An email came from Faith Morgan with a link to a documentary film called “Passive House Revolution,” produced by the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was a busy day, but I thought I could use a break from words, so I left the stack of unopened emails for a while and watched the film. I’m glad that I did.

The dark colors show how little heat is escaping from the Passive House on the right, compared to the traditional building on the left.

The film is about 45 minutes long. The production value is very high and so it was easy to watch. And the film featured some people who have written for and advised Home Energy over the years, including ACI founder Linda Wigington, architect Chris Benedict, and engineer Henry Gifford. They might not have the international fame of Al Gore, but for those of us in home performance, they pack a lot of star power—most of all, we know and trust them. The founder of the Passive House standards, Wolfgang Feist, and the person who brought the Passive House concept to the United States, Katrin Klingenberg, are also featured.

Watching the film made me feel good and hopeful about the work we do on behalf of people and planet. We have the ideas and the technical know-how right now to build and renovate homes that use 15% of the energy the average home uses today. These homes are comfortable and attractive. When I began as editor of Home Energy 14 years ago, someone explained a Passive House project in Sweden like this: Imagine a big beer cooler with holes cut out for doors and windows. And for living inside a beer cooler you get to go without an HVAC system!

I’ve since learned that that is really not the case and never has been. The Passive House concept began in Germany in the 1970s and has taken root as a home grown variety in the United States. The formula is simple: Build tightly air-sealed houses with lots of insulation and provide the means to keep the air fresh and the people comfortable and healthy inside, without a conventional HVAC system. There are plenty of examples available in books, magazines, in film, and on home tours of how that’s done in every climate.

“Passive House Revolution” goes into the details, such as the framing details for build highly insulated walls and tackling the fresh air problem with heat and energy recovery ventilators—with great images in a variety of settings and the voices of many people, including Passive House architects, builders, and home owners. The film will inspire energy geeks and educate high school, college, trade, and architecture students, or anyone interested in architecture, building, engineering, energy, and the environment. I highly recommend that you see it and share it.

You can purchase a DVD of the film for $26, plus shipping and handling. See below for more information on the film and Passive House building.

Links to Film, Online Media Kit, and Film Website

Trailer 

Media Kit  

Film Website 

Passive House Databases & Listings

Passive House Institute of the US (PHIUS) Builder Database

PHIUS Consultant Database 

PHIUS Project Database 

International Passive House Association Project Database 

North American Passive House Network Project Listing

Passive House Alliance-US Case Studies 

Canadian Passive House Institute Member Database

Passive House Organizations

Canadian Passive House Institute (CanPHI)

International Passive House Association (iPHA) 

North American Passive House Network (NAPHN)

Passive House Alliance-US (PHA-US) 

Passive House Institute (PHI) 

Passive House Institute of the US (PHIUS) 

Passive House Northwest (PHnw) 

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Comment by Wolfgang Feist on March 22, 2014 at 6:37am

Ed, the window part on the left hand side is closed. The somewhat higher temperature at the rim of the glazing is due to two effects: 1) the thermal brigding of the spacers 2) convective heat transfer from the Argon gas filling. On the top of the glazing the flow just moves from the outside surface of the midle pane to the inside surface of the exterior pane. These pattern you will realize at all the windows. Nowadays we have even better insulating spacers, constructing passive houses gets less challanging every year.

Comment by Wolfgang Feist on March 22, 2014 at 6:20am

You are right, the tilted window is opened only by a small gap, just far enough, that we can look at the ceiling. And there is (of course) warm air leaking out, one can see the flow pattern on top of the window. The data from the infrared scan are thermometric, therefor I can choose another temperature scale - in the new rendering it is easy to see the higher temperature details (but the lower temp. with less resolution).

Comment by Ed Minch on March 22, 2014 at 4:50am

I see it now - the window is tilted in.  Is the glass panel on the left also tilted just a bit?

Comment by chris corson on March 21, 2014 at 7:51pm

Ed- The window is open. You can clearly see it is tilted open. You are looking at the ceiling of the room which appears HOT as it is 20C which is out of the thermographic range, which is between 1 and 10C. Thats a nice camera now let alone then. In this image it also appears that you can see the fasteners for the exterior insulation system,demonstrating the low PSI value of those points, and that they exist. Me thinks anyway.

Comment by Ed Minch on March 21, 2014 at 4:54pm

Wolfgang

The reason I asked is that we should be able to see walls and celilngs through all the windows if we can see one.  I was thinking that perhaps the window was open a bit at the top and the interior air leaking out (top floor) is heating parts of the window.

Thanks

Comment by Wolfgang Feist on March 21, 2014 at 2:58pm

There are several reasons why I know that: 1) I was the one who did the infrared testing and made that photography :-). 2)  External surfaces can not get that warm even if almost not insulated 3) There is a typical pattern for the temperature distribution of a tilted window 4) find a detailed photography of "just the window" done at the same time - you can even realize the tilt in the reflexions of the branches from the nearby tree 5) compare with all the other windows; these are all oft he same really well insulated type (R-7).

Comment by Ed Minch on March 21, 2014 at 7:05am

Wolfgang

Tell me how you now the bright spot is the ceiling inside and nit the warmed frame of the window?

Thanks

Comment by chris corson on March 21, 2014 at 6:30am

Ed- Thanks. The Super Insulated Home Book has been in the library for over fifteen years. It is right next to the Steen's " The straw Bail House" .  Both books are buried under other books and manuals.

We are humans. We have been standing on the shoulder's of those who have come before us since we figured out we could bash the marrow out of bones with a rock. It took another three hundred thousand years to attach that rock to a stick. 

We are historically slow to learn; although the curve has changed slightly in the last couple thousand years and steeply in the last couple hundred.

Comment by Ed Minch on March 20, 2014 at 9:18am

Good information, Chris.

The first authoritative book was "The Superinsulated Home Book" by Ned Nissan who went on to spearhead Energy Design Update, and Gautum Dutt who was one of the Princeton University research team that put together the first commercially viable version of what is today the energy audit - blower door, infrared, and combustion analysis.

Dutt's familiarity with the benefits of air tightness and his practical experience on how to achieve it made this pretty definitive for a long time after its publication date of about 1984, and still has something to say.

We are all standing on some large shoulders

Comment by Wolfgang Feist on March 20, 2014 at 9:00am

Yes: It's showing the path; and, it is not a difficult path. That is, what the European experience and now incoming results from worldwide application is showing. But: It needs some effort - because a lot of details are not more difficult, but different from what has been done in the past. Information on the infrared photography in the article: It is showing a retrofit in Nürnberg (Bavaria), design by Burkhard Schulze Darup, building physics and ventilation concept by the passive house institute. The building is heated - proof: There is a tilted window in the upper floor (left hand side), you can look at the 72 °F ceiling (yes, you can open windows in a passive house). The n50-value of this retrofit is 0.35 h-1 (! it's an old building from the 1930s - good air tightness is by far not as difficult to achieve as often thought; it's just a question of "know how").

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