I was talking with my students about Passive Houses last week, which are designed to be so well insulated that they require no heating system – just the body heat from a few people will do (think of it as the principle of a four-season sleeping bag, applied to the whole house).

But I hadn’t realised that they’re starting to catch on in North America, and even that they’ll work in places like Minnesota…


  1. Someone told me that the energy efficiency requirements in N.A. are orders of magnitude weaker than Europe. And that this explains the great number of all-glass condos in a city that is routinely below freezing 4-5 months of the year. Is this true?

  2. with the future oil crisis these standards shoud be applied world wide to all new buildings, and please stop also air-conditioning in summer, waste of perfectly good energy that could be used for traffic that has to continue in order to not have food riots and other such unpleasances coming to your door

  3. Friends of mine are building a near-passive house in Vermont.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Passive houses need no heating | Serendipity -- Topsy.com

  5. The first “passive house” in Germany was built in 1991. Today there are a couple of thousands of passive buildings in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, including a house in the Alps (you can see a picture of one in the German Wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passivhaus).

    I’ve heard of a program of either the German government or the EU to pass a legislation that all newly built houses have to be passive houses, starting in 2015 or 2020 or somewhere in between, but am not sure about the current status.

    The German government recently tried to make heat insulation obligatory for all buildings (meaning that all house owners would have had to pay for the necessary upgrades), but the legislative initiative ran into serious opposition and was abandoned.

  6. One key question for refitting older buildings is handling condensation.

    A properly built new structure seals the dry insulation, so air can’t move through it and water can’t condense in it.

    An old building leaks. A builder friend of mine has remarked on the number of hundred-year-old buildings that are suddenly rotting after being insulated.

  7. Hank Roberts, yes, I’m living in an 80-year old building and everything must be chosen with that in mind… we chose the more expensive paint and left a ventilation gap in the unheated hallway, figured the leaks from the apartments are enough to provide sufficient air/moisture flow, there are couple buildings in the neigborourhood that are rotting from the wrong choice of paint. Otherwise the ventilation in the building is only gravity-assisted, (chimney, I have a working wood-burning brick-stove like this (http://www.rakentaja.fi/artikkelit/artikkelikuva.asp?ver=2&id=11556) that I sometimes use to dry things up…) funny to see how the air pressure/moisture outside influences the amount of condensation to the doubled windows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *