Born in Boston and living in Nashville, I'm continually struck by the fact that Southerners expect air conditioning to be everywhere and running at all times. Enduring the summer swelter just isn't the way it's done down here. New Yorkers and Bostonians, on the other hand, seem almost competitive over who can endure more heat. Corey Saft, an architecture professor at the University of Louisiana, has built himself a home that will keep him cool, even in the heat of the bayou, while barely running the AC. The secret is Passive House, and his is the first in the South.Passive House (known as Passivhaus in Europe) was born in Germany, and while it has spread to places like Denmark and elsewhere, it's still relatively unknown in the US (check out the piece I did for Dwell in '09). Lloyd did a nice job pointing out the differences between the principal of "passive design" and Passive House, which is a formal certification officiated by the Passive House Institute.
Corey Saft took the Passive House model and put it to work in building this elegant 1,200 square-foot, three bedroom, two bath home in Lafayette, Louisiana, adjacent to his own home (read the full press release here). The home uses 90% less energy than a comparable conventional structure, and keeping the house cool in the summer is the job of a small one-ton mini-split air-conditioning system and an energy recovery ventilator (a super-clever device that circulates fresh air through super-sealed houses and boosts energy efficiency).
The walls of Saft's Passive House are extra thick and filled with open-cell spray foam insulation, on which is layered rigid foam board, making the home exceptionally airtight. Natural light is in abundance, and LED and CFL fixtures do the rest. The steel roof system includes a very slick laminated solar electric array that integrates very nicely into the aesthetics. Here's a good cross-section of the basic technologies used in a Passive House.
Passive House has been slow to catch on in the US, but it does seem to be making headway. In many ways, it blows LEED out of the water. But there are few examples of the technique customized for US climates. Katrin Klingenberg's Passive House in Champaign Urbana has been the poster child for years. Perhaps we have a new one?
More on Passive House
Prefab Platinum Prescott Passive House Built on a Budget
Passive Design and Passive House Mean Two Different Things
Passive Houses Get Good Graphic Explanation
The Passive House Guide (Planet Green)