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What is Passive House?

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

It all started in Saskatchewan in the 1970s with an experimental home, during the energy crisis, trying out a way to save energy by constructing differently. It involved orienting the home for the best gain from the sun, really thick insulated walls, the majority of windows on the South side, innovative Heat Recovery Ventilation system, overhangs, and some solar panels. It garnered attention internationally and some of the principles were taken back to Germany.

Fast forward to 1991, a building was constructed in Darmstadt using these principles and a whole lot of physics. Passive House Standard was created and it has been slowly growing across the world.

Essentially, it is a standard for building that uses very little energy. It can be used on any building type, including existing buildings, and is a tried and true method for creating a comfortable environment, superior indoor air quality, and extremely low energy use.

Imagine this:

  • no drafts,

  • consistent temperature in every room,

  • continual fresh, filtered air,

  • quiet,

  • very low energy bills,

  • Extremely durable construction (no worry of rot, mold)

Yes, please!

On a personal note, I had heard about this standard a few years ago shortly before I started getting bothered by how homes were constructed and the issues I was seeing in my clients lives from the poor construction. I also did not like how wasteful interior design can be and I decided I needed to change how I work and the advice I give my clients.

I took a 3 day course in Vancouver to start and I was hooked. A few months later I toured a Passive House home built by two engineers in Bowness and my husband and I were so impressed with how comfortable and quiet the home was. The next year I took a second course here in Calgary that was held at a Passive House home during a very bitter cold spell; it was comfortable inside despite no furnace. Crazy! One thing I noticed was my sinuses cleared each day I was there and my lungs did not feel heavy. I could also stand right by a window and there was absolutely no chill or draft coming off of it. The worst of it was going home and being chilled and sniffly again.

Since then, I have used my knowledge to guide my clients into making smarter choices with construction, windows, finishes, and giving them an awareness of how to be more sustainable.

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