Passive Building design
What is it?
A Passive Building is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely terrific indoor air quality. (1)
Why the need?
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:
"Buildings have a significant impact on energy use and the environment. Commercial and residential buildings use almost 40% of the primary energy and approximately 70% of the electricity in the United States (EIA 2005). The energy used by the building sector continues to increase, primarily because new buildings are constructed faster than old ones are retired. Electricity consumption in the commercial building sector doubled between 1980 and 2000, and is expected to increase another 50% by 2025 (EIA 2005). Energy consumption in the commercial building sector will continue to increase until buildings can be designed to produce enough energy to offset the growing energy demand of these buildings." (2)
The natural response to this would be to urge the use of renewable energy more aggressively; by installing more solar panels and increasing the capacity of wind farms.
However, Renewable energy isn't going to solve all our energy woes in the near future. The rate of adoption of renewable energy is excruciatingly slow. Only 3.35% of the 10% of energy that renewables are providing right now comes from “new” renewables, namely solar, wind and liquid biofuels. The majority of renewables are still of the “old” variety: hydroelectric power and wood chips. The two major renewables that receive widespread attention: solar and wind currently only provide 0.16% and 1.19%, respectively of total energy needs in the US. (3)
We need to start considering some options that can go hand in hand with renewable energy. This is where a passive building design comes in. Most buildings today are concrete structures that totally disregard their environmental conditions. A passive building would maximize energy intake from the environment, thereby greatly reducing the amount of energy that needs to be generated.
How does it benefit you?
a) Greatly reduces utility bills (could slash heating costs by an astounding 90%)
b) Minimizes our carbon footprint
c) Decreases dependence on fossil fuels
d) Helps us become energy independent by reducing our dependence on the grid
What can you do?
Are you building a new house? Check out the Passive House Institute US's (PHIUS) website. You would be able to find passive house consultants and PHIUS certified builders. (note: my intention is only to point you in the right direction. To pursue it further, it would be wise to do your own research)
You could also go to the Passive House Alliance US and The Passive House Institute website which provide valuable information about passive buildings, in addition to providing professional services.
Do you want to educate yourself on passive buildings? The Passive Solar Design page could be a valuable source. The Wikipedia pages on it are wonderful primers on the topic: Passive House and Passive Solar Building Design
A bicycle made from a 100% recycled materials (predominantly consisting of cardboard) has been invented by a man named Izhar Gafni. What’s mindboggling is that this cardboard bicycle can be made for just $9. The links provided below expand on it:
- This $9 cardboard bike...
- Cardboard Technologies
This is a wonderful piece of technology that has great potential in developing and underdeveloped nations. Imagine the impact a cheap, maintenance-free vehicle could have on such countries.
a) Couple the cardboard bicycle with a cardboard cart and this could greatly increase the productivity of a rural worker/farmer. He/she could traverse distances unimaginable before by foot and therefore be able to do the things listed below, among others:
i) greatly reduce travel time (by a magnitude of 5)
ii) carry large amounts of produce/meat to local markets
iii) fetch water from distant places
b) A dynamo and a battery could be fitted into the bicycle. This could do a few things:
i) power a LED fitted in the front and rear of bike to increase visibility
ii) The battery would be charged as the bike is being ridden. The battery could then be plucked from the bike and used to power electrical appliances at home (mostly lights), or even a telepresence robot.
Global warming is eating up our land. According to the US National Research Council, global sea level rise could be anywhere between 22 and 79 inches in the 21st century alone. This, coupled with our global population expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050 (predominantly in developing nations) means there would be severe land scarcity in the near future.
The principle method being proposed to battle this is building huge levees that could keep water from engulfing large portions of the land. However, if history is any indication at all, it seems like global sea level is going to keep rising for the coming few centuries, unless we do something drastic about it (which seems highly unlikely). So building levees and dikes does not seem like a sustainable solution, albeit something that might be built as an urgent measure.
One of the major things we could do is to start concentrating on building floating buildings. By that I don’t mean a solitary building in the middle of the ocean but rather right off the coast or shore. A very good example is provided in the link and video below:
- Floating Buildings
I find it interesting that these floating houses being built in the Netherlands are upscale and seem to indicate affluence as opposed to making it seem like living on water is a compromise.
This way, we would embrace the change and not be terribly affected when sea level rise becomes unmanageable. This could also be a much more cost effective solution to impoverished and developing nations. This is as they might lack the huge sums of money (in the tens of billions) needed to build levees and dikes that could mitigate sea level rise. It would be much less financially strenuous to such a nation as a whole to just gradually start building floating structures.
Trust me, I'm an Engineer