Neighbors and visitors to the Phinney Neighborhood Center might be wondering why a small house showed up in the lower parking lot last weekend. No, we haven’t decided to build a mobile home community in our parking lot to bring in extra revenue—it’s the Mini-B Passive House, demonstrating super-efficient building techniques at the PNA for the next 6 months—starting with an open house on January 15.
Designed by Joseph Giampietro, Certified Passive House Consultant, and built by students at the SCCC Wood Construction Center, the Mini-B is one of the first Passive Houses built in the State of Washington. At the end of the demonstration period, the house will be sold to become a backyard cottage.
What’s a Passive House anyways? You may have heard of its granddaddy, the passive solar house, a technique developed in the 70’s in the US, but largely abandoned here because of cheap energy in the 80’s and concerns about indoor air-quality. The Germans took the idea to the next level, building a house so well-insulated and air-tight that it takes advantage of body heat and waste heat from appliances, as well as sunshine—hence “Passivhaus”. Meanwhile, they solved the indoor-air quality problems with a heat-recovery ventilator, which transfers heat from outgoing stale air to incoming fresh air, providing great indoor air quality without losing heat. The result is a very comfortable home that uses up to 90% less energy for heating than a traditional home. Over 20,000 projects have been completed in Europe, from row houses to swimming pools.
Now Passive House is coming to the US in a big way. Just a handful of projects have been completed to date, but a surge of new projects is on its way, accompanied by newly certified professionals and increased awareness. The techniques aren’t limited to just new homes, or even homes that are going for the Passive House certification. Adding insulation, improving framing techniques, eliminating “thermal bridging,” and sealing air leaks are all core components of Passive House design that can be used in retrofits and any new construction. In fact, the Mini-B uses mostly standard building materials and only uses materials available to any homeowner.
Passive House occupants say their homes have a special feel—no drafts, no cold walls, exceptionally quiet. When you visit the Mini-B at the PNA, you’ll be able to see some of the special building techniques, like the air sealing around the windows. More importantly, you can feel the comfort difference in this house—and know that it saves a lot of energy.
Visit the Passive House:
1/15 10am-1pm: Open House with architect Joe Giampietro.
1/30: Home Design and Remodel Fair, featuring a presentation with architect Joe Giampietro on Passive House design ,and Open House all day.
If you know a professional or student group who would like a tour, or you would like to stay updated about Mini-B tours, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 206-783-2244.