What is a “passive house?” The idea has been around for about twenty years, building the world’s most-efficient homes.
Perhaps better if I let someone else explain what a passive house is and where it all started, in 1991…
The idea of the passive house is to significantly reduce energy expenditures in the home. Typical homes are not particularly well-designed or well-built, which leads to energy losses. We all want to live in a comfortable home, and where I grew up, in New York (not the city, but that waste wasteland up north), that means central heating and air conditioning. In the winter, temperatures can go as low as -20°F, but in summer temperatures can go as high as 105°F. We use a lot of energy (read: money and carbon) on keeping the house temperatures somewhere between 62°F and 74°F, but drafts and poor insulation mean a lot of that is lost.
Passive house building requires quality design, materials, and craftsmanship, which may be expensive up front, but the savings a homeowner experiences afterwards can add up in the lifespan of a home. Passive House Academy estimates that homeowners can save up to 80% in their home heating and cooling costs, simply by application of Passive House principles. Today, there are thousands of passive homes in the world, mostly in Europe, where the trend started, but more people are coming on board with the idea.
Park Passive House, in Washington State, is Seattle’s first certified passive house. NK Architects, who designed and built the house, says that the average indoor temperature over the year is 70°F. In the summer, smart application of ventilation and heat sinks reduces or eliminates the need for air conditioning. In winter, the house can be heated with the equivalent of a hair dryer, such is the insulation and air-tightness of the building.
Image © Aaron Leitz