A Passive House is a home designed with efficiency, integrity, durability and comfort in mind. God and the Devil are in the details. Super Efficiency means significantly reduced energy consumption. It also is environmentally responsible. Integrity refers to the craft of building a home. The details are critical to building a home like this. Durability means the building science that goes into building a home that encompasses these ideas. Comfort is what it is all about unless you desire a cave.
We build because we want comfort, health and safety. To be comfortable we need to understand how heat and moisture work in a home, affecting health and safety. To reduce energy consumption we have to figure out how to do this without using mechanical heating and cooling.
Super efficiency is accomplished through energy conservation and this also builds in comfort. A super efficient Passive House uses a lot of insulation, is very tight, has greatly reduced thermal bridging and has the right components to make it extremely easy to heat and cool. The entire energy load for lights and appliances is also examined. All of the interior surfaces in the home should be above 60 degrees to be comfortable and efficient. The health and safety come in by using the right ventilation components and heating/cooling techniques.
Building with integrity is the craft of building a home. It means attention to details. A typically built home is put up without building in all of the extra steps and materials and thought that a Passive House has. How long will the windows last, how long will the building tape last, how good is the caulk, how much insulation is in the home? If you put on a 50 year roof and the roofing underlayment is good for 20 years, what happens? Are you building a 50 year home, which is about the service life of a code built home today, or are you building a 100 year house that is made to be remodeled during that 100 years?
Durability comes through building science knowledge and integrating all the components together. Durability comes through picking long term components and seeing how the work together. Then when these parts are picked, they have to be put together the right way to make sure they work. The more insulation and the tighter you build, the more important it is to do the details right. The local climate and building site also affects the design. Our climate is a tough one because we can have a temperature swing of 130 to 140 degrees from summer to winter. It can also be very dry or pretty humid.
What do other people say about Passive Houses? Architecture Week says “only Passive Houses are required to perform today at the energy efficiency levels that we can expect for all buildings by 2050.” Putting it another way nearly every new home built today to less than Passive House standards can readily be predicted to be obsolete, in terms of energy performance, in less than 40 years.
So, what kind of home do you want? Do you want a home that is thoroughly designed to be a good home 40 years from now? A Passive House is comfortable, energy efficient, durable, environmentally sound, with good indoor air quality, easy to live in, adaptable, made to be remodeled, and it really doesn’t cost that much. Do you want to take off in the winter and not worry about the house getting cold and the pipes freezing? Lock the door and go!