The home, owned by Sloan and Jennifer Ritchie, cuts heating costs by 75-80%. The 2,710 square foot space is constructed with 16-foot thick walls, a heat recovery ventilator, high performance windows, and ample daylighting.
Passive buildings often achieve this through an East-West building orientation, with large southern facing windows and a specially designed overhang. Such an orientation allows direct sunlight and heat gain from the low winter sun, while the overhang blocks direct sunlight from the high summer sun. Rooms that are used most frequently should be near the South-facing windows. This design strategy is called “passive solar”, and is just one component of passive houses. Passive house design also allows buildings to maximize their use of daylighting, or the use of natural, rather than artificial light, which cuts down on energy use. Some buildings even harvest daylight for nighttime hours.
Passive buildings incorporate a well-insulated building envelope with double or triple paned windows and walls and roofs insulated with high R-value materials, such as Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). They are “virtually air tight”, according to Passive House US, with energy recovery ventilation and limited thermal bridging.
How Many Passive Houses in the U.S.?
The first U.S. passive home was constructed in Urbana, Illinois ten years ago. However, they haven’t taken off in the U.S. like they have abroad, mostly perhaps because, even with the rising costs of heating oil and electricity, the energy costs here are still much lower than they are in Europe. Energy prices are significantly greater in Europe, in part because of taxes, so the payback period on a passive house, which costs about an extra 5 to 20% to build, are returned much more quickly.
The New York Times reports that over 1,000 architects, builders and consultants have been trained in passive building, which demonstrates the slow but evident transition to this design strategy. However, some experts, such as Martin Holladay of Green Building Advisor, believe that passive buildings will always be too expensive for the U.S. market, and that more traditional green homes (with renewable energy and general energy efficiency strategies) remain a better option. While the outcome in the U.S. is yet to be seen - in Europe, the trend will likely grow.
Just as passive houses make a lot of sense, passive building design, like most green building strategies and technologies, is expected to become more popular in the United States, as the cost premium is expected to decrease, making high-performance, passive buildings and homes more financially viable.
Learn More About Passive Buildings Passive Buildings CE Course
You will learn about design strategies, costs, and case studies associated with passive buildings. The course will also cover how passive buildings can contribute to LEED, Green Globes, BREEAM, QSAS and Esidama Pearl certification, as well as how passive buildings meet the ASHRAE standards for energy efficiency.
The course is worth 1.5 LEED continuing education hours.