I first learned about the world’s most-stringent, voluntary, energy efficiency building standard called “Passive House” by accident while searching for energy-saving tips. I had recently come across the astonishing facts that buildings use up around 70% of electricity in the USA. 61% of the energy from a lump of coal never even makes it from the coal-fired power plant to our electrical meters and outlet plugs. It is literally, lost in transmission.
The idea of Passive House was co-created by Wolfgang Feist of the Institute for Housing and the Environment, Darmstadt, Germany around 1988. The standard is centered around five core principles: 1. optimized building orientation (or passive solar design) 2. super insulation with a special emphasis on absolutely no thermal bridges. 3. super air-tightness (or having a continuous air-sealed layer) 4. balanced ventilation with either an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) or Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) and 5. ultra energy-efficient windows.
Besides resulting in ultra high-performing buildings–energy-wise–initial capital costs aren’t usually more than 3% to 10% above the cost for a comparable, conventionally-built structure. This premium in building material and equipment is easily and quickly made-up with significantly reduced on-going, lifetime utility expenses, not to mention improved occupant comfort and health because of better indoor air quality (with regular maintenance of any filters on the ERV or HRV and assuming no indoor materials were selected that out-gas a lot of harmful volatile organic compounds).
What got me excited about the Passive House standard was that a building built to this standard could reduce its total energy use by up to 90% in colder, non-subtropical climates without any renewable energy sources. Passive House standards apply mostly to new construction, but can also apply to refurbishments and retrofits. Commercial buildings can also be held to this same standard.
This concept is simple to understand, yet not very well-known among the general public here in the USA. This is changing though as Passive House standards have taken root in Urbana, Illinois. In 2003, Katrin Klingenberg’s passive home prototype was built. As interest in Passive House standards grew, Katrin created the Passive House Institute United States (PHIUS) in 2007.
New York City is taking initiative to put Passive House Standards into place throughout buildings around the city. 72 Passive House projects have been identified, while 28 of them are already under construction or are being planned. They are working in areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens.
If you’d like to learn more about this truly remarkable, yet simple building standard and save our planet “before it’s too late,” share this article and visit other resources about Passive House Standards. For a list of products and services that will help you get to net (energy) zero, visit our Florida Energy and Sun listing in the Green Me Locally directory as well as our complimentary 10 Energy and “Money Saving Tips” guide.