Sunday, August 28, 2011

What it is and what it isn't.

At this week's meeting with our architect Jamie, we were shown a wonderfully informative PowerPoint presentation about the Passive House Planning Package.  The PHPP, once again over simply, is a monstrous spreadsheet containing hundreds of different elements that effect a house's energy performance.  There are factors assigned to each of the different building variables which, when all of the numbers are calculated, will give the building a pass or fail score. The certification criteria is specific to 1) energy required for heating, 2) total specific primary energy demand, and 3) air changes (air tightness) of the building.  In other words, Passive House is about energy usage.  After the house is built, there is a rigorous certification process requiring lots and lots of documentation and an inspection.  When completed, it's either Yes or No, certified or not. 

Many people confuse the term Passive House with Passive Solar, LEED certified, or a Green Building.  Yes, passive solar gains can be a large factor in achieving Passive House standard.  Many people who are interested in Passive House strive to use "green" materials and crate as small a carbon footprint as possible with their home.  They are related but not the same.  I just wanted to clarify what Passive House is and what it isn't.

My friend Ellen Sinreich, a LEED Accredited Professional (, said to me, "You don't have to stop there."  We should also be concerned with things like water consumption, the materials we choose,  the energy it takes to manufacture or import materials, etc.  We plan on using low VOC paints, rapidly renewable flooring materials like bamboo and cork, and as many local materials as possible.  I'll also plant a large organic vegetable garden and several fruit trees.  Man! I can't wait to live in this house.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome to our new (but not yet built) home.

Thanks for your interest in Our Connecticut Passive House.  We are the Honig Family and we are embarking on the domestic adventure of our lifetime.  We are building a Passive House (or Passivhaus) in Harwinton, CT, a lovely town in the Litchfield Hills. For those who are not familiar with the term, oversimply, Passive House is a German developed standard of building/design creating an ultra-insulated, ultra-energy efficient building.  Our home will have a sealed envelope (no air leakage) and a heat exchange fresh air ventilation system to retain most of the internal temperature.  And here is the kicker, No Furnace.  That is the part most people react to when I describe PH, especially in New England.  More later on how we arrived at the decision to build a PH.  For now I would like to explain where we are in our process and why I'm blogging about it.
We have purchased a lovely 2 acre piece of land that we affectionatley call "our patch of dirt".  We have hired a wonderful PH certified architect, Jamie Wolf ( and are deep in the design process with him and his staff. We have weekly design meetings and the preliminary design drawings look great.  At tomorrow's meeting Jamie will show us the energy model of our house design acording to the PH standard.

While we were exploring the possibility of a PH, I did a lot of web research.  One of the more helpful resources was other folks' blogs about the process of building and finally living in their Passive Houses.  It helped me to feel that we too could create this type of domocilic lifestyle of environmental responsibility and comfort.  I would like this blog to surve that same purpose,  to inform and inspire others.  Sharing information and experiences.  How can we effect change in the world with our own little patch of dirt?