Definition of Passive House is:
A rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.
Passive design is not an attachment or supplement to architectural design, but a design process that integrates with architectural design. Although it is principally applied to new buildings, it can also be used for complete renovations. (1)
One shouldn’t get caught up in the term (passive). Simply put, a Passive construction is the evolution of homebuilding & renovations. It is an air-tight, super insulated, thermally broken structure which is then vented (ERV/HRV) continuously with filtered fresh air. The effects of building this way have numerous benefits including:
- Much lower heating and cooling bills than standard construction
- A structure that heats and cools evenly without cold or hot areas
- A structure engineered for optimal atmospheric comfort
- A structure that is much less depend on fossil fuels and electricity
- An outcome of a resilient & purposeful build/renovation for your family
How much has home building really changed over the past 100 years?
If you compare the building of today to the building 100 years ago there have been very few changes. The majority of new homes built today are still (stick) built with 2×4 lumber and cavity filled with an R-15 fiberglass batt. The only air-sealing done is with house wrap (i.e. Tyvek, typar, etc. stapled to sheathing. Compare this to a 1920’s built home, same 2×4 construction, cavity filled with blowing in rock wool or fiberglass batt which has an R-value of 11. The (air sealing) is done with tar paper stapled to exterior sheathing. Overall, the past 100 years has not offered significant advancement in building construction. It is not that we don’t have the knowledge of how to build a better home, it is that we simply do not use it.
Imagine if vehicles were still built the same as they were 100 years ago! We would all be driving around in a rather primitive, uncomfortable, gas guzzling, unsafe machine. The question is why should we sacrifice our homes to that same antiquated mindset which we spend far more time in?
(1)Credit. Gröndahl, Mika; Gates, Guilbert (September 25, 2010). “The Secrets of a Passive House”. The New York Times. Retrieved September 27, 2010.