Monday, March 23, 2009

Now we are getting somewhere!

I'll admit that one of the factors that made us chose to meet people was whether they were available when we had family available for baby sitting. Usually, very last minute.

So one of these meetings was on a Sunday morning at a Tim Horton's in Ottawa. We were going to meet Malcolm Isaacs, an engineer who knew something about passive solar houses. He had told me on the phone that he was not an architect or a designer, but he could help us build a passive house. So we met with him. Boy was I blown away by what he told us!

First, let's talk vocabulary. Passive House is a new building standard that is becoming quite popular in Europe. I had never heard of it even if I had been reading about "green" building for over a year!

So what is a Passive House
? I'm going to quote the Passive House Institute directly for the explanation: "A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely terrific indoor air quality."

Translation: these houses are well oriented and so well insulated, you don't need a furnace! Sure, you need a back-up system for those cold sunless winter days but never mind geothermal or high efficiency gas furnaces, think more in the lines of a domestic water heater connected to a radiant floor system!

Also, the point of these Passive Houses is that they are about the same price to build as a non-Passive House. In Europe, there are already over 12000 buildings certified to this standard. They've even done social housing projects following Passive House guidelines! We had heard that building green can often cost significantly more than building a traditional house. We are now hoping this will help keep the cost down.

This is exactly what we were looking for! Maybe even more!

1 comment:

  1. This is great news! Amazing to think you won't need a furnace!