Fall is coming, and with it, the 2015 International Passive House Days. These are our sixth Days and we will offer tours of two urban projects this year. Please save the date on November 14 and 15. More details will be coming, soon.
Recently I was asked by a reporter to talk about my number one wish list item that I wish was better understood by homeowners in light of climate action and sustainable concepts that support the big picture of carbon reduction. Here is my reply:
A simple comparison with everyday life: While the building envelope compares to the heavy down jacket Minnesotans wear in the winter, the mechanical system compares to the little heating pouch we stick in our pockets to warm our hands. Most Minnesotans would agree that when venturing outside in the winter, the heavy jacket is more important than the little heating pouch, and understand that they would need a mighty large pouch to make a summer jacket keep them warm instead.
Similarly, mechanical equipment plays a role in home performance, comfort and efficiency but it cannot set the baseline for performance and improve the bottom line. Fact is that most humans prefer 70 F at 40 – 50 % relative humidity, which is a condition that we rarely encounter outside in Minnesota—particularly in the winter. It is the building envelope’s job to protect us from the elements, and enable the building to maintain those preferable conditions inside. Whatever the building envelope cannot do, a mechanical system has to compensate for. In return, this means that the better the building envelope, the less the mechanical system has to provide, the less energy is being consumed and has to be generated, and the lower the carbon footprint. At the same time, comfort is up as the human body enjoys the steady environment.
A greater understanding of these facts enables homeowners to make sound decisions when it is time to enhance building performance—either for comfort, financial, or environmental reasons, or just because the building envelope is up for routine maintenance, which—by the way—is the best time to make upgrades as upgrade costs become incremental to the maintenance work.
The same is true for new construction, as our building energy code sets a comparatively low bar for building performance and comfort (you would not wear that summer jacket in the winter). The nice thing about building envelope upgrades is that they return on their investment on many levels all at the same time: Reduced carbon footprint, reduced energy bills, and increased comfort. In short, they are a smart use of our finite resources.
For those wondering what these upgrades entail, it is pretty simple:
- More insulation than code (typically 2 – 3 times); a checklist approach could be adopted, or an energy model used to determine the exact amount
- Airtight construction of less than 1 air change per hour at 50 Pascals pressure (measured with a blower door in the field); airtightness is an insurance policy against early building degradation among other things
- High-performance windows and doors (overall installed U-factor of less than 0.14 BTU/ h sf F with a solar heat gain coefficient of around 50% and an exterior shading strategy)
- Hygrothermally sound assemblies (meaning moisture transfer is understood and the design for the building envelope is resilient and durable over time)
A qualified professional such as TE Studio can assist with goal-setting, design and planning, which is key to a successful implementation of building envelope enhancements.
Join us for the 2015 Art-A-Whirl Open House. Experience a Passive House retrofit and beautiful artwork from gifted Minnesota artists at the same time!
We are opening our doors for all three days of this year’s Art-A-Whirl, THE art crawl in Minneapolis. View great art in a Passive House environment in the heart of the NE arts district:
Friday, May 15, from 5 pm to 10 pm
Saturday, May 16, from Noon to 8 pm
Sunday, May 17, from Noon to 5 pm
Tour of the Nordeast Nest Home
4/18/2015: 1:00 – 2:00 PM
Purchase tickets here.
Introduction to the Passive House Building Energy Standard
I will be lecturing at the U of M again this year—giving students an introduction into the World’s leading energy standard for buildings.
3/5/2013: 1:00 – 2:15 PM
Save the date. I will be lecturing on the Passive House Building Energy Standard at this year’s Better Business Better Buildings Wisconsin Conference on Friday, March 13. Check it out.
I will be lecturing at this year’s Better Buildings Better Business Wisconsin Conference. My topic is “Passive House in Cold Climates”, and the lecture is on Friday, March 13 from 12:45 until 3:45 pm.