New Kid on the Block: Passive House Comes into Pittsburgh's Neighborhood


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Super energy efficient and modern Passive House Duplex has been designed for Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. A Passive House is so well insulated and is so air-tight that heating and cooling energy is cut by up to 80% compared to standard new construction. Half of the duplex is available for pre-sale.

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New Kid on the Block: Passive House Comes into Pittsburgh's Neighborhood

  1. 1. 1 New Kid on the Block: Passive House Comes into the Neighborhood Lucyna de Barbaro & Ayres Freitas March 15, 2014
  2. 2. Content:  Passive House concept  Transformational eco-movement developing around Passive House -- in US, in Europe  Our Squirrel Hill duplex, ½ of which (west side unit) is available for sale But first, few words about motivation… 2
  3. 3. 3 Why Focus on Buildings?  Buildings account for 40% of total energy used and generate 45% of total US CO2 emissions  Hefty contribution to Global Warming and Climate Change  US adds ~6 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year, world’s total: ~34 billion  CO2 emissions per capita in US: 17.3 tons, China 7.2 tons, EU average: 7.5, average for the world: 4 (July 2011 data)  Renewable energy growth too slow (25%) compared to fossil fuel use increase in the last decade (41%)  Effects of self-acceleration of global warming (“tipping points”) are very serious  With current trends we are not on a path to limit warming to 2o C by 2100
  4. 4. Passive House Standard could be part of the answer  The standard was developed in Germany in 1990-ties and is now widely tried and adopted  Was proven economically viable; ~10% increase in construction cost while achieving 80% reduction in energy use of the building (in Germany)  No additional energy generation like solar or geothermal  Simply built to maintain a near constant indoor temperature without adding much energy for heating and cooling 4
  5. 5. Passive Houses can be any shape / form 5 Retrofit, CA Utah IL Boehm, Austria
  6. 6. Can have any function: 6 Religious center, VA Community center, Austria Office building
  7. 7. Innsbruck: Winter Olympics Village, now dorms 7
  8. 8. Passive House Standard Adoption in Europe 8
  9. 9. 9 Annual New Construction #s in Austria and in US
  10. 10. Belgium’s main province adopted the law that all new construction is to Passive House standard – 3 years later, PH hits mainstream 10
  11. 11. 11 How does it compare? Different standards with respect to annual energy use and cooling
  12. 12. 12 Energy used in residential buildings Median value: 70 kBtu/sf/yPassive House Standard is defined by setting a limit on energy use Over the life of the house, imbedded energy (in materials, construction, etc.) is ~10%, while operating energy is ~90% 1 kBtu=0.3 kWh
  13. 13. 13 How does it work?
  14. 14. Building envelope: one of many possible wall solutions for Passive House: R values for Passive House in Pittsburgh versus (code, new constr.): Walls: R35-45 (20) Slab: R35-45 (10) Roof: R60-80 (38) Windows R 5-10 (2.9) A lot of building science, but well understood and modeled R value: measure of thermal resistance; heat transfer per unit area per unit time
  15. 15. Passive House windows Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex 15  Windows are the weakest part of insulation envelope  Passive house certified windows: excellent performance of glazing and frame © YARO/Makrowin Triple glazing Wood, aluminum or PVC frame Insulation core (uPVC , cork, etc.) Aluminum cladding (some models) Tilt/turn design for good seal
  16. 16. Thermal bridges are eliminated in PH due to smarter design and advances in energy modeling 16
  17. 17. 17 Thermal envelope, before and after Passive House retrofit:
  18. 18. Important breakthrough: energy recovery ventilators 18 70-90% efficient in keeping the energy & humidity of the room/indoor air “inside”
  19. 19. Measurable performance of PH is “built in” into PH standard: Criterion #1: total energy has to be less than  38 kBtu/sf/yr  Note: this is primary (or source) energy, not site energy. About 3 times more energy needs to be used at the source to generate energy we use on site due to generation inefficiency and transport losses. Source energy is the most relevant measure of carbon emission. 19 Criterion #2: heating and cooling energy limits:  4.75 kBtu/sf/yr, each This is like heating the whole 2000 sf house with a hair dryer 9 hrs a day (and making it nicely warm!) 1 kBtu=0.3 kWh
  20. 20. 20 Verifiable methodology is built into PH Standard Criterion #3: air tightness (0.6 air-changes per hour at 50 pascals) Measured through blower-door test to assure that standard is met Passive House air leakage is about 10 times less than standard new construction
  21. 21. Passive House Focus on economic feasibility:  Shift money from mechanical systems to the building envelope  Long lasting, high quality construction Focus on comfort:  Healthy interior environments due to continuous ventilation  “Year-round barefoot indoor comfort on a dime” No drafts/uniform temp. Focus on predictability:  Computer modeling with PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) and WUFI (Heat and Moisture Dynamics* modeling)  Optimization of performance w/ PHPP/WUFI  Certification from Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) *Wärme und Feuchte Instationär 21
  22. 22.  22 Our Passive House Duplex: 2883-2887 Fernwald Rd. Walkability Index: 45 Frick Park: ~0.6 Universities: ~3.5 miles Distances/driving (20 lb of CO2 from each gallon of gas) are also a big part of sustainability Squirrel Hill shops and amenities ~1.5 miles away
  23. 23. Fernwald Rd streetscape 23 2 Lots zoned for single family attached, 1RA , sizes: 35 x 100 ft Southern slope ~10°
  24. 24. Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex 24 Architect: Alan Dunn & Associates
  25. 25. Squirrel Hill Duplex, northern facade 25
  26. 26. Squirrel Hill Duplex from south-west 26 Permeable driveway Rain water cisterns Pre-wired for PV array Electric car-charging …
  27. 27. Squirrel Hill Duplex, from north-east 27
  28. 28. 28 First floor layout
  29. 29. 29 Second floor layout
  30. 30. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) 30 Life cycle embodied energy plus operating energy of the building; R. Jacobson, 2012 Passive House Conference Different type of superinsulated walls compared to standard frame Over the life of the house, any superinsulated wall results in much smaller energy use
  31. 31. Environmental impacts of building materials Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex 31 Environmental Performance of Cladding, from CertainTeed FC_LCA_Report_FC057 (data from Building for Economic and Environmental Sustainability program, operated by NIST) Significant differences – important to pay attention to LCA & Global Warming Potential
  32. 32. Mechanical Systems for Squirrel Hill Duplex Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex 32 • Fujitsu 12kBtu/hr ducted heat pump for both heating and cooling • Zehnder Comfo 350 ERV for continuous ventilation with energy recovery • Each system will have its own set of ducts to allow proper balancing of each function
  33. 33. Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex 33 Mech. system design by John Semmelhack
  34. 34. Passive House movement in US 34  PH Institute (PHIUS)  Committed to making high-performance Passive building the mainstream market standard  Trained more than 1,000 architects, engineers, energy consultants, and builders  Passive House Standard is now a joint PHIUS and Department of Energy standard  PH Alliance – chapter structure for professionals and PH enthusiasts. Pittsburgh chapter founded in Oct 2013  8th Annual PH Conference just recently happened here; 400+ attendees
  35. 35. Pittsburgh area projects 35 • Former YMCA in McKeesport – retrofit to PH standard • Heidelberg House • Walnut St. retrofit • Former VFW in Hazelwood to house Carnegie Library • Next planned: Uptown Lofts on Fifth Squirrel Hill Duplex
  36. 36. Why engage in Passive House project? 36  To set an example  Get the ball rolling  To be part of the movement dedicated to extreme efficiency  Because this is how much carbon it is safe to use*  So that the next generation(s) have Earth like the one we know…? *See Carbon Tracker or