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Passive house construction has a new advocate

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EcoHome magazine reports on the launch of a new non-profit advocacy group called the Passive House Institute U.S. What’s a passive house? According to this new advocacy group:

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 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 terrific indoor air quality.

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.

For more on this growing trend from the cutting-edge of energy efficiency, green-home news site Re-Nest offers an interesting interview with Mark Miller, a registered architect in the process of becoming a Certified Passive House Consultant.

Miller explains that the passive-house construction process is similar to that of a convention house, but greater attention is paid to the way the materials are assembled: “no gaps in the insulation; no pipes in the exterior walls; no thermal bridges (a building component that assists heat energy getting from the exterior to the interior or vice-versa); insulation levels are typically double code requirements, depending on exact climate; attention to window types, sizes and locations on the envelope; etc.”

Clearly, even if a home is not destined to achieve certifiable passive house status, it could stand to gain from adopting some of these and other principles that are central to the passive homebuilding trend. How have you incorporated these ideas into your work?