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More US Homes Should Be Passive



Should Responsible (American) Developers build more "Passive" homes?

German developers answer, Jawohl, bauen der Passiv Haus!   

On June 9th the Passivhaus Institut issued a press release recapping the 15th International Passive House Conference that was held in Innsbruck, Austria.  Highlights included 1200 attendees from 50 countries and 100 exhibitors presenting Passive House components.

A "Passive House" (see above) is essentially a super insulated virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc.  Energy losses are minimized and any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source.  The intended result is an impressive system that saves up to 90% of space heating costs.  Think of it as a 1,650-square-foot version of that super-insulated bottle that keeps your coffee hot or your iced tea cold, except in reverse.  Its ultra-tight shell keeps extreme temperatures out, most of the time with little to no mechanical intervention.  And its main power sources are things nature provides for free: sunlight, shade, earth, and breezes.

As with other technology, Germany and other European nations are far ahead of the US.  According to Builder more than 20,000 single and multifamily homes have been built in Europe but only a dozen have been built in the US.  Builder [online] (and other sources) stated that the additional cost for a Passive House was only 10-20 percent more that a standard home.  Hmm, spend 10-20 percent more and save up to 90 percent of future space heating costs?  Do the math in your area and given how long the home should perform, decide if it is worth it for you.

If you want to see one of the few Passive home projects in the US you do not need to go far.  There is a completed project called Courtland Place in Seattle's Rainier Valley and a nine unit  project in development called Urban Olympic multifamily Passive House