The availability and affordability of green housing is a concern for many eco-conscioius home buyers in the U.S. today. As green building technology continues to improve, more and more home buyers are realizing the long term benefits of building green.
A recent study by the National Association of Home Builders, reports that the majority of green homeowners would purchase another green home and recommend purchasing a green home to friends.
This weekend, the U.S. Green Building Council-Illinois is organizing the 2014 Green Built Home Tour. All homes on the Green Built Home Tour were third-party verified (or pending verification) to ensure they were built (or being built) to national standards, earning certification through programs such as: ENERGY STAR for Homes, LEED for Homes, the National Green Building Standard, DOE Challenge Home, Illinois GreenStar, and Passive House.
Brandon Weiss, founder and principal of Evolutionary Home Builders in Geneva, IL will present his firm's Uber Haus, a Passive House, that showcases a uniquely extreme approach to energy efficiency at the tour. Green Parent Chicago recently spoke with Weiss of about his firm's Passive House technology and why this method of building can bring more adaptibility and affordability to the market for green home ownership.
According to Weiss, a passive house meets the world's strictest energy efficiency and building science certification. It is also designed and specified to be one of the healthiest homes in the country. The Uber Haus is the 28th home to be built to these stringent standards thus far. Evolutionary Home Builders is seeking Living Building Challenge and LEEDv4 Platinum certifications for the Uber Haus. If acheived, it would be the first such home in Illinois to achieve these certifications.
"Passive is definitely something that makes a ton of sense financially and environmentally," explains Weiss.
The technology behind passive homes optimizes gains and minimizes losses of the home's energy. It is a virtually air-tight building primarily heated by passive solar gain and internal gains from people, electrical equipment, lighting, etc.
Passive home technology reduces the heating and cooling demand on the house by 90 percent. In addition, the special design and construction of the house keeps out moisture which can lead to deterioration and degradation, as well as conductive heat loss. By not having air leaks in the house, drafts are kept out.
"Typically air leaks are the number one source of energy loss in a home," according to Weiss. "Passive house makes sense financially. It's quality construction, better air quality, your getting a higher quality home, lower utilities cost."
The passive house building concept was developed in Urbana, IL by a German architect in the 1970’s. According to The Passive House Institute US, a passive house building can realize net zero energy consumption without applying potentially expensive "active" technologies like photovoltaics or solar thermal hot water systems. Although these can certainly be added to a passive house design. Passive houses do not need a traditional furnace or air conditioning system.
"LEED homes are great for the holistic green approach, but the energy side of that isn’t as great as passive homes," says Weiss. “The absolute easiest way to get [net zero] is a passive home.”
In terms of health and air quality, a passive house has a "balanced ventilation system" and continuous exchanges of air to allow moisture from the kitchen and bathrooms to be exchange for fresh air that is filtered.
Because a passive house is "performance based" Weiss says it is a technology standard that can be applied to various types of construction and sizes of home.
"We don’t concentrate on a certain aesthetics or price," he says. "Passive house can be (very adaptive). Whatever method you can use to get [to passive house certification]. It's open ended, it allows for creativity, it's not just putting points together."
Tour the Uber Haus and 17 other green built homes at the Green Built Home tour, this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Tickets, map and info, available at the link)
-photo credit: Green Built Home Tour