I love architecture and green building! I’m not as well-informed as I should be, but green homes are an area I would love to explore later in life. One of the best ideas I’ve seen is the passive house (Passivhaus). Passive homes seek to retain the home’s heat with little or no extra energy usage. They achieve the effect by combining several features, notably superinsulation, a special airflow system, and optimized floorplans.
The NY Times has a nice article on passively heated homes and a family living in one in Germany. Germany is important to the tale because they are pioneering the practice, and many of the worlds 15,000 passive houses are in Germany. Unfortunately, America is slow to adopt similar practices. One explanation is America’s population center in warmer-weather climates. Because the passive house is designed to retain heat, it would probably not deliver a desirable effect in the summer in Austin :)
America’s green building code, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard, is lagging behind in achieving energy independence. (More information can be found at the US Green Building Council site.) LEED is more about using reusable supplies than it is about living off the grid. In any case, the idea and innovation in the passive house brings me joy!
What do you think? Would you live in a Passivhaus? Is it worth an additional 5% upfront in order to never pay another utility bill?