Passive House is not a brand or company name but actually a construction concept. The term Passive House is a translation from the German Passivhaus and refers to a rigorous construction standard that reduces the ecological footprint of a building and makes it both highly energy efficient and extremely comfortable and pleasant to live in. It is an odd name and even though the word ‘house’ is constantly used, the principles can be applied to any building.
The term Smart Home is used to describe a home that uses technology to allow the home’s systems and electronics to communicate with each other, create personalized time schedules and be remotely activated from a smartphone or other web enabled device. When you put these two concepts together you create a very green house.
WHOSE IDEA WAS THE PASSIVE HOUSE?
Back in May 1988, Bo Adamson of Lund University in Sweden and Wolfgang Feist of The Institute for Housing and the Environment in Germany were having an in depth chat when they came up with the idea of developing design techniques and creating a formalized and exacting building standard. A few research projects later and the first Passivhaus residences were built in 1990 in Darmstadt, Germany.
Since then thousands of structures have been built throughout the world, though mainly in German speaking countries and Scandinavia. The first Passive House in North America was built in Urbana, Illinois in 2003.
WHAT MAKES PASSIVE HOUSES SO SPECIAL?
Although construction costs are higher than for regular buildings, passive houses combine outstanding comfort with very low energy consumption.
- HUGE ENERGY SAVINGS: A passive house can operate with as little as 10% of the energy used by a typical European building.
- SUPER COMFORTABLE: The way Passive Houses are built provides residents not only with a smaller energy bill, but also increased levels of comfort since the temperature fluctuates very little during warm and cold months.
- NO HEATING OR AIR CONDITIONING: What? No heating? Even in winter? Buildings that are constructed to the stringent Passive House standards are able to dispense with conventional heating and cooling systems while maintaining an airy 70 to 74 degrees, regardless of the season. In extreme conditions minimal heat or air conditioning may be needed.
- DESIGN: Early Passive House designs were very boxy with few windows, but building principles do not dictate aesthetics. As more and more designers and architects embrace the concept, style options have increased and huge airy windows and attractive skylights are now more common. Clients can choose from dozens of designs, from Cape Cod to traditional Four Square.
The ecological footprint of a Passive House can be reduced even further by introducing smart technology. Smart lighting can be programmed to turn on and off as you enter a room or send you a text message if a light has been left on. Appliances can be put on smart plugs that control the on/off switch so they are not always left in energy consuming standby mode. They can be operated remotely so no worries if you think you left the stove on. These are all ways to make life more convenient but most importantly, to minimize energy waste.
Passive houses and smart homes are both solutions for the future and make a great combo.