Passive House Institute US , the non-profit organization my husband Mike Knezovich works for, is holding it’s 7th Annual North American Passive House conference at the Marriott Hotel in Denver next week, and Whitney and I are going along for the ride.
Passive house is a building energy standard – the most stringent such standard, to be exact. To be certified as a Passive House, a building has to fall below a certain threshold when it comes to the energy required to heat and cool it to comfortable levels. The principles behind passive house were developed in the 1970s at places like the Small Homes Research Council at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When interest in conservation waned in the United States in the 1980s, the Germans picked up the ball and developed what in Europe is called the Passivhaus standard and building method.
Katrin Klingenberg — a German-born and trained architect — came to Urbana to build her own passive House as a proof of concept nearly 10 years ago. Since then, she founded Passive House Institute US and has built a community of folks who are building these high-performance buildings around North America. Several hundred of these folks will be getting together in Denver next week.
I’ll be spinning my wheels to keep up with all these architects, builders, engineers, policy makers,
and academics in the Mile High City next week – trust me, I’m no Passive House expert! I hear about it often enough to be able to tell you this much, though: Windows on houses that meet passive house energy standards usually face the southern sun, but the passive house goes a lot further. Passive house construction uses thick walls and super-insulation — a wall of a passive house is about three times as thick as a typical building. The buildings are super-tight; they use tape-sealed construction to keep cold out, and heat in, during the winter. Vice-versa during the summer. That means air doesn’t leak in or out through cracks and holes. You can open the windows on nice days if you want, but the air quality inside is still fine when the windows are closed — there is a constant, low level ventilator operating. And it uses a heat exchanger so that exhaust air (already heated) transfers heat energy to the incoming air. Mike told me that some homes are heated with the equivalent of a blow dryer. Most don’t need a conventional furnace — or cooling system.
Mike’s been in a bunch of these houses and he says they’re really comfortable and quiet. He wants to live in one someday, and I like the idea, too. Sound interesting? Well, then maybe you should join us at the conference to learn more! I happen to know there’s still time to sign up (I have connections). For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org (pssst, email sent to that address goes to Mike).