Discovering More Benefits of Passive House Design and Building Strategies
We’ve just come through one of the most devastating fire seasons in California history. Besides putting an exclamation point on hotter, dryer conditions worsened by the effects of climate change, it presents real opportunities for us to examine how we design and build homes and other structures. And it raises awareness of our ability to create fire resistant homes and protect occupants from harmful smoke that impairs indoor air quality. While we may not be able to make homes fireproof, building science shows us that we have the strategies and know-how to mitigate the destruction and protect occupants from the dangers of poor indoor air quality. And we can build in a way that increases energy-efficiency and decreases carbon emissions that lead to climate change.The key principles of Passive House—an airtight building envelope, thorough insulation, high-performance windows and a mechanical ventilation system that provides continuous fresh, filtered air—also have proven to be powerful tools in decreasing exposure to damage.One thing I’ve learned and am grateful for throughout this process is the number of people who add to our knowledge base. This provides some comfort that, while there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done, we’re finally starting to see a change in the public’s mindset and acceptance of the science behind climate change.The October 29 Zoom meeting of the Monterey Bay Regional Climate Action Compact (now Central Coast Climate Collaborative) featured a presentation by Lucas Johnson, building scientist and Certified Passive House Consultant. Lucas worked with us on the Carmel Valley home we opened to the public in January. The interior was unfinished so that people could see the key elements of Passive House building strategies. During the Carmel fire, some nearby homes were destroyed while this home was unharmed. This experience inspired us to further examine the additional benefits of building Passive House level homes and retrofitting existing structures.Lucas’ presentation—The World Beyond Conventional—not only solidified my commitment to embracing evolving building science, it also inspired me and expanded my thinking. He views green building as a social movement, not just an environmental movement and sees good building as important as high-performance. He espouses the idea of science as the foundation of unbiased knowledge rather than relying on our entrenched belief systems.
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