an integrated design approach to ultra-low energy buildings and passive systems



It is eminently achievable to build our homes, schools and businesses to use 100% less energy with technology that is available now–at no extra cost. That is, if well designed, it can be the same or lower cost to own and operate a net zero energy building than one that barely meets the building code, when the whole picture of ownership—design, mortgage, energy and maintenance costs—are taken into account. At the same time, these buildings are more comfortable, have sustained or higher market value, greater energy security, peace of mind, and a continuous supply of fresh air.

Buildings are the dominate greenhouse gas emitter consuming half of the country’s overall energy and three-quarters of electricity.  Fossil fuel dependence is risky business. Long term investment in fossil fuel infrastructure ties us to unpredictable and price-volatile resources that contaminate our water, air and soil, destroy habitat, and cost billions in health impacts, military maneuvers, reactive climate adaptation and disaster response.

Energy efficiency, and in particular, extensive, deep energy efficiency, is the most cost-effective, whole-system way to deal with the costs of the nation’s aging power infrastructure and global climate impacts. Widespread application of the Passive House standard, 2030 Challenge, 1000 Home Challenge, and net zero energy construction is a cost-effective way for us as a society to avoid massive investment in building new power plants, helping to keep power affordable while creating more jobs. Passive Houses make a tremendous contribution to public health through reduced coal-fired power plant emissions, worth about $150,000 over a home’s life.* The initial investment in a Passive House is especially valuable for those with fixed or low incomes, resulting in a monthly positive cash flow and providing disposable income that can be recycled in the local economy. It is estimated that the energy savings of the Berea Passive House will pay for one-third of the home’s mortgage.


*These emissions have been found to cost society 17ȼ or more per kilowatt hour due to increased rates of heart attack, stroke, asthma and mental and reproductive abnormalities and other environmental impacts.



Passive House is the world’s highest energy efficiency standard today. A Passive House TM is a comprehensive system. The combination of a very well insulated building envelope, triple pane windows, thermal breaks, a well-defined and installed air tight layer and efficient whole-house ventilation make it possible to heat a building primarily with the energy from the sun and waste heat from people and appliances. The remainder can be met by a tiny HVAC system. The result is that Passive House owners’ investments go toward the building itself, value that is long-lived relative to that of expensive and often complicated “high tech” mechanical systems. These simple and small mechanical systems have fewer parts and require less maintenance. Moreover, freeze protection is built in so that buildings can be left unattended without worry of damaged pipes since a Passive House will maintain an interior temperature well above freezing without any input.