Passive Passion is a great 20 minute long documentary about the German Passive House energy efficiency standard. It looks at the roots of the design standard in Germany, and gives a bunch of examples of implementations in Europe, from single family homes to row houses, apartment buildings, public housing, office buildings, etc. Talks about what makes the standard work: airtight building envelopes, super insulation, no thermal bridging, heat recovering ventilation. Also looks at a few builders and designers in the US trying to popularize these methods, and do it cost effectively. Clearly it’s possible, we just have to decide to do it!
The Empowerhouse is an affordable, net-zero Passivhaus design, that came out of the Solar Decathlon competition. In collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, the team as built a duplex in the Washington DC area that is site net-zero, despite having the smallest solar array of any of the homes entered in the competition. It was able to do this because it took a Passivhaus approach, aggressively minimizing all loads first, sealing the building nearly airtight, and super-insulating it. They also integrated a rooftop garden and terrace. By sharing the heat management equipment between the two relatively small units, they were able to reduce costs substantially. All this means the low income residents will spend much, much less on energy over the lifetime of the building. We need more affordable housing that looks like this.
Newell Instruments in Illinois has developed an all-in-one “magic box” heat management appliance, to compete with the ones currently manufactured in Europe, which are often prohibitively expensive in the US. The Newell CERV can both add and remove heat and humidity from a building and provide fresh air supply when needed. It can also be coupled with a heat-pump based hot water heater. Brought together in a super-insulated, airtight building this integration simplifies and increases the efficiency of space conditioning. Here’s hoping they can make it affordable too.