7 stunning passive houses (that won't cost much to heat this northern winter) | RenewEconomy

7 stunning passive houses (that won’t cost much to heat this northern winter)

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Passive houses are not just energy efficient, they can be stunning pieces of architecture too!

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Shrink That Footprint

7 Stunning Passive Houses

It is getting cold here in England, and I’m preparing for the yearly tradeoffs between comfort, carbon emissions and heating bills that are part of living in a house with reasonable but not great insulation.

For the 30,000 or so owners of passive houses these compromises are a thing of the past.  They’ve got the comfort, the low emissions and barely a heating bill to speak of.  I’ve looked at the technical reasons about why a passivhaus has a negligible heating bill in the past.  But I’ve never mentioned how pretty they can be.

Here are 7 stunners from around the world!


1: The Hudson Passive Project, Hudson, NY, United States
2: La Maison Bambou, Val d’Oise, France
Fab lad house
3: FabLab House, Madrid, Spain
4: Crossways, Kent, United Kingdom
5: Passivhaus (the original), Darmstadt, Germany


Sweden Round
6: Villa Nyberg, Borlänge, Sweden

Studio Moffit
7: House on Limekiln Line, Huron County, ON, Canada
One day, when I’ve got the cash, land and time . . . .

Which one floats your boat??


Source: Shrink That Footprint. Reproduced with permission.


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  1. MorinMoss 7 years ago

    From Nov 8-10, 2013, there’ll be an international viewing of existing Passive Houses.

    I found 279 listings in mostly in Germany but also a dozen in Spain, several in Sweden, Japan, Canada, even a couple in Estonia


  2. MorinMoss 7 years ago

    The captions on the last 2 photos are incorrect.

    According to the original link at Shrink That Footprint, they are in Sweden and Canada

  3. singingfish 7 years ago

    I’ve got a new build that I hope will be net zero in due course. North facing steel framed kit house with a north facing concrete bunker underneath. Done not too bad in the recent heat considering it’s not quite finished. I reckon it looks better than the houses around it, but the bar is generally pretty low in Australia 😉

  4. RobS 7 years ago

    As much as I love the concept of deep energy efficiency keep in mind we are entering a new paradigm. In years past even the deepest energy efficiency measures were almost always cheaper than solar power meaning that if you wanted a net zero energy home the best way to go about it was to reduce energy usage as much as possible and then install solar to produce the tiny remaining usage. Solar’s cost has now dropped to such low levels that many of the deepest and most expensive energy efficiency measures are now more expensive per kWh saved then solar per kWh generated. No doubt many efficiency measures such as efficient lighting and appliances and many others are still worthwhile however some of the more expensive aspects of Passivhaus designs such as extreme levels of building envelope air tightness and then the use of very expensive ventilation systems to capture all heat from the outgoing air cost far more per kWh saved then it would cost to install adequate solar to generate an equivalent number of kWh.

    If your going off grid entirely then the situation still favors deep efficiency as it also allows you to reduce the size of the battery bank needed, particularly efficient heating as long winter periods of heating use with minimal solar generation is one of off grid solar’s weakest points.

    However in the grid connect area one needs to carefully look at the cost of various options as the old solar mantra of; cut consumption as much as possible first and then size the solar for what’s left, starts to breakdown as solar costs plummet.

    • Sean 7 years ago

      interesting rob, but i would love to see some figures as to the cost of “very expensive ventilation systems to capture all heat from the outgoing air”

      AFAIK the very expensive system consists of a pair of heat sinks back to back with the inflowing air on one side and the outgoing air on the other,
      with an air-conditioner on either side accentuating the heat transfer

      it would seem like it would be not much more expensive than a ducted air-conditioner.

      Concerning solar being so cheap that energy efficiency is more expensive, i don’t believe that we are at a point where residential solar is that cheap, especially for new houses.

      • RobS 7 years ago

        The HRV device themselves aren’t that expensive, the cost comes from the fact that they are largely ineffective unless installed in a building with air leakage coefficients less than 1-2 l/h at 50pa. Achieving these levels of air tightness adds significantly to the cost of construction in some cases by $20-$30,000. If such a system saves the same amount of power as a $10,000 (~2-3kw) solar array then it is economically better to simply add the solar. In its early days solar was up to $40/watt and just 7 years ago it was $15/watt at which point obviously such deep efficiency measures provided better returns on investment, however the large solar price reductions have flipped that situation around in many cases.

        I specifically said that many energy efficiency measures were cheaper then additional solar, however my point was some of the more expensive strategies employed, which were cheaper than additional solar when solar was $10-$20/W, have now become more expensive with solar at $3-5/watt in the US and way more expensive here in Australia with solar at $1.70W installed. Some efficiency measures like earthbound houses add as much as $50,000 to the cost of a home, it is these efficiency measures to which I refer. My point is that it was almost universally true that any efficiency measure was economically superior to solar, now that assumption must be examined and the equation will continue to move in favor of solar as solar costs continue to fall.

        • juxx0r 7 years ago

          I think you’re getting carried away with air leakage, particularly in Australia where the difference between a desirable internal temperature and the external temperature is both much less than other parts of the world but also the duration given diurnal temperature differences is significantly reduced. For example a hot summers day where it gets to 45 degrees out, might get to 20 degrees overnight, contrast this to northern Europe where -40 overnight warms up to -30. Our delta is 25 degrees for several hours, theirs is 50-60 degrees for the whole day.

          In Australia, it’s possible given correct design, using conventional building materials and methods to build a house where the internal temperature is appropriate for greater than 95% of the year at no additional cost over a poorly designed house.

          At this point i tend to agree that’s it’s not worth sticking in $20k of additions to sort the other 5% of the year, and a $600 aircon is more cost effective.

          • RobS 7 years ago

            My point is that others are getting carried away with air leakage, net zero energy can be achieved with solar cheaper then by employing many of the more expensive aspects of passivhaus design.

          • juxx0r 7 years ago

            Still got now idea why they call it passive house, when a properly designed house works hard for you.

    • Ian Garradd 7 years ago

      Solar is excellent sure, but when the sun goes down or behind clouds, it wont do anything to counteract the energy used and wasted in a house.

      It still makes perfect sense to reduce potential waste in the first instance

      • RobS 7 years ago

        It does to a certain degree, beyond that degree you get increasingly expensive efficiency mods for diminishing returns. The corollary of what I am saying would be to say; All efficiency improvements no matter how exorbitantly expensive are cheaper than solar power. If you don’t believe that statement is true then you must agree with my initial statement. All I am saying is that if solar can produce at say 15c/kWh then any efficiency measure that costs more then 15c/kWh saved over it’s lifetime is less cost effective than adding additional solar.

        When talking about night time energy use and utilising solar the comparison is not just the cost of solar but the cost of solar plus the cost of storing it, therefore say it costs you 15c/kwh to generate solar power and 20cents per killowatt hour to store it for overnight use then any efficiency measure that costs less than 35c/kwh saved becomes justifiable. However if adding an additional layer of hyper efficient insulation for a small increase in efficiency costs 40c/kWh saved then you are economically better off foregoing that particular efficiency measure in favor of adding a little more solar and storage instead.

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