Green News - Pas­sive House

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Monte Paulsen is a Cer­ti­fied En­ergy Ad­vi­sor and an ex­pert on pas­sive house. At last week’s Buildex 2013 Trade Show, he shared a pre­sen­ta­tion called “Sell­ing Sus­tain­abil­ity: How to Profit from Green Home Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.” To the left is a PDF of a slide show­ing the Saskatchewan Con­ser­va­tion House on the left, and the Rain­bow Pas­sive House in Whistler on the right. Be­low is a quote from a piece Paulsen wrote for Cana­dian Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zine. The full URL is here: http://www.cana­di­angeo­graphic.ca/mag­a­zine/jun12/ sus­tain­able_homes2.asp His web­site is here: www.red­dooren­er­gyad­vi­sors.ca.

The Saskatchewan Con­ser­va­tion House was sold, the so­lar ther­mal col­lec­tors were scrapped, and a garage was added. Saskatchewan’s land­mark high-per­for­mance home ap­peared headed for that uniquely Cana­dian dust­bin where such promis­ing in­ven­tions as the Avro Ar­row and the Tur­boTrain are sent to die. The house may have been for­got­ten for­ever were it not for the in­ter­est of a quirky Ger­man physi­cist.

Wolf­gang Feist stud­ied the Saskatchewan house along with other early su­perin­su­lated homes in Den­mark, Swe­den and the United States. Feist then wrote a math­e­mat­i­cally pre­cise and el­e­gantly sim­ple for­mula for de­sign­ing high-per­for­mance build­ings. His stan­dard sets two hard lim­its: air­tight­ness must meet or ex­ceed 0.6 ACH@50Pa, and to­tal en­ergy use for heat­ing and cool­ing must not ex­ceed 15 kilo­watt hours (kWh) per square me­tre of floor area.

Feist and col­league Bo Adam­son dubbed their for­mula the “Pas­sivhaus” stan­dard be­cause th­ese build­ings were too well in­su­lated to re­quire an “ac­tive” fur­nace or boiler. Com­pared with con­ven­tional con­struc­tion, most Pas­sivhaus build­ings re­duce en­ergy con­sump­tion by 80 to 90 per­cent. (The Ger­man word has since been angli­cized to the less pre­cise Pas­sive House.)

The first Pas­sivhaus build­ing, a row of four townhouses in Darm­stadt, Ger­many, was erected in 1991. Feist’s for­mula quickly went vi­ral. To­day, there 900 build­ings cer­ti­fied to the Pas­sivhaus stan­dard and roughly 32,000 Pas­sivhaus-type build­ings. The great­est num­bers are in Ger­many and Aus­tria, while the rate of growth is faster in Bel­gium and the United King­dom.

Canada’s first Pas­sive House ar­rived in 2009. It was pre­fab­ri­cated in Aus­tria and as­sem­bled in Whistler, B.C., for use by the Aus­trian Olympic Com­mit­tee and Aus­trian Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing dur­ing the 2010 Olympic Win­ter Games. Af­ter­ward, the Aus­tri­ans do­nated the 250-squareme­tre build­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Whistler for use as a cross-coun­try ski lodge. The Lost Lake Pas­sivHaus (for­merly the Aus­tria House) uses about one-tenth the en­ergy of a sim­i­larly sized con­ven­tional build­ing. That worked out to a heat­ing cost of about $280 last year.

“Pas­sive House is the most eco­nom­i­cal way to build to­day if the op­er­a­tional costs over many years are taken into the equa­tion,” says Guido Wim­mers, a di­rec­tor of the non-profit Cana­dian Pas­sive House In­sti­tute, which trains ar­chi­tects and builders.

Across the val­ley from Whistler’s Lost Lake, stands the com­mu­nity’s sec­ond Pas­sive House, a town­hous­es­tyle du­plex that may be Canada’s most af­ford­able high-per­for­mance home. The du­plex is an in­ter­na­tional mash-up — a West Coast wood guy’s reinvention of an Aus­trian in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a Ger­man for­mula based on the orig­i­nal Saskatchewan house.

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