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Passive House is at the Heart of the Next Wave of Sustainable Infrastructure



Transportation has been the focus, due to Tesla’s rise, but houses and commercial buildings are next

When Tesla was still just an oddball upstart, there was plenty of skepticism that they would survive, let alone change the industry and define sustainable transportation and the future of EVs. This was before Tesla’s stock price soared, even as the climate crisis has become more serious.

Although the stock market is as irrational as ever, on another level the massive rise in market cap for the once underdog sustainable energy focused company can also be seen as a vote from the general public – a vote for the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a sustainable energy future..

Fast forward to 2022 and there is an entirely different situation in the automotive and transportation industries. The entire industry is shifting, rapidly, to 100% electric vehicle production and competing for the climate conscious upwardly mobile customer base that was first identified by Tesla’s “S3XY” marketing methods and designs.

Another underdog – Passive House is ready for the next wave of climate conscious changes

Although sustainable transportation infrastructure still has a long way to go and many issues to overcome, the speed of the transition over the last decade is, nevertheless, impressive.

The next phase of the transition toward sustainable energy infrastructure as a whole, however, is clearly going to be energy generation, solar, wind, geothermal and beyond. This will include design and construction of dwellings and commercial real estate with an eye toward efficient ways to decrease the carbon footprint and create structures that have a low carbon cost (embodied carbon and green cement, use of natural materials, etc.).

Passive house, a concept first pioneered in Germany, is at the center of the coming design revolution in architecture and sustainable construction. Andreas Benzing, of A.M.Benzing Architects PLLC has been at the forefront of the New York, NY movement (as executive director of NY Passive House) as it has grown for nearly two decades and is now ready to break out.

Emphasizing the active role that passive house can play in reaching ‘peak performance’ for dwellings and commercial structures, Benzing elucidates his credo and underscores the similarities to Tesla’s higher-end approach to EV’s, now poised to spearhead a similar revolution in architecture; “We strive to better user experience and comfort, engineer to easily achieve peak performance, and maximize the durability of quality materials.”

The books below are a few that show the history and concepts behind passive house from various perspectives. Houses and buildings that have a reduced carbon footprint, while at the same time generate energy from sustainable sources are becoming feasible and all have as a foundation the passive house standard for highly efficient design.

The New Net Zero

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The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, sustainable architect Bill Maclay charts the path for designers and builders interested in exploring green design’s new frontier net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.

In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously-among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.

Designers and builders will find a wealth of state-of-the-art information on such considerations as air, water, and vapor barriers; embodied energy; residential and commercial net-zero standards; monitoring and commissioning; insulation options; costs; and more.

The comprehensive overview is accompanied by several case studies, which include institutional buildings, commercial projects, and residences. Both new-building and renovation projects are covered in detail. 

The New Net Zero is geared toward professionals exploring net-zero design, but also suitable for nonprofessionals seeking ideas and strategies on net-zero options that are beautiful and renewably powered.

Passive House Details

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Passive House Details introduces the concepts, principles, and design processes of building ultralow-energy buildings. The objective of this book is to provide design goals, research, analysis, systems, details, and inspiring images of some of the most energy-efficient, carbon-neutral, healthy, and satisfying buildings currently built in the region. Other topics included: heat transfer, moisture management, performance targets, and climatic zones. Illustrated with more than 375 color images, the book is a visual catalog of construction details, materials, and systems drawn from projects contributed from forty firms. Fourteen in-depth case studies demonstrate the most energy-efficient systems for foundations, walls, floors, roofs, windows, doors, and more.

The Greenest Home

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Passive is the new green. Passive Houses–well insulated, virtually airtight buildings–can decrease home heating consumption by an astounding 90 percent, making them not only an attractive choice for prospective homeowners, but also the right choice for a sustainable future. The Greenest Home showcases eighteen of the world’s most attractive Passive Houses by forward-thinking architects such as Bernheimer Architecture, Olson Kundig Architects, and Onion Flats, among many others. Each case study consists of a detailed project description, plans, and photographs. An appendix lists helpful technical information. Including a mix of new construction and retrofit projects built in a variety of site conditions, The Greenest Home is an inspiring sourcebook for architects and prospective homeowners, as well as a useful tool for students, and builders alike.

The Solar House

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Passive solar heating and passive cooling–approaches known as natural conditioning–provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved.

Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book The Natural House, brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts.

The techniques required to heat and cool a building passively have been used for thousands of years. Early societies such as the Native American Anasazis and the ancient Greeks perfected designs that effectively exploited these natural processes. The Greeks considered anyone who didn’t use passive solar to heat a home to be a barbarian 

In the United States, passive solar architecture experienced a major resurgence of interest in the 1970s in response to crippling oil embargoes. With grand enthusiasm but with scant knowledge (and sometimes little common sense), architects and builders created a wide variety of solar homes. Some worked pretty well, but looked more like laboratories than houses. Others performed poorly, overheating in the summer because of excessive or misplaced windows and skylights, and growing chilly in the colder months because of insufficient thermal mass and insulation and poor siting.

In The Solar House, Dan Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious–and entirely avoidable–errors. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today’s home builders can succeed with solar designs.

Now that energy efficiency measures including higher levels of insulation and multi-layered glazing have become standard, it is easier than ever before to create a comfortable and affordable passive solar house that will provide year-round comfort in any climate.

Moreover, since modern building materials and airtight construction methods sometimes result in air-quality and even toxicity problems, Chiras explains state-of-the-art ventilation and filtering techniques that complement the ancient solar strategies of thermal mass and daylighting. Chiras also explains the new diagnostic aids available in printed worksheet or software formats, allowing readers to generate their own design schemes.

The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual

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Passivhaus is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world, with almost 50,000 buildings realised to date. Applicable to both domestic and non-domestic building types, the strength of Passivhaus lies in the simplicity of the concept. As European and global energy directives move ever closer towards Zero (fossil) Energy standards, Passivhaus provides a robust ‘fabric first’ approach from which to make the next step.

The Passivhaus Designers Manual is the most comprehensive technical guide available to those wishing to design and build Passivhaus and Zero Energy Buildings. As a technical reference for architects, engineers and construction professionals The Passivhaus Designers Manual provides: 

  • State of the art guidance for anyone designing or working on a Passivhaus project;
  • In depth information on building services, including high performance ventilation systems and ultra-low energy heating and cooling systems; 
  • Holistic design guidance encompassing: daylight design, ecological materials, thermal comfort, indoor air quality and economics; 
  • Practical advice on procurement methods, project management and quality assurance;
  • Renewable energy systems suitable for Passivhaus and Zero Energy Buildings; 
  • Practical case studies from the UK, USA, and Germany amongst others;
  • Detailed worked examples to show you how it’s done and what to look out for;
  • Expert advice from 20 world renowned Passivhaus designers, architects, building physicists and engineers.

Lavishly illustrated with nearly 200 full colour illustrations, and presented by two highly experienced specialists, this is your one-stop shop for comprehensive practical information on Passivhaus and Zero Energy buildings.

The New Net Zero
Passive House Details
The Greenest Home
The Solar House
The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual

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