Passive House is an international building standard developed by the Passive House Institute (PHI), which is located in Darmstadt, Germany. Building to the Passive House Standard recognizes buildings which have been optimized through passive measures and components such as insulation, air-tightness, heat recovery, solar heat gains, solar shading and incidental internal heat gains. Buildings which meet the Passive House Standard, then, could be said to reliably deliver up to a 90% reduction in heating and cooling demand- and up to a 75% reduction in overall energy demand – when compared to existing building stock. Last week at the North American Passive House Network 2014 Conference & Expo in Portland, Maine, NAPHN announced that a new Passive House Standard will recognize net zero and net plus homes. The new standards will be named “Passive Plus” for net zero homes, and “Passive Premium” for homes that generate more electrical energy than they use.
“The ability to acknowledge surplus energy generation in highly efficient house buildings will provide incentives for owners and developers. They can get credit for efforts that go well beyond code minimum targets for efficiency,” said Ken Levenson, President of NYPH.
Not everyone is so enthused, however, with some industry-watchers showing concerns that new standards would reduce the focus on energy efficiency that is the current Passive House’s claim to fame. Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute of Darmstadt, Germany, recently noted: “A building that produces an energy surplus only in summer doesn’t necessarily have a good energy balance. Photovoltaic systems typically yield little in winter, which is exactly when we have peak loads from heating. But there is good news: It can work with a reasonable amount of storage, it can be sustainable – but the heating energy demand itself also has to be very low. The primary consideration with respect to energy will always be: efficiency first. The Passive House Standard is the appropriate solution for this approach.”
Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), the software used to design to Passive House standards, will be updated in 2015 to include the new standards.