Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to combat climate change, clean the air we breathe, improve the competitiveness of our businesses and reduce energy costs for consumers. And Habitat for Humanity may be onto something with its new range of “passive” homes that aggressively save energy.
The passive standard is buoyed by efforts to fight climate change, because buildings account for 40 percent of total U.S. energy use and 10 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. In September, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed it as one way to help the Big Apple meet its goal of slashing emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050
Three miles northeast of the White House, now topped with solar panels, six modest new rowhouses are expected to deliver world-class savings in energy. The reason’s simple: They’re so well sealed and insulated that they perform just like a coffee thermos. No furnaces are needed, because they’re projected to use up to 90 percent less energy than a typical house. Built partly by volunteers, these low-budget Habitat for Humanity homes—now nearing completion—don’t look like anything special. They have basic brick facades like others in their gentrifying Ivy City neighborhood.
They stand out in other ways: 12-inch-thick exterior walls and triple-pane, imported-from-Ireland windows offer more than double the insulation required of new homes. In lieu of a furnace, tiny, wall-mounted Mitsubishi units provide heating and cooling. Set to house low-income families, the rowhouses are on track to do something the president’s place nearby has not—meet perhaps the world’s strictest energy rubric: Passive House, popularized in uber-efficient Germany and now gaining ground in the United States.
Read more here.