Passive Houses: They Might Just Be Sitting There Waiting To Save You Money

Passive Houses: They Might Just Be Sitting There Waiting To Save You Money

By Archana Aithal Rose August 26, 2016
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The new buzzword these days, uttered in architectural circles just as often as micro- apartment, green design and tiny house is—Passive House. If you want to appear relevant and/or are interested in reducing your carbon footprint, we suggest you too get familiar with this term. But what the heck is a Passive House? Is it just a house that’s lazy? Is there such a thing as a passive aggressive house?

Related: NYC says it: Green Is The New Black!

Well, Passipedia explains it as, “a building standard that is truly energy efficient, comfortable, affordable and ecological at the same time. A Passive House is a construction concept that can be applied by anyone and that has stood the test of practice.” So, contrary to common perception, passive houses are in fact, Olympic-level active. Here’s the lowdown on all things passive.

Derived from the German term, Passivhaus, a house designed with passive principles, implies that the builder and the architect consciously decided to source out a bunch of measurable building standards that minimize energy consumption. When a house is based on passive solar principles, it means that the windows have been situated in a way that it allows natural light to flood into the interior space. Even the shading for summer months is carefully considered, using the most basic steps toward energy consumption of a house.

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And when the house is a certified Passive House, it means that along with featuring all the components of Passive House design, it has also gone through a formal certification process. Certification is done by different entities all over the world. Here in the US, it’s largely managed by Passive House Institute US. They recently separated from the German organization to address North America exclusively, taking into account regional climate specifications. Greenhomeguide reports, “Whether or not a Passive House is valid without official certification is an ongoing discussion. Some professionals believe that certification is an added and redundant expense. Others say it adds transparency and verification to the whole process, keeping everyone accountable to goals. Some homeowners find it a necessary part of adding market value to their house. Others don’t see the point, especially if they are not intending to sell.”

To meet with the Passive House standards, architects start with a compact building shape, predominantly, a box. The box shape is vital to the concept of efficiency.  They later add visual interest by using dimensions like outdoor rooms and covered spaces to break up the façade. In winters, passive solar design soaks up as much sun as possible, using technology that helps orient the house toward the sun. The shortage of any heat is compensated by the occupants’ daily activities like household chores and usage of appliances. There’s a clever use of ventilation and dehumidifiers to maintain moisture levels and prevent mold. In summer, the building’s insulation keeps the sun from reaching the floors and walls cooling the house.

The intense levels of insulation and use of high-quality windows means sizeable upfront costs, but it’s also hard to skimp on them since ultimately, they’re largely responsible for energy savings. Unfortunately, going green also means spending some greens. It’s a small price to pay however, if you’re saving the world.

Archana Aithal Rose

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Archana Aithal Rose

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Archana Aithal Rose

Archana Aithal Rose’s articles have appeared in The Times of India, CNNGo, Condé Nast Traveler and Vogue, covering such broad range of topics as fashion, art, travel, culture, celebrities, architecture and technology. In addition to writing, Archana's also known for her mad photography and cooking skills.

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