The New York Times ran an interesting piece Zero Energy Construction Crosses the Ocean on “passive house,” or “zero-energy house” concept that is coming to the US from Europe (no surprise there). According to the Passivhaus Institut, these houses “maintain a comfortable interior climate without active heating and cooling systems….achieved through a system of interior and exterior air exchange, an airtight building envelope and energy-saving appliances, among other things. Any additional energy needs can be generated by renewable sources……[and] uses less than a quarter of the energy of a traditionally powered home. There are about 32,000 passive houses worldwide, most of them in Austria and Germany.”
An interesting concept for sure! One might wonder about meeting those “additional energy needs” from renewables, but there are enough small-scale examples of using renewables in the US such that it shouldn’t be insurmountable. But what about comfort, one might ask? These homes won’t be for all, especially in the beginning — the postmoderns and integrals (from ConsumerShift) will likely be the drivers, as they’ll take on the “sacrifice” of what might be less comfort and potentially greater upfront investment before cost savings are realized.
This development speaks to the Soft Path scenario, one of my basic archetype scenarios for the future. It may be too small scale at this point to ring the celebration bell for the Soft Path, but it represents practical progress toward what is a fundamental component of the Soft Path. We have become accustomed to climate control — an active approach that tailors climate to our needs — and this concepts suggests a perhaps-needed re-balancing toward a passive approach in which we tailor our needs to the climate…..Andy Hines