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Best Practices in Passive Housing from An Award-Winning Construction Company

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

It’s an ongoing debate.

Some say the passive house movement originated in Germany.

Others say it began in the US and Canada and was directly related to the 1973 oil embargo.

The bottom line is the construction industry has come a long way in Going Green. Good for both the planet and its occupants, green construction projects save money in the long term and promote good health.

As an award-winning construction company, the LaRosa Building Group has embraced projects promoting energy efficiency, reducing overall energy consumption, and using more sustainable building materials. From Energy Star buildings and implementing LEED-certified and Passive House standards, our team has developed the expertise to collaborate with clients in promoting sustainability and completing projects on time and within budget.

“Selecting a certification program depends mainly on your project’s program, location, goals, and constituents. Our best practice is to have the conversation at the beginning of the relationship to help the client make a responsible decision about their ultimate certification choice,” explained James LaRosa, CEO of LaRosa Groups.

Before we take a deep dive into the best practices for implementing Passive House standards, it is essential to explain the differences between Passive House, Going Green, and LEED.

What is the difference between Going Green and Passive House?

Passive Houses are considered greenhouses. Passive House is all about low-energy consumption and meeting the highest standards in air quality and energy efficiency without sacrificing modern comfort. The balance between the rigorous level of energy efficiency and comfort is key for passive houses and makes them more than just “green.”

Is Passive House better than LEED?

While LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has broader name recognition, both LEED and Passive House are energy-saving certifications. Both have criteria that involve user health and comfort. And both ultimately allow for a full range of design aesthetics, though the design can be more challenging for Passive House.

However, Passive House energy-reduction standards are far more rigorous and call for superior levels of quality. It is all about the wall system that seals the house, the energy-exchange system, the triple-pane windows, and their placement in the building to maintain optimized interior temperatures during winter and summer.

As for the costs, there are additional consulting and documentation costs for both Passive House and LEED project certification. The up-front initial building fees to meet Passive House standards are much higher due to the upfront cost of materials and labor required.

But the potential operating costs of a Passive House are much cheaper for both the owner and the tenants. And that is a big incentive for those who can carry the short-term costs and anticipate the long-term gains.

“We have become experts at incorporating passive house standards into our new construction projects and are currently embarking on our next one,” explained LaRosa. “We’ve met passive standards in residential affordable housing communities such as Rocky Neck Village and were recently awarded first place in the Large Multi-Family/Mixed-Use/Large category by the 2023 CBC Project Team Awards for that passive-house project,” he added.

Reducing our carbon footprint and sustainability are just a few of the many advantages of Passive House. Below is the complete list of benefits.

Seven Environmental Benefits of Incorporating Passive House Standards into Your Construction Project

  1. Consumes less energy while maintaining the comfort level of the occupants.

  2. Reduces the use of primary energy sources like oil, coal, and natural gas

  3. Preserves resources because they use minimal amounts of primary energy sources

  4. Uses more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar

  5. Reduces greenhouse gases and carbon emissions

  6. Promotes less indoor pollution and a healthier interior environment

  7. Provides a maximum level of comfort and an optimal indoor temperature during both the winter and summer months

There are also several financial benefits of a Passive House:

  • Wise Investment: While the initial costs of Passive House may be higher for the owner, they are often mitigated by eliminating expensive HVAC systems. These additional expenses can be offset by financial incentives offered by state agencies which often cover the cost of training and certification.

  • Lower Operating Costs: The improved insulation and airtight design cool and heat the office building or the common areas of residential buildings at a lower cost.

  • Affordability: The savings are also passed on to the end user, the tenant, who benefits from lower electric and gas bills.

Best Practices for Passive House Construction

The LaRosa expertise in Passive House best practices is driven by Mike Anderson, Director of Operations, who completed the rigorous PHIUS training course and is a Certified Passive House Builder. Having a certified team professional who has seen what works and what doesn’t work has proven to be a LaRosa advantage.

In addition to having a certified team member, another best practice focuses on timing.

Michael Anderson LaRosa Groups Passive House

“The most critical best practice I can share is to get involved in the design early in the process. There is a clear distinction between a passive house builder and a passive house designer. The key is the collaboration between the two to ensure the details are in the design before the construction begins," explained Mike Anderson, Director of Operations of LaRosa Groups. “Adding the details after the project is purchased is expensive."

Our final thought: Incorporating Passive House standards is a complicated process. While most current passive house designs are new construction projects, passive house standards can be integrated into building renovations as long as the client is familiar with the costs, design limitations, and rigorous requirements of the third-party test at the project completion.

Hiring an experienced team can be time-efficient, cost-effective, and the ultimate best practice.

“Our LaRosa team has successfully navigated the Passive Housing landscape and has developed a strong network of subcontractors and vendors who can reliably supply what our clients need to meet the challenging requirements of implementing Passive House standards,” explained Anderson.

LaRosa Building Group is a leader in implementing Passive House standards into new construction and renovation projects including 340 Dixwell, Brookside Commons, Choate Rosemary Hall, and Rocky Neck Village.

Ask how our experienced team can help you with your next project. Schedule your free consultation today.

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