At the recent “Better Buildings By Design” conference in Burlington, Vermont, I attended presentations that epitomized two different approaches to energy-conscious building. I’ll call these two approaches “classic superinsulation” and “the net zero approach.”
The “classic superinsulation” method has been around for about 35 years. It’s the approach that formed the basis of Wolfgang Feist’s Passivhaus standard.
The “net zero approach” diverges from classic superinsulation by comparing the energy saved by any energy-efficiency measure to the energy produced by a PV system of the same cost.
At his presentation on February 4, Thorsten Chlupp, a residential designer and builder from Fairbanks, Alaska, made a strong argument in favor of the “classic superinsulation” approach. Chlupp believes that Passivhaus principles can guide cold-climate builders — even builders working as far north as Fairbanks. (Chlupp’s superinsulated “SunRise House” has R-80 walls and an R-115 ceiling.)
Chlupp urged the Burlington audience to get “back to basics.” He said, “We need lots of insulation. Insulation is key.” Of course, Chlupp’s perspective has been shaped by the climate where he builds. “Heating is the problem,” he said. “It is all about heating. We fix that by insulating. Insulating means keeping what we have.”
(It’s certainly understandable that a builder working in Fairbanks, Alaska, has concluded that “It is all about heating.” Chlupp’s conclusion can be contrasted with the conclusion of Marc Rosenbaum, an energy consultant working in Massachusetts, where the climate is considerably milder than the climate in Fairbanks. According to Rosenbaum, “It’s Not About Space Heating.”)
A few more quotes from Chlupp’s presentation:
In short, Chlupp’s philosophy aligns well with the “classic superinsulation” approach to residential design.
When he was told that it was impossible to build a Passivhaus in Fairbanks, Chlupp heard the statement as a challenge.…