The term Passive House, or as it was originally coined in German Passivhaus, refers to a rigorous, yet voluntary, standard for constructing energy efficient buildings, with a minimal ecological footprint. Adhering to the Passive House building standard results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.
Climate change can often feel like an overwhelming and insurmountable problem. In my experience most people are, at least to some degree, concerned about the future of our planet. They want to take action. They want to feel like they are contributing to the solution, but it is often difficult to see how one’s actions can have a real impact.
Personally I subscribe to the belief that we lead by example. One such way to lead by example is to consider building a non-traditional home.
Buildings – homes, offices, shops – constructed using traditional building standards and materials consume up to 40% of global energy use and contribute up to 30% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly there is room for improvement in how we build our homes, and what better way for you to take action on climate change than changing how to live day-to-day.
Passive House buildings consume up to 90% less heating and cooling energy than traditional buildings. This is accomplished by a thorough and durable outer layer, that is polished to eliminate air leaks and thermal bridges, and heavily insulated. A heat recovery ventilator brings filtered air into the home and recovers the heat from the outgoing stale air in the process. Additional benefits of a passive home include complete control over indoor air quality and temperature, a reduction in operating costs, and a reduction in carbon emissions.
There are many examples worldwide of brave, trailblazing environmentalists taking on the challenge of building according to the Passive House building standard. One such example is the intrepid couple, Meg & Mark, who built a passive home in the Hintonburg neighbourhood of Ottawa – and blogged about the whole process http://www.webuildahome.ca/.
Despite being located in the chilly – and sometimes downright frigid – capital of Canada, they profess that the Passive House has more comfort, healthier air, less maintenance, less cold toes, less stuffy noses, and less cost to operate.
Impressively, the couple has recorded their passive home maintaining a consistent and comfortable internal temperature of 20C without the assistance of a furnace for 11.5 hours straight (furnace turned off at 9am and didn’t come back on till 7:30pm) on a day where the outdoor temperature never exceeded -14C. It’s also important to note that a Passive House “furnace” is really just a 4kW duct heater.
It’s true, constructing Passive House buildings requires careful location selection (to take advantage of all that free solar energy), more diligent design planning, and more initial upfront costs. But with that in mind I would argue that the long term cost savings, sense of security, and overall peace of mind that comes along with Passive House makes it worth the investment.
Remember – we all have the power to make a difference. Lead by example. One Passive House at a time.
For more detailed information, visit the Passive House Institute.
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