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Passive House Design

We’ve written about energy saving tips for your home before and we keep stressing about the growing importance of energy efficiency for both environmental and financial reasons. But many of the tips advise on how to retroactively update your home – but what about if you are starting from scratch?

Many people advocate that buying used instead of new (houses or other goods) is better for the environment because “it reduces the amount of new stuff that has to be made.”  But with number of new homes being built, there is definitely no significant reduction in the near future. In addition to updating older homes, we need to look at creating more effective and efficient homes right from the start. Energy efficiency and sustainability is what passive house design is all about.

I first came across this topic when Reiner, The Reno Coach,  posted about a conference he was attending in Toronto, which would train him to be an expert on passive house design.

What is passive house design?

Passive house design was developed by the the Passive House Institute in Germany. It includes standards and techniques that drastically improve the performance of a home thorough these features:

  • superior insulation
  • energy efficient windows, shade considerations
  • air-tightness (no drafts or hot or cold spots)
  • heat recovery ventilators (these eliminate the need for conventional heating systems)
  • sustainable and regenerative hot water supply
  • fixtures that are energy saving (lighting, appliances)
  • solar and landscape considerations

Could you imagine a house with no furnace?

While there are clearly many aspects to this type of design, I think that the most unique is the lack of a traditional furnace. As Reiner explains, “The design philosophy behind the Passive House concept is simple: instead of designing a building, then sizing the required heating system, here the building shell is optimized until the conventional heating system is no longer required. The small amount of heating energy which is still needed in a Passive House can then be supplied via the ventilation air stream.”

Take a look at the images below. The graph on the left shows a comparison of energy efficiency for Canadian heating. The image on the right shows a thermogram of heat (can you tell which one is the passive house?)


Want to know more?

There are so many aspects to passive house design it’s too much to adequately cover in one blog post. We’ll be doing regular installments on specific aspects of passive house design so that we can provide you with detailed and accurate information. In the meantime, check out the Reno Coach’s blog, Passive House TO,  and see what the process is like from beginning to end. His aim is to be the first passive house in Toronto….we can’t wait!

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  • The Reno Coach

    Thanks Zoe
    Great explanation on the Passive House Concept.
    The Reno Coach

  • Andrew Goodman

    On the “no furnace” concept, count me as a sceptic! What kind of climate are we talking about here? How large a home? What kind of technical details can you share to explain better how this heating approach is achieved (I understand the insulation and tight build part)? In many parts of Canada, winters are long and nights are *very* cold. Is this realistic?

  • Andrew Goodman

    P.S. The house on the site looks beautiful. I want that shower and that sunken tub. :)

  • Jodi

    it’s being done today in Austria and Germany

  • Anonymous

    I should be thanking you for showing me the way! I can’t wait to get into more detailed posts.

    community manager

  • Anonymous

    I think you just confirmed that my next blog post will be about the heat recovery ventilators!

    And Jodi is right, this is already being done with great success.

    community manager

  • The Reno Coach

    Very realistic as long all the requirements are there for high R value insulation like R 60 for walls R 80 to 100 for Roof this R 60 for Floor and foundation only a hairdryer is needed to replace the heat lost. I will have a part on a cold winter night and invite every one to proof it maybe have to open the windows to let some cold in.
    The Reno Coach

  • The Reno Coach

    Thanks for the support Jodi
    I know we will prove them all wrong.
    30 000 houses mostly in germany
    but as far north as finland.

  • Schomberg Heating and Cooling

    I’m with Andrew! Love the sunken tub! As for the article, a passive house design sounds like just the thing we need in Canada. If we could get the right designs going, Canadians could be saving a large amount of money in the long run. And what a business opportunity for people like The Reno Coach. All the best, and I hope we hear more soon!

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