Able to maintain a comfortable temperature during the cold Minnesota winters and the hot, humid North Carolina summer, there is a new standard in green building that has finally arrived in America. PassivHaus is truly green building, requiring significantly less energy of any kind, and it has been growing in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia. Hopefully it’s tentative entrance in America is the beginning of a growing trend.
Very little heating and cooling is needed in a PassivHaus due to super insulation, southern window exposure (usually), and the integration of a ventilation system that brings a constant flow of fresh oxygen, something often lacking in newer buildings in the US. Treehugger.com has a great story outlining what is a PassivHaus, and the NY Times offers a great pictorial of how it works.
Imagine a system that can warm your home using mainly your own body heat, and the appliances being used, in a place as cold as Minnesota, but can also keep it comfortable in the summer somewhere like North Carolina. This is pretty exciting stuff. The German institute that created this concept (they love institutes in Germany), to my surprise is in a city where I have lived and on my next trip to Germany, which could be in the next month or two I will visit them to learn more. This concept can also be used for larger complexes rather than just single family homes.
One aspect that really impressed me is that this is healthy living. So many newer buildings have so little fresh air and I don’ know about you but I often feel as if I am choking in some buildings, even though they might be comfortable temperature wise. Here fresh air intake is an integral element in the design and function…leave it to the Germans to take this into account. I lived there for quite a few years and all year round you see windows open in both homes and businesses. WIndows that actually work are still a part of commercial buildings, even hotels. In a PassivHaus fresh air is brought inside through underground ducts that exchange heat with the soil, so that even on cold winter days the air will be warmer than the outside air temperature.
Here is another interesting story, also from treehugger.com, about a home in Canada using the PassivHaus concept and hoping for LEED Platinum certification. There is even a Passive House Institute in the U.S.
So for an even more efficient building than LEED or Energy Star read about PassivHaus. Alternative energy sources are crucial to bring into the mainstream, but we also need to look at reducing our overall energy usage. For me it is so inspiring to learn what is possible, and already exists. We are entering a new age where sustainability and our health are finally the driving forces. Can we call it the Sustainability Age? Thank goodness so many people, and businesses are finally recognizing that it makes no sense to continue with business as usual if we are destroying the planet and making ourselves ill. It is up to each of us to educate ourselves so that we can be a part of the this.
Imagine what people must have thought when the phone became common place and the automobile… I think that we on such a cutting edge in so many areas, transportation, housing are just two of them. Now we have to push for their implementation. Who knows what other innovations are just around the corner…