I got back yesterday from the 13th Annual Passive House Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. My biggest takeaways from the conference are:
- While the growth of passive houses in Europe is impressive, even in Europe there are still marketing challenges
- The opportunity to use energy efficient buildings as a hedge against climate change is immense
- We are way behind on energy efficient building here in the U.S. – in fact, essentially no one in the U.S. is doing this kind of building.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting about things I learned at the conference, and also about the implications of what I saw for building – and for climate change mitigation – in the U.S.
Not only are there more than 30,000 certified Passive House buildings in Europe, representing a lot of tons of CO2 averted, their level of building science and technology is very advanced. The exhibitors showed a number of innovative insulation materials (most of which are not available in the U.S.), many different very highly efficient window and door options (most of which are not available in the U.S.), highly efficient heat recovery ventilation systems (most of which are not available in the U.S.), and several innovative building technologies (available in the U.S.? I don’t think so). Even so, I thought the exhibition was remarkably small, with about 70 vendors, indicating that even in Europe, there’s a huge amount of growth potential.
Several of the presentation sessions reported on studies comparing the performance of buildings constructed or renovated using the [intlink id=”368″ type=”post” target=”_blank”]passive house approach[/intlink] – super-insulated, super-airtight, with heat recovery ventilation – to buildings using other energy efficiency approaches such as the European “low energy house” standard (which is more similar to U.S. energy efficiency codes). They found, as expected, that energy use in the passive house buildings, as well as comfort levels and measured air quality levels, were significantly improved. One study compared to identical apartment buildings, next to one another on the same street, one of which was renovated as a passive house, the other as a low energy house. Both buildings were instrumented with a variety of sensors, and then tracked over a two year period. The energy bills for tenants in the passive house were 1/3 those for the low energy house.
Obviously, these results reflect not only a savings for the tenants, but also a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, at a relatively low additional cost for the building.
Some future post topics:
- What do you do if you want to build a highly efficient house, using the passive house approach, in the U.S.?
- How does the passive house approach compare to other energy efficiency and “green” standards like California’s Title 24, LEED, Green Point Rating, and HERS?
- How does the passive house approach work for buildings other than single-family residences?
- If passive houses are so great, how can we get more of them in the U.S., and what will it take to make a significant dent in the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions via energy efficient buildings?
- How do passive houses and “zero net energy” interact?
- How about passive houses in temperate and semi-tropical climates like California and Florida, where it’s not heating, but cooling, that takes the most energy?
If you have other questions about the passive house approach or the conference, let me know in the comments and I’ll tell you what I know or find some answers for you.