Passive housing, modeled from the original German Passivhaus technology, is commonly known for high insulation, low or no reliance on grid energy, and all around energy efficiency.
This kind of green building is associated with some of the most stringent design and building practices and running analysis in the sector. It is founded on the notion of sustainable operation through a natural moderation of interior temperatures – achieved through an airtight design – with ventilation taking place through a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV).
“What Passivhaus technology is, is basically a building-physics methodology for modeling the energy performance of buildings very accurately and fairly easily,” said Adam Cohen, Passivhaus planner and co-founder of Structures Design Build.
Creating a building using these principles – and in so doing, becoming the first of its kind – is the Center of Energy Efficient Design (CEED) in Rocky Mount, Virginia. CEED stands as the first public school to be built using Passivhaus principles and currently uses 68 per cent less energy to run than conventionally-developed schools.
“We knew Passivhaus technology would deliver on results, but it’s always gratifying to get a year’s worth of data to see how accurate the predictions turn out,” says Cohen. “It’s clear this relatively new technology is here to stay.”
The results to which he refers consist of the 10,050 kWh of energy used within the first year of running, which compares incredibly favourably to a relative standard building’s output of 33,852 kWh of energy.
The building will stand as an education prototype, teaching both students and the US industry, though the latter has not yet shown a notable interest in that particular green building practice.
“The idea is that the CEED building will be a central piece of the teaching in this county,” says Cohen. “The other piece of this that’s really cool is that the teachers are going to take all the lesson plans from the CEED and put it on the Web for any teacher, anywhere in the world to access. They can use the real-time data of the building, in terms of energy saved and water conserved, in their lessons.”
Much like a number of developments in educational facilities here in Australia, the Virginia-based school will use its own monitoring systems as dual teaching/learning tools, using the building as an instrument of – in addition to being a site for – learning.
CEED stands as one of the strongest promotional examples of the passive building technique in the US. However, as Cohen attests, as the running results of these building are collected, their popularity only increases.