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What is a Passive House? (Part 1) | Climate Action Now | Healthy Home - March 25, 2013
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Artist rendering of a passive house

Photo credit: Artist's rendering of PDX CoreHaus by Dotty Hawthorne

Known in Germany as Passivhaus (“passive building”), the passive house standard is the world’s most stringent set of building standards for energy efficiency. This concept and approach can be applied to all types of buildings in every climate. Passive buildings typically consume 30 to 50 percent less energy than a building constructed to current U.S. building codes. The concept is to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by creating buildings which leak so little heat that “passive” heat gains (from solar, occupant body heat, lighting, equipment, appliances, etc.) ensure occupant comfort with “micro” heating systems.

The building envelope’s thermal performance is rigorously improved. Based on experience, the Passivhaus Institute has developed several performance-based guidelines:

  • Super-insulated building envelope or shell.
  • High-performance windows.
  • Airtight construction.
  • Balanced, continuous mechanical ventilation typically with heat-recovery ventilation (HRV or ERV).
  • Solar gain optimization by building and glazing orientation.
  • Elimination or reduction of thermal bridging through the building envelope.
  • Energy-efficient mechanical systems, appliances and lighting.

Look forward to Part 2 next month when we talk about certification steps for the passive house standard.

Learn More

Passive House Northwest is a support and advocacy trade organization with monthly meetings and annual conferences in Seattle and Portland. 


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