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Passive Haus in Colorado?
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2/7/2013 at 6:40:50 PM GMT
Passive Haus in Colorado?

This question was sent in by email: 

Is Passive House a good strategy in Colorado? I've heard that it is not the best strategy in all climates?

Meagan Forney
Colorado Green Building Guild
Membership & Outreach Manager
303 447 0849

2/7/2013 at 11:12:04 PM GMT
Posts: 3

PassivHaus is a strategy for constructing high performance homes. It was originally from Germany, with a more moderate climate than most of the US, so it is often challenging to achieve the PassivHaus criteria. I believe the intent of PassivHaus is to build a low-energy house. To get PH certification, your home needs to meet certain levels of three standards: air-tightness, heating energy, and total energy use.

 There is some debate about whether it is cost effective to reach those levels in all parts of the US. PHIUS, the US version of the standard, is trying to figure out if regional variances are acceptable, and if so, what they should be.

 Talk with your architect, contractor, sustainability consultant, and your whole team about it. See what your goals for your home really are. If they match PH, great, use PH.

PH does not require net-zero energy usage (though it's usually easy when your energy load is so low). PH does not comment on material choices, amount, & toxicity. PH does not comment on location & transportation issues. PH does not comment on water usage. PH actually discourages small homes (because the thresholds are harder to meet in a small home). If these (and any other) topics are important to you, consider them as well. What you should not do is build a home as poorly as to only meet building codes.

 You notice I've so far avoided saying whether it is a "good" strategy or not. I think that PassivHaus, like LEED or many other building certifications, has its heart in the right place. We need (NEED!) these certifications to push people to think about homes in more detail than: "That kitchen is gorgeous." The goal is to build a better building. If it is important to you to show 3rd party verification of your "greenness," perhaps you're doing it for the wrong reasons. However, real-time monitoring and display of energy use, water use, temperature, and similar metrics, is great. If you can log that and show good results, who cares if you have all the certifications in the world? Your home should be comfortable, healthy, and perform well. To me, that is what is important, not a certification. If it takes a certification to achieve that, fine.

2/8/2013 at 4:40:14 AM GMT
RE: Passive Haus in Colorado?
M. Forney, Colorado Green Building Guild said:

This question was sent in by email: 

Is Passive House a good strategy in Colorado? I've heard that it is not the best strategy in all climates?

It is a great "strategy" or approach in every climate.  However, meeting the standard's goals or metrics is not realistic in climate zone 7 and arguably zone 6. However, the fundamental concepts are spot on in those climates and even super hot climates.  The methodology includes super insulation, super air tight and minimizing thermal bridging.  These fundamental concepts are 100% what we should do in cold climates and even warm climates.  It is a function of keeping heat where you want it... either in or out of the building.

The short answer... it is an excellent strategy, but the metrics you have to attain for certification are not realistic in super cold climates.  PHIUS is in the process of creating climate specific goals for the certification ... which will address this question head on and provide a realistic alternative that has more logic behind it.  

Last edited Friday, February 8, 2013
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