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Passive House History

In the last two weeks, I’ve had several folks around the Seattle and Olympia area ask me about the origins of the Passive House Standard. Rather than build a better mousetrap, I grabbed the text below from Wikipedia, reputed to be very accurate.*

See full Wikipedia post.

Passive House History

The Passive House standard originated from a conversation in May 1988 between Professors Bo Adamson of Lund University, Sweden, and Wolfgang Feist of the Institut für Wohnen und Umwelt (Institute for Housing and the Environment ). Their concept was developed through a number of research projects , aided by financial assistance from the German state of Hesse. The eventual building of four row houses (also known as terraced houses or town homes) was designed for four private clients by architects professor Bott, Ridder and Westermeyer.

The first Passivhaus buildings were built in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1990, and occupied the following year. In September 1996 the Passivhaus-Institut was founded in Darmstadt to promote and control the standard. Since then, thousands of Passive Houses have been built, to an estimate of 15,000 currently most of them in Germany and Austria, with others in various countries worldwide.

After the concept had been validated at Darmstadt, with space heating 90% less than required for a standard new building of the time, the ‘Economical Passive Houses Working Group’ was created in 1996. This developed the planning package (modeling software) and initiated the production of the novel components that had been used, notably the windows and the high-efficiency ventilation systems. Meanwhile further passive houses were built in Stuttgart (1993), Naumburg, Hesse, Wiesbaden, and Cologne (1997) .

The products developed for the Passivhaus were further commercialized during and following the European Union sponsored CEPHEUS* project, which proved the concept in 5 European countries over the winter of 2000-2001.

In North America the first Passivhaus was built in Urbana, Illinois in 2003, and the first to be certified was built near Bemidji, Minnesota in Waldsee, the German camp of the Concordia Language Villages in 2006. The world’s first standardised pre-fabricated passive house was built in Ireland in 2005 by Scandinavian Homes, a Swedish company that has since also built passive houses in England and Poland.

*Mike Karnegis, one of the primary leaders in Passive House in this country, confirmed for me that the Wikipedia information is accurate.

*(Cost Efficient Passive Houses as European Standards) was a research project that assessed and validated the German Passivhaus energy efficient building standard on a European scale. The project was sponsored by the European Union as part of the THERMIE programme, with Dr Wolfgang Feist (co-originator of the Passivhaus concept) as scientific director [1].Under CEPHEUS, 14 housing developments were built, resulting in a total of 221 homes constructed to the Passivhaus standard. 84 were in Austria, 72 in Germany, 40 in France, 20 in Sweden and 5 in Switzerland.The project proved the concept through in-use measurements during the winter of 2000-2001. It also spurred the commercial development of the necessary technologies, at least in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.