The Passive House standard was originally developed in Germany, inspired by American pioneers like Wayne Schick and William Shurcliff, who explored the idea of making extremely energy-efficient buildings in the late 1970s and early 80s. The standard is now widely accepted throughout Europe, following a pilot program called Cepheus (Cost Efficient Passive Houses as EUropean Standards) in 2000, and the Germans are looking to make it building code in 2020. The Passive House Institute in Germany is the official authority of the standard worldwide. It was co-founded in 1996 by Dr. Wolfgang Feist at the University of Darmstadt. In late 2007, the standard was introduced in the U.S. with the launch of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). Since the standard has its roots in Europe, all energy modeling is done in metric format. This does not mean that it conflicts with building codes or construction methods in the U.S., as the numbers can be converted to the American standard and back. The important number to remember here is 15kWh per square meter and year (4,750BTU per square foot and year), which means up to 90% less energy used for space conditioning, i.e. heating and cooling.
During the last Appleseed House meeting, the group voted to make Appleseed a Passive House. We are now moving forward with schematic design and PHPP calculations.
No. The Passive House has scientific and engineering validity as well as tried-and-true practical success. There are currently more than 6,000 Passive House buildings operating in Europe. The oldest one of them has been up and running since 1991. Many Passive Houses have been monitored and average overall performance proved to be right on the target of 15kWh per square meter and year. The Passive House Institute is in charge of the Passive House standard and it is being rigidly enforced and monitored. In 2008 there are 2 completed Passive Houses in the US that we are aware of, and about a half-a-dozen under construction. The European success and experience serves as a great resource for Passive House design in the United States. Think of it as a version 2.0, with a version 1.0 that has already been tested and used for 17 years.
With cars, most people are familiar with the MPG (miles per gallon) rating system to determine their efficiency. Passive House standard captures performance of a building in a similar way by limiting the amount of energy used per square foot of living space in one year.
In a recent discussion with a lender we learned that underwriters are starting to catch up with green building. One area of interest is the thought of a bank looking at monthly energy savings (lower utility bills) as “income”. This means they can potentially qualify an applicant for an increased loan to cover increased up-front cost for green building design, practice, and renewable energies. We will make sure to investigate this further and post our findings.
Tim has been working on a pro-bono effort called the “Appleseed” house for a couple of months now. The Appleseed house is slated to be an affordable housing model home for North Minneapolis. The group behind the Appleseed house is currently working on a website. In the meanwhile, we’ll try to post some info on the progress on this blog.
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We mailed a batch of “open for business” postcards this week. Feel free to let us know if you think you should have gotten one but did not receive it.
Representing today’s highest energy standard, the Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that approaches “zero” energy. Instead of relying on “active” systems for heating, it primarily uses passive solar gain and heat gains inside from people, consumer electronics, appliances, etc.
It is official. The website is launched. Still a bit of tweaking here and there but we are very pleased with how it looks and what it offers. We look forward to YOUR comments. Please note that each entry has a comment link below.
Tim Eian makes a point to say that there has never been a better time to look to Passive House design to reduce the energy use of a building by up to 90%. The average Passive House homeowner would look at a projected $50 annual increase versus the aforementioned $500.
CenterPoint Energy expects we’ll pay 35 to 45 percent more than we paid last year. It means as much as $500 over 12 months for the average homeowner.
TE Studio is about to launch. We are now days away from the launch of your one-stop-shop for beautiful, resource-efficient building design. The boffins are working hard to put together the website that will eventually encompass this blog as well.