Passive House in Maine Will Demonstrate How US Homes Could Use 10% of Normal Energy
This 1,500 square foot house could qualify for LEED Platinum. But, even better, it is trying for the much more rigorous energy certification: a Passive House Certificate based on the German PassivHaus requirements. And at a projected $225,000, this is very instructive for America at a time when the administration is trying to upgrade US housing stock to be EnergySmart.
Building with mass-production practices like the use of SIPS, Maine architect Matt O’Malia and builder Alan Gibson collaborate at Gâ€¢O Logic to make green design a practical and affordable reality.
Utilizing PassivHausPlanning software, developed by the originators of PassivHaus design in Germany, the pair have been able to reduce the energy consumption to near zero simply with fanatical air sealing that stops thermal bridging.
Once completed, the house will be rented to a local family and open for tours on a limited basis. Gâ€¢O Logic will monitor the performance of the building over two years to verify the energy use targets were achieved.
In the meantime, several very informative videos go into the details of the Passive House construction, and this year,Â Passive House Consultants training classes are offered for architects by Katrin Klingenberg, of “Homes for a Changing Climate.”
Because no US window manufacturer makes Passive House level windows, they used German triple-glazed double argon-filled windows that seal super tight when closed because of thermal breaks on the frame and sash – as they are aluminum on the outside and sheathed in pine on the inside. US windows with low E coatings on the glass only allow 30% of the heat in. Then the thermal performance is bad for a cold climate like Maine’s.
These windows by contrast accept 60% of the solar warmth in, while being so well insulated that once that warmth is inside, none escapes outside, making the windows solar collectors – not reflectors.
The very specific energy modeling in the software allows them to calculate the exact size needed for the solar collector windows, given the exact heat loss of this house, to reduce the energy needs of the house by 90%. Normally homes in Maine rely on heating oil for heat. The relatively small solar power off the roof supplies just electricity. This home will need only 10% of the heating oil of other homes in Maine.