In any climate, passive building—or passive house—is a rigorous, voluntary, building energy standard that dramatically reduces a building’s energy consumption. These ultra-low energy buildings require little energy for heating and cooling. Furthermore, passive buildings are much more comfortable, durable, healthy, and quiet. Passive building principles can be utilized with any building type, although many passive houses are single-family homes.
For retrofits and new construction, passive building is the best path to “net zero,” in which a building generates as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year.
Passive homes and net zero homes both aim to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions through greater efficiency. A key difference is that passive building achieves this by allowing very little energy to escape from the home, so little that the home typically uses 90 percent less energy than a standard-built home of similar size. Net zero homes achieve this by ensuring the home generates enough power to balance the home’s energy consumption.
Initially, a passive building may cost more to build than a standard building. However, with escalating energy prices and increased durability, a passive building’s long-term expense savings will quickly payback for the increased first costs. The thermal comfort, less reliance on utilities, and health are priceless!
Passive House | In Depth
Passive building is an integrated building design and construction concept (methodology) that employs basic building science fundamentals to attain high levels of energy efficiency, comfort, durability, and health—in a passive way.
Passive building (passive house) is not a brand name, but a tried and true construction concept that can be applied by anyone, anywhere and to any building type, any construction type (new, renovation, alteration, etc.)
Passive buildings are predominantly heated by “passive” means, such as solar, or internal heat gains, versus a “conventional” building, which is typically heated by large, “active” mechanical systems.
A passive house is a building in which a comfortable internal temperature can be maintained without the use of an active heating or cooling systems. The building is designed to heat and cool itself, hence the term “passive”.
Instead of designing a costly mechanical system to meet the needs of a poor performing building, a passive house is allotted a certain amount of yearly energy demand and peak power loads, and the shell of the building is designed to meet those requirements. After conservation and efficiency are maxed out, then resorting to solar panels is the next best step, not the other way around.
Passive House | Benefits
drastically decrease total energy use – Up to 80% reduction
decrease space conditioning energy use – Up to 90% reduction
decrease dependence on energy utility companies – passive survivability (energy independence)
durable, resilient, long-lasting structure
Minimized mechanical systems means less overall maintenance and lower replacement costs
highly comfortable interior atmosphere – draft-free, uniform temperature, quiet
highest level of indoor air quality – constant, controlled fresh air
Passive House | The Standard
Passive House is also a building energy standard, North America’s premier standard is administered by the Passive House Institute United States (PHIUS). Key characteristics of the PHIUS+ standard:
Performance-based, not prescriptive
Verified performance (advanced energy modeling, multiple on-site inspections helps clients ensure they are getting the quality they sought)
Third-party review and verification of building assemblies (minimizes risk)
PHIUS+ Certification automatically qualifies the project for: EPA Energy Star, DOE Zero-Energy Ready Home, Indoor airPLUS label, and an officiel HERS rating (RESNET approved).