The Passive House movement is relatively new to this country (and, indeed, the world) and many people have not even heard of a passive house. If you don’t know what a passive house is, keep reading for a bit of background information and definition from our passive house builder in Alexandria. You might just fall in love with the idea of a passive house of your own!

What is a passive house?

A passive house is an ultra-efficient building that requires little energy for heating or cooling. The word comes from the German word Passivhaus because the first passive houses were built in Germany in 1990. The concept caught on quickly, and as of 2010, there were an estimated 25,000+ passive houses in the world. If you haven’t seen or heard of a passive house already, it probably won’t be long before you know someone who has built one.

A passive house uses special materials and building methods to build a house that stays relatively warm in the winter and relatively cool in the summer without expending a lot of energy. Typically, it requires a lot of active input to keep a home’s air at a comfortable living temperature. It requires a lot of fuel in your furnace or heater in the winter and a lot of electricity for your air conditioner in the summer. Because we have a nice balance of the seasons here in Northern Virginia, we can get both freezing cold winters and uncomfortably hot summers, requiring a lot of energy all year round in order to keep a building at a livable temperature. However, a passive house is able to keep that comfortable temperature all year round with almost no input from heaters or air conditioners.


Who wouldn’t want a house that does its own climate control?

The amazing thing about passive houses is that they maintain their proper temperature with so little effort from you. They do this by a combination of some of the following techniques.

  • Passive houses have incredible insulation. The insulation on the passive house in Pimmit Hills is two feet thick in the attic and six inches thick in a layer of foam insulation below the concrete slab in the basement. The walls of the house are nine inches thick with an additional two inches of foam insulation. All this insulation slows down the temperature exchange so much that this house saves about 90% on their heating and cooling costs.
  • Passive houses use advanced building techniques and materials. This minimizes the amount of heat that can be exchanged between the outside and inside of a home. Whether you can feel a draft or not, air can pass between the gaps in the walls of a house, and the typical (standard) house has the equivalent of a two-foot by two-foot hole for air to escape when you add up the combined gaps made by the cracks between boards. In contrast, a passive house has the equivalent of only a 1.5-inch by 1.5-inch hole for air to escape and enter. This greatly reduces the amount that the homeowner has to compensate for the loss of heat by continuously running a furnace.
  • Passive houses use insanely efficient equipment for heating and cooling. There are many technologies that passive houses can incorporate, from solar heated radiant floors to ultra-efficient fireplaces. The amenities that you can choose to install in a passive house can go a long way towards ensuring that your passive house keeps your heating and cooling costs low.

Passive Houses are Good for the Environment

In a world where there is a finite supply of fossil fuels and an ever-growing population, it’s important to be responsible about our contribution to a sustainable future. One of the ways that homeowners can make a drastic contribution to cutting their energy consumption is through building a passive house. Sure, you might be able to afford to heat and cool your house, but you’ll feel great about finding a way to avoid using those fuels and still reap the benefits of an appropriate indoor climate in your home. Your passive house is designed to last for years and continually provide those same benefits

Get your passive house built right by Dobson Building + Remodeling

Dobson is proud to have built the above-mentioned house in Pimmit Hills, which was the first passive house in the area. We have a strong commitment to staying on the cutting edge of building capabilities for passive houses, and we bring to the table a very thoughtful contribution. If you want to be sure that you’ll be given options and guided through your passive house building project by someone with experience, choose Dobson Building + Remodeling. We look forward to working with you. For any questions related to passive house building in Alexandria, please give us a call. To get the ball rolling for your project, send us a brief message and we will give you a free estimate.