Jason Kibbe is in the enviable position of planning the construction of a new house that will be financed entirely by the sale of his current home, leaving him in new digs without a mortgage.
Kibbe plans to swap his 4-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath house in south-central Pennsylvania for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house of between 1,500 and 1,700 sq. ft, and he’s upfront about his motives:
“I confess my main motive for building is a selfish one,” he writes in a in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor. “I’m not looking to spend a ton of cash just to be green, though I certainly don’t mind making some efforts to go in that direction. I primarily want to build an inexpensive house (because I’m cheap) that will have low energy requirements (also because I’m cheap & am concerned about rising energy costs).”
That’s clear enough. But is Kibbe’s best bet a particular kind of high-performance house, one built to the Passivhaus standard, or a more universal design relying on general passive solar principles?
Houses built to the Passivhaus standard must meet very stringent requirements for air infiltration and energy use. As such, they occupy a special corner of the high-performance building world, not only in energy efficiency but often in the cost of construction as well. Passive solar houses can be highly efficient, but the term in itself is vague.
When Kibbe wrote, “I wish there was a repository of building plans and suggested materials for use in a passive house,” it was unclear whether he had a Passivhaus or a passive solar house in mind. “I’ve been gleaning information from this site and others, but still struggle with what are the ‘best’ heating (radiant floor, heat pump, etc.), HRV, (brand, specs.…