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  • Carol Mckee

Engineering a Solution

Updated: May 9, 2022

Passive house has another requirement that makes it a bit unique. It could even be called reverse engineering.

In a typical residential building, there are not architectural drawings required for mechanical, electrical, or plumbing. These are commonly referred to as MEP. It is just expected that each of those above listed trades will figure it out. And for most houses, this is just fine.

But not for a Passive House.

When it comes to a Passive House design there are many ways that the engineering of the building matters more than a typical build. For example the plumbing might need to be engineered if it needs to be a looped system that has hot water running in a circuit and you draw off of that circuit. Most typical built projects won’t require that, but if it does, you might need a plumbing engineer.

An electrical engineer is not generally needed in a typical build either. If you’ve got specialized electrical leads, usually the vendor that is providing the equipment can provide the engineering required. Examples of this would be a Solar panel system on your roof, a back up generator or back up batteries, or something like that. Usually the installers of those things have an engineer on their team and you might not even know that there is engineering on the project.

HVAC is where Passive House is very specific, and a much higher standard is applied, hence best practice is to get a mechanical engineer involved early in the project. Controlling the flow of air in and out of the building is paramount to the durability and energy efficiency of that building when on a Passive House project, as well as ensuring that the indoor quality is kept to a higher standard.

The dilemma here when building a residential Passive House project, is that since no one usually gets mechanical engineering work done in a residential environment it could be hard to find someone who has the residential engineering experience or even wants to be involved in a residential project. Most mechanical engineers work almost exclusively in the commercial project space, and if they do any residential projects, they are doing it for multi family, or multi unit builders.

So part of my journey in this process has been to vet the architect, and now that the mechanical engineer who will work on my projects. Finding the right person for this engineering part of the project has taken a lot of research but we have found the right guy. I am happy to have a resource from my own home build to help my clients get this vital piece in place on future projects.

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