Get Your Passive House Parts at Source 2050

Finally, a website addressing the difficulty of sourcing components for Passive House.

Source 2050

Source 2050

Building to the Passive House standard isn't easy. You have to eliminate thermal bridges, seal it really tightly, insulate well, and use high-quality windows, often with special parts. This isn't easy in North America; you can't just walk into Home Depot or Lowes and pick up the stuff you need. But it's now a bit easier with the launch of Source 2050, a new online store selling products for Passive House construction.

Michael Ingui, a New York architect whose Passive House projects have been on Treehugger, was the founder of the Passive House Accelerator, which got me through the worst of the pandemic with its Wednesday Night Happy Hour. Ingui learned via the Accelerator about the frustrations in the Passive House Community. Ingui felt it too, writing:

 "I have personally felt this frustration on our Passive House projects, despite the relatively robust network of stores and salespeople in the New York City area. Passive House project plans specify particular products and materials that contribute to the insulative and airtightness values necessary for the project to succeed. However, these products and materials are not readily available through the channels that contractors typically use, creating a situation where they either resort to using inadequate products or look to the architect or engineer to source the products for them."

Ingui worked with former lawyer John Knapp to set up Source 2050 to address this problem. I was part of an advisory group and was excited by the concept and by the name, recognizing the need to decarbonize our world by 2050.

While there are existing companies like 475 High Performance Building Supply and Small Planet Supply serving the Passive House community, they can be limited in the number of solutions that they offer; inventory is expensive. An online resource can carry a larger, virtual range of products. Ingui and Knapp write:

"It is our belief that the Passive House and high-performance building communities understand the need to make the process of purchasing high-performance goods as easy as that offered through big box retail. Source 2050 intends to aid this process by offering a consumer-friendly, easy-to-use platform where builders can source and purchase the items necessary to achieve their performance goals. Centralizing the knowledge of what products are used in high-performance buildings and best practices for implementation is the first step to knocking down a large barrier to entry in the high-performance building space. In turn, removing this barrier is a necessary step to achieving market transformation and carving out a carbon-neutral built environment."
Insulation products
Insulation Products.

Source 2050

Take a quick look at the site, and you know you are not in Lowe's anymore; about the only recognizable product on the top of the insulation page is the Soprema XPS board. The others are Glavel, the wonderful foamed recycled glass we covered on Treehugger; an aerogel sheet; Compacfoam, an incredibly dense foam you can stand a building on; Partel, a recycled PET foam material; and "thermal break material 2", which I had never heard of.

This also demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of the brand new site. Click on the Thermal Break Material and you don't get much information about what it actually is. I had to go offsite in order to find that it is a "thermoset reinforced composite, some form of thermosetting plastic."

The Soprema XPS presents a different problem. Here at Treehugger, we have been saying for years that XPS or expanded polystyrene is the worst product you can put in a building from a carbon footprint point of view because of the blowing agents used to foam it. Here again, I had to go offsite to Soprema, and then specifically search for "Soprema blowing agent," to find that this is a board made in Canada and that "the new SOPRA-XPS generation uses a blowing agent that has a GWP that is 99.33% lower than a GWP of 150, which is the maximum threshold allowed by Canadian regulations."

In one of the advisory board meetings, I asked if they could put in the upfront carbon for every product to help designers figure this out, and I was told they would love to if the information were available, but it often isn't. I still think they should ask for it; Soprema had it, and they could have linked to it.

More Insulations

Source 2050

When you scroll further down the insulation section, you find hemp, an insulation with a negative carbon footprint, and wool—both wonderful, hard-to-find all-natural products with the lowest of footprints.

It is a lot to ask of a brand new site, and this one has Passive House as its main focus. As Ingui and Knapp conclude, they are just getting started here: "Our hope is that Source 2050 will continue to develop and include materials and manufacturers to fill the gaps as more and more Passive House buildings are constructed." It will come.

The climate crisis is the issue of our time, and the building industry has been a huge contributor of carbon emissions. Passive House is one of our tickets out of this mess, with buildings that reduce operating emissions to a fraction of conventional buildings, reducing demand and providing resilience. Source 2050 could be part of this solution as well, making it easier and quicker to get Passive House structures built. This is the very exciting start of what I hope will be something big.