Web tour: NYT: Passive House

Have you seen the so-bad-it’s-good infomercial for the Snuggie? It’s a blanket with sleeves designed for winter, couch slackers. Well, if the Passive House Institute U.S. has its way, there’ll be no market for Snuggies. Last Friday’s New York Times shares the latest in mechanically ventilated, super-insulated, air-tight construction, known as the “passive house,” which will keep you toasty without a conventional furnace. Made popular in Germany by the Passivehaus Institut, it’s a concept slowly finding its way to the States.


The Times reports, “Decades ago, attempts at creating solar-heated homes failed, because of stagnant air and mold. But new passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.”


If you visit the Passive House Institute U.S. website you can view a few sample “passive houses” built in the U.S. One, constructed in 2002/2003, features walls insulated with 12 inches of blown-in fiberglass plus 4 inches of exterior rigid polystyrene. The roof of that same building is insulated with 16 inches of blown-in fiberglass. The concrete slab is insulated with 14 inches of expanded polystyrene and the foundation perimeter is insulated with 6 inches of expanded polystyrene. Wow. It also features triple-glazed windows.

The Passive House Institute U.S. estimates that a “passive house” requires an approximately 10 percent additional upfront investment. It may be more depending on location and building design. As the Times article notes, “Compact shapes are simpler to seal, while sprawling homes are difficult to insulate and heat…Most passive houses allow about 500 square feet per person, a comfortable though not expansive living space.”


Until “passive houses” catch on here, the folks at Snuggie needn’t worry.

by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast