Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

This Tiny, Passive House Ain’t No Wimp

Don’t be fooled by its peace-loving name, few things will defend you from the elements like a Passive House. If you’re not familiar with the term, Passive House (aka Passivhaus) is a German-born set of rigorous building standards that make a dwelling extremely energy efficient. Passive House construction implements energy saving measures like super insulation, passive solar design (i.e. optimizing a structure’s orientation to put the sun to good use–either shielding it from the hot in warmer regions or adding solar heat in colder ones), triple or quadruple-glazed windows, an airtight building envelope and various natural or mechanical ventilation systems that keep fresh air circulating through the interior. The LifeEdited apartment, though not Passive House certified, employs a number of Passive House strategies such as a tight air barrier and the use of a heat recovery ventilator (HRV); this allowed us to super insulate the space such that we were able to reduce the number of radiators from five to one.

But just because a dwelling meets the Passive House standard doesn’t mean it’s required to be a particular size. In fact, many Passive Houses are quite large. And as we know, you can have the most energy efficient home, but if you have to drive a couple hours to get to it, it seriously affects the home’s overall resource consumption. The marriage of small, dense housing with Passive House levels of building efficiency would be a felicitous one. And that’s exactly what Mini-B Passive House is all about.

The 300 sq ft house is the brainchild of architect Joe Giampietro. It was designed to be used as a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) in the Seattle area, though we imagine it could be setup elsewhere. The house uses nine inches of foam insulation, a heat recovery ventilator and quadruple glazed windows among other things. Its insulation is so complete that the rare bit of Seattle winter sunlight or, in extreme cold, a tiny wall mounted heating panel, are all that are needed to make the place comfortable. It’s estimated annual heating bills would run about $30 and electricity a mere $100.

The house was built by students and used as a demo before eventually being auctioned off. On their website Giampietro says that Mini-B plans and constructed homes are available to purchase, details available upon request.

  • Glenn

    Has the architect estimated a cost per square foot based in Seattle?

  • clarkbennett

    I grew up in a solar passive home on a farm in Iowa. Initially it worked as expected. It would passively heat during the winter, my bedroom would easily get up to 85 on a cold winters day and during the summer the house stayed cool. Unfortunately the entire system can be easily defeated by poor interior material choices. My mother didn’t like the exposed concrete floors so they got covered by wood flooring and carpets. She didn’t like the insulating drapes that blocked the view at night so they got replaced by cafe curtains. Large pieces of furniture got shoved up against the window. Now the house has a massive air conditioning system to keep it cool during the summer and a dehumidifier that runs non-stop year round to keep it the lower level dry. And it is impossible to keep warm in the winter. Living in a solar passive home is more than just building design, it requires an entire different mindset about interior design.