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Passive House-Olympian Article

John Dodge, of The Olympian, wrote an article about us that appeared on the front page of last Sunday’s paper. You can read the online article here.

This is reposted.

Passive homes for those committed to the environment

THE OLYMPIAN | • Published May 16, 2010

The next generation of energy-efficient homes is about to make its debut in South Sound. Passive homes is an architectural design that eliminates the need for a central heating and cooling system in a building through super insulation, airtight construction that wipes out thermal bridges, and high-tech heat recovery and ventilation systems that maintain air quality.

The design was born in Germany about 15 years ago. Since, some 20,000 homes, schools and office buildings worldwide have been built to Passive House standards, reducing space heating costs by 75 percent to 90 percent in the process. But only a few of those projects are in the United States.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems we’re often slow to embrace ideas for sustainable, sensible living from other countries.

The Artisans Group architect (*Correction, Tessa is not a licensed architect) Tessa Smith is the only certified Passive House consultant in South Sound. Her enthusiasm for the future of passive homes is almost contagious.

In your Passive House, a hair dryer or a candle or a coil from the hot water heater could be your central heating source, she said.

The Passive House takes energy efficiency to a new level, she said. A case in point: While the premium to construct a $325,000 home built to code climbs about 7 percent using passive standards, the homeowner can recover those extra costs within five years through reduced energy costs. After that, there are savings to be had, year after year.

Passive Homes builds on the progress in energy efficiency marked by “Built Green” and LEED-certified construction, said Zeta Kelly, advertising director for The Artisans Group.

“I’ve been in the energy business for 25 years,” Kelly said. “This is the first time the housing market has been ready for this.”

Smith is working with five clients interested in Passive House projects, including DT and Kim North of Olympia, who have a design for a 2,400-square-foot home on Marion Street in Olympia.

“We did a bunch of research on Passive House. It’s not a fad; it may be the model for the future,” DT North said. If all goes well, the Norths’ project should be under construction in late June or early July.

North said the energy savings are appealing and the design is the right thing to do, if people are serious about reducing their reliance on greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels.

“We can buy hybrid cars and install energy-efficient heating systems, but if we really want to make a difference, this makes more sense,” he said.

We’ll keep an eye on the North housing project as it moves through the city building permit and construction stages; it should be interesting.