A Critical Analysis of the Passive House Standard for the Climates of the United States

Apr 13, 2015

This research demonstrates that when using current technologies and practices, the functional definition of a passive house as defined by Schneiders (Schneiders 2009) and later by Feist (Feist 2012) as a building that "can provide the necessary heating, cooling, and dehumidification through supply air ventilation" is not achievable in all U.S. climate zones. To make possible the widespread adoption of this low energy standard, the Passive House Standard itself needs to be adjusted and redefined for the United States. The study simulated a given sample building by testing building parameters such as the glazing percentage, solar heat gain coefficient, window U-Values, and R-Values for the walls, roof, and floor. For each of the 1000 TMY3 climate locations throughout the United States, 10,125 unique cases were simulated until every possible combination of the factors above were run. This process of optimization will demonstrate the sensitivity of certain passive house features to increases and decreases in energy use as well as the limits to what is achievable in passive house design and construction. To maintain precision between the climates, this research analyzed the simulated results for each passive house criteria against the data from within each climate set including temperature, radiation, dew point, and sky temperature. The analysis resulted in adjusted passive house criteria based on the characteristics of a specific climate data set's location.

(This entry contains a conference paper and presentation in PDF. For optimal viewing, open in Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Ryan M. Abendroth, Passive Energy Designs LLC, Saint Louis, MO
Proceedings of the BEST4 Conference
Presented at: 
BEST4 Conference
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
BEST4 Technical Committee, National Institute of Building Sciences

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