New York Times article on passive houses (Passivhäuser) in Germany and the rest of Europe / 패시브 하우스: 체온·가전제품 열기로 난방하는 집

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thermogram of a passive house (right) compared to a normal house on the left showing how little heat is lost to the outside.

Yesterday the New York Times had a feature on passive houses in Germany that garnered a fair bit of attention on reddit here and here, as well as some other sites like this one and this one. Here's the concept:

DARMSTADT, Germany — From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snugglingunder blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

In Berthold Kaufmann’s home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room — but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.
So how much more does this type of house cost to build? Why, a whopping 5 to 7 percent more!
And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.
The reason why these houses have been able to succeed now as opposed to before is apparently because of new technology that has enabled fresh air to enter the house, which otherwise would quickly become stale inside:
Decades ago, attempts at creating sealed solar-heated homes failed, because of stagnant air and mold. But new passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.

So it seems that passive houses have no downside apart from the fact that you can't build them to be humongous or oddly designed, which really is no downside at all. This type of house is HIGHLY recommended for Korea, which still uses one of the most wasteful heating systems I've ever seen. The heating system itself (a heated floor called an ondol, 온돌) is fine in and of itself, but in winter because there is almost no insulation whatsoever (usually just a single pane of glass between yourself and the winter) the ondol is usually pretty close to full blast, making the area by the window very cold, the floor extremely hot, and the rest of the house/apartment a disconcerting mix of the two.

Have any Korean friends you want to know about this? Send them this article.


Anonymous said...

very interesting concept in housing - I want one of these especially after last month's heating bill

Shannon Ehlers said...

very interesting concept in housing - I want one of these especially after last month's heating bill

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