Retrofitting a passive home

The best time to design a passive house is before construction starts, but retrofitting a home to the passive standard isn’t impossible
(Photo: Jessamine, Dreamstime)

Although it’s more cost effective to implement passive standards in the design phase than after construction has started, Mariana Pickering of Emu Systems said, there is a wealth of opportunity to use passive in renovations.

Related: Built for comfort—Passive house in Colorado

“I personally believe the retrofit market is going to be huge going forward in the United States,” she said. “As income disparities continue, people aren’t going to have enough money to go buy new houses, construct new houses as much, and they’re going to want to do stuff to houses they already own.”

People are also living in their homes longer, she said, so the cost of implementing passive standards may not be as a big of a hurdle for people who will have more time to reap the benefits.

Retrofitting a home to passive standards isn’t the same as deciding to go passive after construction has already started, she pointed out. The Passive House Institute designed standards, EnerPHit, specifically for retrofitting existing homes that Pickering describes as assuming “an end goal of meeting the passive house requirements, and then [breaking] that up into sizable chunks of actual work that can be done on a project.”

Few homeowners can retrofit their entire homes at once, “so the idea is that you look at items that would have needed your attention anyway.”

The roof is a great place to start, especially in Colorado where hailstorms mean neighborhoods are often dotted with roofing projects come spring.

“That is a great opportunity to go ahead and look at that envelope system, and look at the insulation and air barrier system,” Pickering said. “In the future, when you then replace the windows and then you replace the mechanical [ventilation], you’re working toward the end goal.”

Related: 3 key factors for energy efficient homes: Greenbuild Expo

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus is the managing editor of Colorado Builder. She can be reached at [email protected].

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