Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What the heck is Passive anyway? And what's Net Zero?

As we start down the path of building not only our first home together, but building to Passive and/or Net Zero standards, we thought people might like some information on "just what the heck is this anyway?" And "why all the fuss about this building style?"

Well, we're still learning, but the research has been enlightening and fun! Here's a quick synopsis for starters.

Passive Homes
The Canadian Passive House Institute has extensive information on what goes into a passive house. From building shape, to insulation, to solar exposure - it all comes down to the site and building plans, materials, and insulation and heat exchange.

Net Zero Homes
The Canadian Home Builders Association had a pilot program running recently, and they've posted some great information on their website.  Here's a simple graph to explain.


While both Passive and Net Zero are more expensive styles of construction, they just seem to be the right thing to do when considering a new build. Aligning the home using Passive methodology. Using locally sourced and/or produced materials wherever possible, using products which take lower amounts of non-renewable fossil fuels to manufacture, and using only renewable energy sources to live in and power the home. It's really a matter of thinking past those "granite countertops and walk-in closets" which often seem to make up the lions-share of home design discussions.

Importantly, with the cost of energy continuing to go up (as everything does), the return on investment is an easier pill to swallow. There's really no apples-to-apples comparison in up-front costs. So when we make a choice to build a new home, just like in any business operation, we need to think longer-term about our effect on the planet, not just on what it costs to run a household. Think back to the 70's before littering was against the law - people threw things out their car windows all the time. Then recycling came into the norm, non-plastic grocery bags, then composting, and now buying local unpackaged produce whenever possible; and buying products made with recycled materials. Construction trends have been changing as well. Starting with LEED standards about 10 years ago, and green building initiatives. It's a natural progression to Net-zero and Passive building. One day it will seem as strange to build a non-passive, high energy usage house, as it does to throw composting in with our landfill garbage.

Our construction numbers aren't in yet - in terms of overall cost to build. While our house design is not large by today's standards, we're prepared that we may need to adjust some of our lofty construction and design goals to fit our budget. But we're committed to doing as much as we can to get close to net-zero and passive.

Oh, and those granite countertops?  Not even on our list...

Stay tuned for our next blog - "Our Property - What got us to Here?"

Our Property....and What Led us to this Project

Oh Where To Begin....I guess right from the start. Our path to this decision has been a long one. It started 13 years ago when we stumbled...