed ventilation system, one that transfers heat from exhausted air to incoming air, so there needs to be a “heat recovery ventilator” (HRV) installed. Sure, this equipment costs money, about the same as the heating system that you now don’t need to install. But, think of it: for the entire lifespan of the house, there will be no heating bill.

There are new insulating materials and wonderfully airtight windows available that make the Passive Home possible. They don’t have to add significantly to the cost of construction for a well-built home. The real difference is in the attention to certain details in the design and construction phase. The hard part might be in changing business-as-usual in the construction industry, by holding each segment of the industry to a higher professional standard. The results can be astounding. Think of it: NO HEATING BILL. End of story, at least, it could be. For more information, check the website http://www.passivehouse.us/ or ask your building designer about it. The future is already here.


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