Passive House, or, Passivhaus in its native German, is a global standard for energy efficiency in the domain of building construction and maintenance. The austere regulations associated with the design philosophy are similar to that of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), yet surpasses it in stringency. The ideal product of a Passive House scheme is an ultra-low energy building which utilizes little energy for space heating and cooling. The first Passivhaus residences were constructed in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia in the 1990’s, and their implementation continues to spread globally today. Previous articles from The Grid on the topic may be found at "Retrofit Passivhaus: A Good Approach for Refurbishing Existing Buildings in the United Kingdom?", "Is Whole House Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) Really a Passive Building Approach?", and "Designing an Energy Efficient House in Istanbul – Part 2: Tips for the Design."
The systemized state of urban planning in North America has arguably prevented Passive House home design from materializing within it on the same scale of its Western European counterparts. However, one ambitious North Carolina Construction firm is working to shift the balance.
Anchorage Building Corp. is a certified Passive House builder and has upheld this title by bringing about the construction of the Southeastern U.S.’s first certified Passive Houses. The firm is currently working on what is perhaps their most impassioned project yet; a Passive Neighborhood.
The neighborhood of NewPHire will be the first Net-Positive planned community in North America, and located in the progressive Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Architects and urban planners involved in the plan aim to theoretically have a negative carbon footprint through successful completion of NewPHire. A few elements of the neighborhood to facilitate this, taken from their website, are the construction of solely certified Passive Houses, a community garden, a community solar array, a “bioregional locavore restaurant,” solar car chargers, and a Biofuel pump from the previously covered Piedmont Biofuels. The rough layout of the neighborhood is as follows:
The owner of Anchorage, Chris Senior, derived his sustainable inspiration from the simplicity of rural North Carolina. “Just drive down any country road,” he says, “to see how local farmhouses - built long before central heating and air conditioning - use sensible shade, sun, and seasonally prevailing winds.” He revives this in contemporary discourse by “keeping costs way down, with performance trumping fluff,” with a focus on “supertight, superinsulated, low-load homes with tiny energy usage.” The development of NewPHire will certainly put North Carolina on the vanguard of modern design.
A neighborhood like NewPHire is representative of a communal synthesis of desire and ambition. Where else may this development philosophy be realized?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.