05   /   08   /   2020

With a rise in green building technologies and talk of sustainability, many people may be asking, what really helps? Why should I be paying hundreds of dollars on solar panels when my neighbor down the street is sitting on their computer all day posting on Facebook to save the whales? Well the answer to the initial question is simple: Passive House.

Josh, owner - architect and contractor at Bonsai Design + Build, just became a Certified Passive House Designer for this reason. He believes that attainable architecture for everyone can be found in a few basic principles. The big advantage to this method is that everyone can participate in this “green revolution” without installing wind turbines in the backyard. Gone are the days of only new builds becoming “sustainable”. Recently Bonsai Design + Build remodeled an existing historic residence called the Congress Park Rehab. Built in 1916, this house was in a landmarks district alongside dwellings built around the same time if not earlier. Not only were we tasked with retaining the historical significance of the building, we had to bring it into the current century. By utilizing passive house philosophies, Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) and minisplits were installed to transport and cleanse air throughout the house. All the existing brick walls were insulated from the inside to create a thermal envelope. This produced consistent temperatures within each individual room and restricted thermal bridging and energy loss out of the house. All windows were restored and transformed into double pane retrofits to maintain the historical significance. All this said, we later found out that the average energy bill hovers around $10-$15 a month. They had even seen it at $5 on months when they have been largely out of town! It is remarkable to think that by using effective methods of design and construction, any building can be transformed into a high performance, comfortable space.

Passive House can be a straightforward way to design or remodel any house in a way that is energy efficient and sustainable for everyone. This way of construction is a methodology for obtaining a standard of comfort that composes of rethinking the way we design in terms of energy loss and consumption. There are 5 main pillars that passive houses typically follow:

 

Highly Insulated Envelope

Thermal Bridge Free Construction

Airtight Construction

High Performance Windows and Solar Gains

Ventilation with Heat Recovery

 

By using these basic ideas or properly insulating, allowing for light and heat in through windows, and creating airtight construction, everyone can save money on utility and maintenance costs and reduce the demand on non-renewables. This is true long term sustainability!