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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 22, 2010


Tree Hugger - It is hard to believe, but this "mountain hut" in Austria needs next to no heating; it is all done with body heat, cooking heat and passive solar heat. it is an example of a Passivhaus design, built to a standard developed by the Passivhaus Institut in Germany, based on the work of Dr. Wolfgang Feist.

Green Builiding Advisor - An energy-efficient house without solar equipment. Designed by architect Christoph Schulte, this superinsulated home was the first Passivhaus building in Bremen, Germany.

More and more designers of high-performance homes are buzzing about a superinsulation standard developed in Germany, the Passivhaus standard. The standard has been promoted for over a decade by the Passivhaus Institut, a private research and consulting center in Darmstadt, Germany. . .

The Passivhaus standard is a residential construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor

Unlike most U.S. standards for energy-efficient homes, the Passivhaus standard governs not just heating and cooling energy, but overall building energy use, including base load electricity use and energy used for domestic hot water. . .

Although the Passivhaus Institut recommends that window area and orientation be optimized for passive solar gain, the institute's engineers have concluded, based on computer modeling and field monitoring, that passive solar details are far less important than airtightness and insulation R-value. . .

In Europe, most homes are heated with a boiler connected to a hydronic distribution system. Since residential forced-air heating systems are almost unknown in Europe, many Passivhaus advocates declare that their houses "have no need for a conventional heating system"� - a statement that reflects the European view that forced-air heat distribution systems are "unconventional."�


Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Superinsulated' houses were in vogue for a while in the seventies and eighties in the US. But there were problems with indoor air quality, condensation, etc. (And the cost savings did not materialize.) A lot of these houses were retrofitted with expensive air exchangers. Having slightly leakier windows and doors would have been a cheaper, more elegant, solution.

January 23, 2010 9:10 AM  
OpenID denisedthornton said...

My husband and I are planning a very passive solar house which we expect to build in 2012.
We are working with a green architect who was recently written up in the New York Times
and we are taking the siting very seriously to maximize solar gain.
But last week we realized that anyone facing big window toward the sun should also consider the position of the moon, which can vary quite a bit at times.
Check out our post on how to make sure you maximize your lunar as well as solar energy at
Sustainability is serious stuff, but I think there is a little room for whimsy.

January 28, 2010 12:02 PM  

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