Peek into a Passive House during the Open House

Touring Passive House projects should be like trick-or-treating. Alas, they are few and far between in North America.

If you live in Austria or Germany, you are in luck during International Passive House Days, 10 through 12 November. You can barely see the continent under all those Google Map symbols. Check out the map here.

postcard© International Passive House Association

It is not quite the same thing in North America. It is still a bit of a niche product, not helped by an unfortunate schism that has created two standards in the United States, the International Standard and PHIUS.

The Passive House concept started in Europe, where energy costs a lot more than in North America, and where people build to last, so the cost premium for putting in a little more insulation or slightly better windows isn't as much.

But Passive House is a lot more than just about saving energy; it is also about comfort and health, as this Austrian video (with subtitles) explains. As building codes get tighter, and as North American manufacturers start making Passive House quality windows and doors, the spread in cost between a standard custom house or building and a Passive House design is shrinking. As people begin to appreciate the comfort and resilience, demand should grow.

Passve house attributes© International Passive House Association

One New York architect told me that he sometimes doesn't even tell his clients that he is designing to Passive House standards; they don't care. They want the best of everything, the quietest, most comfortable houses and renovations, so he gives them Passive House as a matter of course.

That's probably one of the reasons that there are so few Passive Houses open in Brooklyn for the tours; they are not the kind of houses that people leave open to the public for three days. UPDATE: also, the map is not accurate. Here is a list in the New York area Passive Houses that are open. Note that they are not all open for the full three days.

In Europe, they are not such a luxury, so there are almost as many open houses in little Ireland as there are in all of the USA, and more in little Latvia than in all of North America.

As Zach Semke in this brand new video from the UN notes, our buildings are the cause of 40 percent of CO2 emissions that are causing climate change. I hope that some day going on a Passive House Open House tour will be like trick-or-treating on Halloween, with just about every home in the neighbourhood on it.

Check out New York Passive House here, and Passive House Canada for tours near you.

Tags: New York City | passive house

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