Passive House, Passive Haus or Passivhaus; no matter how you say it, it all boils down to one idea: highly efficient building. In the United States the concept of Passive House is not enforced, it is a voluntary practice which is a huge reason why it’s taking a lot longer to catch on. In countries such as Germany (where Passivhaus was first developed) and Switzerland, the standards have been implemented for some time and are enforced.
When thinking about what sustainable building means, we refer to the term ecological footprint. A measurement of the human demand on the earths ecosystems. As populations increase, land and water become scarce resources. If our building practices take into consideration the ecosystem, the natural environment, then we as humans have the capacity to plan for giving land and water a chance to regenerate and continue to be viable. When we ignore our complex ecosystem we see more pollution, greater dependence on threatened resources, the extinction of plants and animals, and a bleak outlook for future generations. This isn’t just some hippy rant, it is truly time to make a change in how we use resources.
A huge focus of Passive House building is, energy efficiency within a structure. That is, having a building that is sustainable. For example, many homes are insulated, a method of energy efficiency. Switching from incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent bulbs or even sky lights reduces the amount of energy used to illuminate a space. Sustainable building practices help redirect a community, city, state or nations dependence on energy resources thus preventing depletion of natural resources. There’s a win-win situation that occurs when building an energy efficient building too, and that is: better for the planet and your wallet. Who doesn’t want to reduce the amount of money spent to heat or light their home?!
To accomplish the goal of energy efficiency and sustainable building, many steps are taken throughout the design and build process. For example, insulating the walls and attic spaces with cellulose (recycled magazines, books and paper) instead of fiberglass. Installing windows and doors that prevent air leaking (we’ll gladly post examples of the thermal differences between a standard built home and a passive house!). Designing the majority of the homes windows around the suns orientation, to bring in the maximum amount of light and heat (solar gain). The entire building should ultimately follow the standards/guidelines put in place by the Passivhaus-Institut. Here is a link for the US Charter: http://www.phius.org/home-page
When we change our building methods, we change the outlook of our planet, and we also build more comfortable and efficient spaces.
What can you expect in our next posts? Pictures of current projects!! We have one completed here in Fort Collins and are currently in the last months of one in Nederland, Colorado! So check back and follow along!