What is Passive House?

September 1, 2017

Lori Nelson

Passive house, or PassivHaus, stands for efficiency, comfort, resiliency, quality, and affordability, regardless of the regional climate. Essentially, it is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. The result: ultra-low energy buildings that requires little energy for space heating and cooling.

Within the last several years, the Passive House concept has rapidly gained popularity, with over 60,000 residential and non-residential units in existence worldwide. However, the concepts of superinsulation, airtight envelopes, energy recovery ventilation, high performance windows, and managing solar gain originated in the United States and Canada decades ago.

Interest in conservation waned in the United States for many years and during that time the Europeans refined the application of these principles and developed the PassivHaus performance metric.

The first PassivHaus was built in Darmstadt, Germany by Dr. Wolfgang Fiest who then went on to found the PassivHaus Institut (PHI). Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) co-founder Katrin Klingenberg studied architecture in her native Germany. She discovered Passivhaus and, following, Fiest’s lead, endeavored to re-introduce the now-refined passive house principles to the United States in 2002 by building her own passive house residence in Urbana, Illinois.

Why Passive House Standards Matter

Adherence to Passive house standards not only means advancing overall construction quality, but also insuring peaceful and healthy living environment for your family and the global community. In order to build a passive house a builder must be Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) certified. Certified builders are well-versed in the on-site implementation and craftsmanship necessary to meet the passive building standards.

With buildings contributing as much as 47% of all greenhouse gases, Passive Houses are exponentially friendlier to the environment because of their minimal energy and fossil fuel consumption. They also consider the CO2 contributions to global warming and embodied energy characteristics of all it’s selected buildings materials. And, in addition to being nearly zero energy buildings, Passive houses lock in energy savings for future generations. They emphasize thing like insulation, airtightness and external shading that will save energy today, tomorrow, and everyday into the future without significant maintenance or replacement costs.

Lastly, Passive Houses make great homes. They are comfortable, modern houses with no cold drafts, no temperature variations from room to room, and best of all, virtually no heating or cooling bills – making them extremely energy-efficient.

Passive House Principles

“Maximize Your Gain, Minimize Your Losses”

  • Continuous insulation and airtight construction provide unmatched comfort even in extreme weather conditions.
  • Continuous mechanical ventilation of fresh filtered air provided superb indoor air quality.
  • Comprehensive systems approach to modeling, design, and construction provides extremely resilient buildings.
  • Passive building principles offer the best path to next zero and net positive building by minimizing the load that renewables are required to provide.

What Can Buyers Expect From a Traditionally Built PassivHaus Home?

The main concerns from Passive House home buyers in the past have centered around costs and location. Previously, Passive House homeowners have found that the initial building costs are 10%-15% higher with new or renovated construction. In addition, they have found build time to be longer by that same percentage. In terms of design, unfortunately some companies depend on location and weather conditions as the determinant. Some passive house owners have needed to purchase backup heating systems when weather conditions altered the performance of their home.

How Dvele Intends to Incorporate Passive House

Dvele mitigates that higher percentage time and resource cost with precision-factory build. So instead of materials being assembled manually, we have the help of robotics and automation.

Unlike other companies, we are not as beholden to weather fluctuations that might affect construction times ad quality because our factories are weather-sealed environments. Sitework and home assembly require exposure to the elements,but we protect for and plan around weather.

Our streamlined design process, which largely happens through our Dvele app, takes your location and weather conditions into account when selecting and designing a home model. Dvele homes are heated by low energy radiant heat.

What Are Buyers Saying About Their Passive Houses?

In a passive house, the ventilation is so silent that you want to put your hand in front of the venting intake grid to confirm that it’s working. The system is very smooth and the airflow feels well balanced and fresh. There is virtually no noise pollution from the outdoors and no draft through the windows. In terms of temperature, the house heats and cools very slowly. It takes the house four hours to add or lose a degree which makes for a very stable environment.

  • Peace, bliss, silence, fresh air, no draft, no headache.
  • I can sit where I want in the house and be extremely comfortable to the point that I have to go physically outside before I go out in order to know if I need a coat!
  • We have concrete floors, without radiant, that we walk on barefoot even in the dead of winter because they don’t leak their heat into the ground because of their thermal barriers.
  • I wake up in the morning without the urge of opening a window to ventilate: my indoor air is filtered and completely replaced with fresh outdoor air every 3 hours.

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