There are perhaps a hundred and fifty Passive Houses in America today. The super-efficient building standard is big in Europe but a niche product in North America; anyone who proposed that it actually become the minimum code requirement would be laughed out of town. But in Ireland's Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County, a near suburb of Dublin, it's now the law.
And for all of those who think this must be extreme, it in fact wasn't that big a step. The building codes there are pretty tight already. And it's not completely a done deal; the national Minister of the Environment, of all people, may challenge it out of concern that it might raise the cost of housing. However the local Passive House Association says that it's not necessarily true, and showed case studies demonstrating that in fact they could build passive houses "at or below conventional build costs."
Writing in Passive House Plus, Pat Barry of the Irish Green Building Council noted that really, it's all about just trades having the skills and doing the job right.
Reaching the standard is largely about skills rather than expensive gadgets. For example, the airtightness requirement is not really an additional cost because you are already required to meet a basic standard under building regulations. Going the extra mile to do it properly just demands an extra layer of skill and attention.
It certainly would not be the same thing in North America, where production builders have been very effective at driving down the price per square foot and the code minimum requirements are so much lower, and the actual hard cost of the house is a much bigger percentage of the whole project. Conditions are definitely different.
Great news: Dublin makes Passive House mandatory in public vote https://t.co/u5mu4hN6Nt— Wolfgang Feist (@WolfgangFeist) February 23, 2016
But as Wolfgang Feist, one of the founders and leaders of the whole Passive House movement notes, it is a very big deal, and something for us to admire and aspire to. Because of this change as many as 20,000 houses could be built in the county, houses that cost almost nothing to heat, produce almost no CO2, and are comfy as can be day or night, sun or no sun. Why not aim so high?