If you’ve watched the news at all lately, you might have seen something about global warming and the environment. There is a growing concern throughout the world that humanity’s energy consumption will, at some point, irreversibly harm the planet.
Whether or not you agree with global warming, most agree that sustainability is a great thing to aim for and achieve. In the home construction and home-owning industry, this often looks like using recycled materials and using materials that can be recycled at the end of their life.
But, what if we told you that there is a way to sustainably heat and cool your house using 90 percent less energy than a traditional home.
If you haven’t heard of passive housing, then sit back, relax, and enjoy this. If you have heard of it, there’s still going to be some great stuff in here!
The History of Passive Housing
Passive housing is the idea that if houses are built with enough intentionality, they can become almost self-sufficient. Through the use of exceptional design and high-quality insulation, homes can be heated and cooled with dramatically less energy.
This voluntary standard for energy-efficient buildings originated in Germany, where it remains trendy. The concept originated in 1988 during a conversation between a university student in Sweden and a researcher at the Institute for Housing and the Environment.
The idea was later developed through research and experiments and then put into action in 1990 with the construction of four houses.
The Standard for Passive Housing
There is a standard that you must meet to have a structure passive house certified. This isn’t a gimmick in any way, and the structures are tested and must meet the standards; otherwise, they are not passive houses; they are just mostly passive houses.
Some of these requirements include only using 6,0o0 kWh per year of electricity. That’s not a lot. An average standard home uses around 10,812 kWh per year.
What does it take to get energy use down to half or less of what we’re currently consuming?
Homes and almost every structure are built with standard exterior wall thickness. In the US, the residential standard is 3.5 inches. In-between those 3.5 inches from the siding of your house to the painted sheetrock on the inside is insulation.
Insulation is the majority of what is supposed to keep the cold or the hot out and keep warm or cool in. But it isn’t always as effective as we might like to think.
In a passive house, there are extra precautions to insulating. The average wall thickness is between 5.5 and 24.5 inches. This creates a space where almost no heat at all is lost.
Windows can be costly. Especially windows that are highly rated and well insulated. Standard homes and other buildings lose a majority of their heat through windows because of the desire to offer a cheaper product.
Passive houses, however, use extremely high-grade triple-pane windows. These windows not only complete the insulation of the home but also allow for the home to get heat from the sun.
For as long as people have been building homes, they’ve been working to find the best angle in regards to the sun. A passive house takes this practice one step further. In a passive home, your windows are only seen to have two purposes. One, to let light in and two, to let heat in or out. By having the majority of all larger windows on a passive house face south, the structure can take in large amounts of heat.
While this is taken into consideration when building standard homes, it isn’t prioritized in the same way.
Whether you’re sitting in a coffee shop or your living room, there’s a pretty good chance that you can feel a draft. The reason for this? There is no standard currently in place that causes builders to make standard homes airtight.
It can be excellent at times to get a breath of fresh air, but it’s not efficient, and in the winter, it can cost you hundreds!
Passive housing seeks to fix that. The standard for passive housing states that the structures must only let out 0.60 ACH50. If we had the time and space to explain that we could try to, but it’s more helpful if you check out this resource.
If living in an airtight structure is starting to freak you out, then please read on.
Passive houses are airtight, and because of that, there needs to be a ventilation system. This system used to exchange the air inside with air outside the structure. The system is specially optimized to keep all of the heat in the house and to keep the cooler air out.
There is a higher cost associated with building a passive house. It’s essential that before you start looking into building or buying one that you understand these costs. There is a different “standard price” depending on where you’re located and what goes into the house, but, in general, the cost is still higher than a standard home.
There are, although several factors that can play into saving money after the house is built including, lower insurance and electricity bills. If you’re looking into better understanding the costs of passive housing, reach out to us with your questions or check out this post.
Why Passive Housing?
Undoubtedly you are asking yourself, at this point, why passive housing? Why aren’t all structures built this way, and why isn’t your house passive?
Passive housing is more expensive to build and takes a professional team that knows how to do it.
In some areas, passive housing isn’t as popular or useful because of not needing to keep heat in quite as much. But, places such as Germany or the north-central United States such as Minnesota, this technology can save you a fortune.
We’re Excited About Passive Housing
At Sustainable 9, we’re excited to be passive housing certified. We build passive structures that meet the standards set by the Passive House Institute in the US.
If you’re interested in learning more about passive housing, contact us! We’re happy to answer all of your questions and are excited to be able to build passive houses.