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Passivhaus: The Greenest Building Standard?

Posted By Lloyd Alter On April 7, 2010 @ 2:00 pm In Sustainable Building | 7 Comments

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The Passivhaus [1] has its roots in the USA in the seventies, when Amory Lovins [2] proposed super-insulated houses that could be warmed by a hair dryer. They caught on in Germany, where Passivhaus [3] became a standard that is being followed all over Europe. Now that building standard is coming to America.

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It is really very simple: you pack in a s**tload of insulation, install very high-performance windows [5], seal it up tight as a drum and install a very good mechanical ventilation system so that you don’t suffocate.

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They can be built in really cold climates, like this Passivhaus mountain hut in Austria [6]

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Or They can be built in temperate climates, like the O’niell House in Sonoma, California [7]. It uses 70% less energy than a conventional northern California home. Treehugger has noted that we should forget energy star and LEED — the new green building standard is Passivhaus. [8]

The Passivhaus standard isn’t just for new construction, either; It can also be used for renovations, but it isn’t easy. [3] It is also being used for multifamily structures, like a proposed co-housing project in Brooklyn [9]. The New York Times gave it a great graphic explanation of how it works. [10] But not everyone is convinced that it is perfect; Alex Wilson of Greenbuilding.com thinks that it might be a bit inflexible for America [1].

Katrin Klingenberg, who brought the Passivhaus to America [11]and runs the Passive House Institute [12], uses the Anglicized term Passive House. I think, like the British, that we should keep the term Passivhaus as the descriptive word for the standard; passive design is becoming common, but is not the same thing. [13]

Lead photo: Ettel House


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URLs in this post:

[1] Passivhaus: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/passivhaus-too-rigid-for-america.php

[2] Amory Lovins: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/amory-lovins-named-one-of-americas-best-leaders.php

[3] Passivhaus: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/02/passivhaus-renovation-of-heritage-home.php

[4] Image: http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/04/07/passivhaus-the-greenest-building-standard/passivhaus-section/

[5] high-performance windows: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/greenbuild-serious-materials.php

[6] Image: http://www.treehugger.com/galleries/2010/01/go-passivhaus.php?page=1

[7] Image: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/03/passivhaus-comes-to-california.php

[8] forget energy star and LEED — the new green building standard is Passivhaus.: http://www.treehugger.com/galleries/2010/01/go-passivhaus.php

[9] proposed co-housing project in Brooklyn: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/06/brookyn-cohousing-passivhaus.php

[10] great graphic explanation of how it works.: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/04/passive-houses-explained.php

[11] brought the Passivhaus to America : http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/01/a_passiv_haus_i.php

[12] Passive House Institute: http://www.passivehouse.us/passiveHouse/PHIUSHome.html

[13] but is not the same thing.: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/passive-design-not-passive-house.php

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