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  • Carol Mckee

The Passive House Concept

Knowing everything you need to know about building an energy efficient home could result in information overload, but in this blog, part of what I am looking to do is break it down, in layman’s terms, to help you digest and understand the concept. If you are going to build a home, or substantially remodel one, I think this is especially helpful for you to be armed with this information well in advance of pulling the trigger on what you are going to build.

You can get a house built to Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) standards or you can get a house built and certified through PHIUS.

  • You don’t have to get the house as a certified project which can add a few thousand dollars in cost to the build

  • But I would strongly recommend that you enlist all the processes of PHIUS into your new build

  • This would include using a PHIUS certified architect, a PHIUS certified builder and a PHIUS certified 3rd party inspector to verify everything is being done to the PHIUS standards.

  • This will get you about 98% of what a certified PHIUS project would achieve.

More on each of these things is below.

In general, PHIUS is the highest level of building code for both residential and commercial buildings. Structures have to meet all the standards that a regular “code built” structure has to meet, and then holds the design and construction to a much higher level of execution.

Key advantages and distinguishing factors and features of PHIUS standards are:

1. Energy efficiency - A PHIUS house can be 80-90% more efficient through better designed and executed engineering, and better executed construction

  • An major factor in this and what differentiates PHIUS standards is that PHIUS built projects have energy efficiency due to air tightness.

  • When you don’t engineer in the air tightness of a house, all the energy that is in the air (cool/heat) goes out with it.

  • A project built to code today is allowed to “leak” 6 times the air volume of a the building, every hour, and it is not engineered or controlled.

  • By contract a Passive House project allows 10 times less air to be exchanged compared to a “code

built" building, and the energy in the air is captured and controlled.

  • Unfortunately you may get Architects and Builders telling you that they can do this, but reality is despite their lack of certification. But PHIUS is the only organization that proves they can by not only issuing certification in the concept but also in real life performance.

2. Durability – the long term durability of the house is a cornerstone of the Passive House concept.

  • PHIUS ensures that the structure is built exceptionally more durable than most any other building projects built today under "normal" code expectations.

  • PHIUS has gone back 20 years, and proven the performance and durability, long term on projects built way back then.

  • PHIUS has only increased and heightened the standards since then.

3. WUFI Energy Modeling - Yet another distinguishing factor is the energy modeling that is performed on a PHIUS certified building. This is a realistic, accurate and very detailed analysis of how the structure will perform by a certified PHIUS energy modeler. This equates to not just an educated guess, but almost a guarantee of the performance of the building.

This provides independent 3rd party verification that the structure is being built to the PHIUS standards

  • A unique feature of PHIUS, is the use of this 3rd party, independent verification that the building was built the way it was designed

  • Verification that the building will perform the way it was modeled

  • Verification that key building energy efficient procedures were in fact built as designed.

  • All of this ensures that the energy modeling is in fact translated into reality on the finished project

If you are not familiar with the Passive House concept you might want to take a look at this website: for a residential project. Of course we also invite you to look at our company website where a Passive House overview can be found HERE. And also at other blog posts on our current project HERE. The purpose of this blog is to document the process of the residential Passive House I am currently building. To help others understand how it is a bit different than a "normal" project both in process and procedure.

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