Evaluating a PassiveHaus? Measurable and Hidden Benefits
Photo provided by www.MelanieMcCloskey.com
How do you gauge the value of a home? Is it the amount of money spent in acquiring a property to house you and your belongings? Or maybe it is the location that adds worth to your abode. Could it be when you walk in the front door for the first time and realize ‘I’m home’? Or maybe it’s when you have the coolest house on the block. Many differing aspects create value and most of us have a hard time vocalizing just what makes a house valuable. Then the Passive House “Passivhaus” standard comes along, adding even more to consider.
Passivhauses do have measurable values. The buildings are systematically programmed from the beginning for energy conservation. Some of the components of a Passivhaus are air tightness, thickly insulated walls, high-performance windows, and a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV). The houses are also designed incorporating such concepts such as thermal mass, ratio of floor area to exterior surface area, and less temperature variation.
But the story of worth in a Passivhaus doesn’t end with facts and numbers, it includes other more intangible benefits. Tatiana, who lives in a house built to Passivhaus standards in Portland, Oregon, has begun to realize some of these hidden benefits. She has seen the low utility bills and enjoyed some buzz about living in the one of the first Passivhauses in the Northwest. But as she comes up on her ten-month anniversary in the house she reflects on some merits that are not so easily expressed in dollars.
One of the first impressions upon entering the house is that when the door closes the outside world seems to disappear, or at least the sounds do. Passivhauses have substantial wall insulation and the windows have additional glass panes. These combine to silence the outside world. As the sound of the outside world fades into the distance, your tenseness begins to evaporate.
Walking through the house, your head tips back slightly and you breathe in. The air is fresh. Passivhauses use Heat Recovery Ventilators (also called Energy Recovery Ventilators). HRV/ERVs exhaust stale air while bringing in fresh and filtered outside air 24/7. Tatiana has suffered from allergies for years but since living in a Passivhaus, her allergies have disappeared.
Tatiana likes to keep the floor clean and a stack of shoes at the front door as a signal to visitors to remove their shoes. Your bare feet can feel the warmth in both the wood-covered entry floor and the stained and polished concrete main floor. But it’s not just the floor temperature you notice, the air seems warmer and the home is less drafty. In Passivhauses the construction minimizes “heat stratification.” This means that while most houses experience temperatures that can vary from floor to ceiling by as much as 8 to 10 degrees, in a Passivhaus it usually varies by only one to two degrees. The word ‘cozy’ comes to mind when describing the air.
Passivhauses have attributes that are quantifiable. Most of the extra costs to construct a Passivhaus can be recouped within a period of a few years. Beyond the cash value, the experience is less verifiable. “Tranquil,” “relaxing,” and “fresh” are some of the adjectives used to describe living in a Passivhaus. For those who want bragging rights -- and who doesn’t -- being able to boast about quality of life as well as a low energy bill may be the tipping point that can persuade homebuyers of the value of these unique homes.