During the last decade, eco-friendly home building practices have been dramatically increasing in popularity. These practices can drastically reduce electricity and heating costs for the homeowner and reduce the ecological footprint of the average home. The most rigorous building trend emerging in the USA in recent years is the concept of the Passive House.
To put it in perspective, Europe & Scandinavia have over 25,0000 Passive Homes. In 2010, the USA only had 13. By 2017 that number grew to 1,200. To date, there are only seven “Certified” Passive Homes in Massachusetts, two of which The Valle Group has been fortunate enough to build.
The theory of a Passive Home is a structure that does not require a lot of energy to heat or cool the home. Passive home models require substantial insulation and sealing to prevent air leaks and thermal bridges, all aimed at creating a more constant and stable climate within the home.
In addition to proper insulation and air-sealing, passive homes often rely on a specific process of HVAC – heating, ventilation and air conditioning – that circulates fresh air without compromising the stability of the internal temperature (Zehnder America).
Passive homes are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and heating bills, but the decision to go through with building a Passive House shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is a very involved process, requiring the homeowner, builder, architect and subcontractors to be in sync with their understanding of the concept. Homeowners who want a “Certified Passive Home” – one which meets all of the stringent requirements by the Passive House Institute US – must hire a Passive Energy Consultant who will analyze the architectural designs for energy efficiency. It is also important to consider that using all the necessary materials may lead to a more costly project. On average, Passive Home construction is more expensive than construction of an average home (PHIUS).
However, the increase in construction costs should be viewed as an investment, as passive home owners spend anywhere from 40%-90% less on heating and electric bills when compared to the average homeowner (Green Builder). Passive home owners actually find their homes to be more comfortable than the conventional temperature controlled buildings. Most importantly, the aesthetic design of the home doesn’t have to be compromised, so the homeowner can achieve their ideal look, while saving money and minimizing their carbon footprint.
Courtesy of PHIUS
Key design features of Passive Homes include the placement of the home on the lot, and the use of innovative window placement and glazing to maximize or minimize thermal transfer. The windows are often layered up to three times, which creates a necessary barrier between the external temperature and the interior of the home. Many passive home owners remark that even during the freezing winter months, the windows are almost never cold to the touch (Green Builder).
If you are considering building a Passive Home of your own, it is very important to do your research. It is essential that you have a solid understanding of what construction will entail and that you have a reliable builder who is well-versed in the rigorous standards required by the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). If you think a Passive House is the right fit for you, contact us to learn more about the process.
To learn more about the Valle-Built passive homes shown in this blog, click on any of the photos above.