Passive House: What’s in it for homeowners?

What’s in it for homeowners?

For the environmentally conscious, extremely high energy efficiency and a low carbon footprint may be reason enough to make the next home move or build a Passive House. However, Passive House has more to offer than the satisfaction of knowing your living space is contributing to a greener built environment.

By Katie Shellard

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COMFORT
When you walk into a Passive House the thermal comfort is immediately apparent, and becomes more so when you sit near windows or walk around barefoot. Measurements taken on Germany’s first Passive House over 20 years ago showed that even when temperatures fell to -14°C, temperatures inside remained above 20° C without the use of a conventional heating system. In fact the heating demand was so low that two 75Watt light bulbs would have been enough to heat a 20m2 room!

Such achievements are due to the quality of the building envelope, thick walls, insulation and high-grade components such as windows and doors, which keep the cold or hot air out, and occupants comfortable. A heat recovery ventilation [HRV] system ensures a continual flow of fresh air, delivering superior air quality to most standard buildings while helping maintain a comfortable temperature.

Passive House residents can enjoy a draft-free home with more useable space but it is perhaps the affordability aspect that is most surprising and appealing for prospective buyers.

COST
Drastically reduced heating and cooling energy demands mean exceptionally low energy bills. At North Park Passive House [see p.22], a six-unit strata in Victoria, BC, monthly energy cost per two-bedroom, 850 ft2 suite is estimated at $15-$20/month, a saving of approximately $1,000/year. Not only do the high quality components last longer and require less maintenance, the building as a whole is more durable.

But don’t high quality components cost more? Yes, and the construction costs of a Passive House are slightly higher than a conventional building [approximately 3% higher according to a recent study in Victoria, BC] however the lower operating costs give financial payback to owners in the first month. Such economical and energy efficiency makes Passive House the obvious choice for affordable housing projects and family homes.

Katie Shellard is Communications Manager at CanPHI West.

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