The Energy Consumption Challenge
The Passive House concept represents today’s highest energy standard with the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by an amazing 90%. Widespread application of the Passive House design would have a dramatic impact on energy conservation. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that buildings are responsible for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions annually and 76% of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to supply the Building Sector [Architecture2030]. It has been abundantly clear for some time that the Building Sector is a primary contributor of climate-changing pollutants, and the question is asked: How do we best square our building energy needs with those of our environment and of our pocketbook? In the realm of super energy efficiency, the Passive House presents an intriguing option for new and retrofit construction; in residential, commercial, and institutional projects.
What is a Passive House?
A Passive House is a very well-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. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely excellent indoor air quality.
How does a Passive House System Work?
A Passive House is a comprehensive system. “Passive” describes well this system’s underlying receptivity and retention capacity. Working with natural resources, free solar energy is captured and applied efficiently, instead of relying predominantly on ‘active’ systems to bring a building to ‘zero’ energy. High performance triple-glazed windows, super-insulation, an airtight building shell, limitation of thermal bridging and balanced energy recovery ventilation make possible extraordinary reductions in energy use and carbon emission.
Where is the Passive House Design Being Applied?
Today, many in the building sector have applied this concept to design, and build towards a carbon-neutral future. Over the last 10 years more than 6000 buildings in Europe — from single and multifamily residences, to schools, factories and office buildings — have been designed and built or remodeled to the passive house standard. A great many of these have been extensively monitored by the Passiv Haus Institut in Darmstadt, analyzing and verifying their performance. Even European governmental agencies have adopted Passive House standards into their policy-making.
Fundamentals of Passive Design
- Provide good solar exposure and determined heating season.
- Orient the building on East – West axis.
- Locate most windows on south side of the house.
- Minimize windows on the east, west, and north side.
- Provide sufficient, properly situated Thermal Mass.
- Provide overhangs and shading to regulate solar gain.
- Super-insulate walls, ceilings, floors, foundations, and windows.
- Protect the insulation from moisture.
- Seal the house from air infiltration, but provide adequate air exchange.
- Create sun-free spaces.
- Provide efficient, responsible back-up heat and cooling.
- Protect the home from winds by landscaping or earth sheltering.
Designing and Building a Passive House
Wall Construction, LLC can design, build and certify a Passive Custom Home for you. Any house plan can be customized using Passive Design techniques.
For More Information
If you want to learn more about Passive Houses, visit www.passivehouse.us.
Another good website for Passive House demonstration is the E-colab Construction website: www.e-colab.org