New international standards for environmental efficiency have ushered in a global consciousness for clean air and energy savings; and homeowners and builders across the globe are paying attention. Developed in Germany, PassiveHaus, or Passive House is the emerging gold standard for energy efficient building, and has gained popularity for successfully saving money in heating and cooling costs while improving indoor air quality.
On average Passive House dwellings, which are built with airtight insulation that maximizes the use of natural heating systems such as the sun, achieve an energy savings of 90 percent when compared to existing houses.
In the recent past, guidelines such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard (LEED)-- an internationally recognized green building certification program--has sought to standardize basic principles of constructing homes and buildings. These standards apply to energy savings, water efficiency, reduction of CO2 emissions and improved indoor air quality. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED guidelines give building owners and operators a best-practices framework for green design, construction, operations and maintenance. Innovative designs like the Passive House model are at the forefront of this movement, pioneering practices to be adopted around the world.
At the most basic level, a unit built to Passive House standards employs good insulation with minimal thermal bridges, contains well designed use of solar and internal resources, maintains an excellent level of airtightness and has a ventilation system that provides efficient heat recovery and good indoor air quality. The home is engineered to be so airtight that little heat can escape through the cracks in doors and windows of most other homes. Thus, there is little need to use expensive temperature-manipulating systems. The Passive House framework, which employs these core principles of efficiency, is fast becoming an international standard for building as the design and ethos take hold across the globe.
In Europe, the European Parliament has proposed that all buildings meet passive-house standards of airtightness and energy efficiency by 2011. In Asia and Canada, builders are replicating the design and principles. Worldwide, there are approximately 17,000 buildings constructed to the Passive House standards.
Passive-house is also gaining popularity in the United States because of the demand for environmental friendliness, long-term energy savings and good indoor air quality. As consumers strive for more natural resources to power their heating and cooling costs and continue to move away from traditional methods that are costly and inefficient, the principles of passive house will gain in popularity.
What’s more, there are advocates in all sectors--from government to professionals in the architectural world who are spreading the message about this type of design. Architects and homeowners from California to Massachusetts, are replicating the passive house design and meeting a warm reception.