Friday, December 17, 2010

Passive Houses, Active Brains

Already popular in Europe, the Passive House standard for energy-efficient buildings is "gaining ground with U.S. designers and architects seeking dramatic and measurable efficiency improvements."

"While the U.S. Green Building's Council's LEED certification touches on energy, water, materials, and location, Passive House, which started in Germany as Passivhaus, brings rigorous requirements focused entirely on building energy efficiency. Because of that focus on lowering building energy demand, some say it yields better performance than LEED on efficiency." (CNET)

A Passive House achieves "overall energy savings of 60-70%" and lowers space heating needs by 90% via the design of the building, without having to install "expensive 'active' technologies like photovoltaics or solar thermal hot water systems." (Passive House Institute US)

Intrigued? Take "Energy Efficient Buildings"
winter quarter. (CEE176A)

taught by the irrepressibly brilliant Gil Masters. (Plus a band of intrepid TA's, including Nick, Emily, and yours truly. =P) Be sure to sign up for the 1-unit lab component, too. There'll be some neat, hands-on experiments that will clearly illustrate and bring home concepts taught in the classroom. And you'll get to design your own Passive House, build a scale model of, and analyze its energy performance! It's plenty fun.

(Passipedia via CNET)

Good insulation (including low-e windows and sturdy walls). Appropriate ventilation (with wasteful leaks in your walls eliminated). Plus, if the building is properly oriented, you can get your heating from the sun!

LEED gives points just for having certain features, but "attaining Passive House certification requires meeting certain energy-efficiency performance thresholds -- 15 kilowatt-hours per meter square space of living space per year, or 4,755 BTUs per square foot per year ... it appeals to many designers because it's an actual, quantifiable standard.

In a talk at the Boston symposium, Wolfgang Feist, who heads the Passivhaus Institut in Germany, said that Passive House follows a few principles, rather than require high-tech materials or fancy energy-monitoring systems. To meet the voluntary standard, buildings should have a very air-tight building envelope, high levels of insulation, and a heat recovery ventilator that circulates in outdoor air preheated by outgoing indoor air."

Read the whole article at CNET here. And take the class; you'll learn all about these awesome concepts and how to apply them.

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