Hopefully I can contribute to larger discussions of appropriate cold climate living from my experience in residential architecture. I’ve had the fortune to work on a home recently which is energy modeled to produce more energy than it uses on an annual basis. Monitoring equipment has been installed it to see how well the actual performance compares to the model. Before talking about that project in specific I would like to point out an interest growing among the residential architecture professionals in the U.S.
Most of you are likely aware of the pioneering efforts to reduce residential energy consumption in the early 70’s with techniques like passive solar design, super-insulated construction, and the installation of photovoltaics. In the 80s as the mainstream construction industry in the US lost interest in energy saving measures, researchers and designers in Germany understood the potential of these pioneering efforts and continued to develop them to overcome many of their pitfalls – uncomfortable buildings due to high fluctuations, overheating, excessive energy loss through windows, etc.. Tools, methodologies and building components were advanced culminating in the world’s most stringent energy standard - Passivhaus. Currently in Germany and other European countries thousands of buildings have been constructed that require factors less power to heat and cool conditioned spaces. This is primarily achieved through a principle well understood among permaculturalists, “Capture and Store”, which in this case is referring to the heat manifest within the sun’s rays.
To avoid too long of a post I’ll expand on this further in subsequent blogs.
For now I will leave you with a picture of the next generation of windows appropriate for a cold climate (image credit – Optiwin Windows) and the fact that we in Minnesota have the same passive solar resources as the Mediterranean countries.