Ultra-Efficient Houses

When I visited Berlin in 2013, my wife and I went to see Efficiency House Plus, an experiment in a house producing more energy than it consumes. This is the next generation of Passive House construction—buildings with ultra-low energy needs—that has become commonplace in Europe.

So, I was happy to see at least some awareness of Passive House construction in North America, with the bombastic headline The House That Could Save the World. There was even a pretty good summary of Passive House principles:

Orient a building to take advantage of solar heating; install plenty of insulation and topnotch windows and doors to seal out the drafts; let the structure’s energy draw upon heat from appliances and human bodies.

It’s like feng shui for geeks, a way of engineering that turns a house into a fine tuned machine—and with performance-based data to back it up. The technology is in the design. The actual equipment—the heating and cooling units—consists of nothing more than two fans and a radiator.

I really enjoy that the article profiles an affordable housing prjoect built to Passive House standards, something that I hope we see more of in coming years, even if we’re a decade or two behind Europe.


4 responses to “Ultra-Efficient Houses”

  1. Having lived in a Passivhaus area in an eco-city (Freiburg im Breisgau), I can vouch for how comfortable they are. We have so much fear and short-run profit-mentality that holds our housing and construction back in North America. Why don’t we build homes with steel instead of wood? Why don’t we give up a little square-footage (square-meterage) for a strong building envelope? Why etc…?

    There’s also no lack to show that while initially costing more (maybe even up to 50% more or so), the savings pay off quickly.

    – Better for health because you control and increase fresh air flow
    – Cheaper to heat or cool, usually not requiring any heat in moderate climates
    – Usually built from more sustainable materials
    – More comfortable to live in

    The list goes on, but I better stop before I start rambling ????

  2. Yes, yes, and yes. It’s crazy-making that we build the cheapest possible shit in the short term that winds up costing us far more—economically and environmentally—in the long term.

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