Thursday, May 8, 2014

Passive House: The House of the Future

By Sheri Koones  Author, Journalist, Speaker

The Passive House (or Passivhaus) (PH) was first established in Germany and is quickly becoming a standard in many parts of the world, including the United States. Whereas other important standards, such as LEED), focus on many environmentally friendly aspects of the home, such as site location, sustainability, materials, water efficiency and so on, Passive House only focuses on energy and ventilation. For some homebuilders, this puts a more focused concentration on the energy aspect of home design. Although other environmental issues were not part of the certification process, all of the Passive Houses I've reviewed in my books do include those aspects.

The PH Kenmore Road House, designed by architect Jay Fulkerson, was built using prefabricated insulated concrete panels. Because this house was built with many energy saving aspects, the energy requirements are minimal. The owners of the house claim that in a past very cold winter their heating bills were between $30 and $35. This house is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Kent Corley.

Energy consumption for space heating and cooling in a Passive House is designed to save approximately 75 percent of the entire energy used in typical buildings. The requirements for certification are stringent and specify maximum heat and cooling demand, total primary energy consumption, and a maximum leakage of air volume per hour at 50 Pascal pressure, which is measured with a blower door test. Passive Houses are designed with super-insulation, high performance windows, an airtight building shell and the use of an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) to exchange the interior air with fresh outside air. Since Passive Houses are so airtight, ventilation is needed to keep the air fresh and healthy inside the house.

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