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November 12-15, 2024
Pennsylvania Convention CenterPhiladelphia, PA

Greenbuild Blog

Creating Healthier Residential Neighborhoods from Passive Building

By Nick Vener

November 27, 2023

Development in residential neighborhoods and the construction of commercial buildings are becoming increasingly more energy efficient. LEED accreditations and rating systems (BD+C, O+M, ND, etc.) pave the way for healthier buildings and communities. One practice that directly aligns with Greenbuild and USGBC’s shared mission and LEED’s core concepts involves the term “passive building.” 

Passive building is a practice that incorporates “passive house” principles to create safe, resilient, comfortable, and energy efficient structures, for both residential and multifamily. With a strong focus on energy efficiency, passive houses can use up to 40-60% less energy than a conventional house.  

The passive house approach to building has been around for decades and was created by a Swedish structural engineer intending to prioritize energy-efficiency in the building strategy. As the passive house building practice grew in popularity, it began to be recognized as the broader practice of “passive building,” contributing to the movement towards building decarbonization.  

A few of the main principles incorporated into the practice of passive building, as noted by the non-profit organization Phius, includes:

  • Using continuous insulation throughout the building envelope to minimize or eliminate thermal bridging
  • Employing high-performance windows (double or triple-paned) and doors - solar gain is managed to exploit the sun's energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season
  • Minimizing the space conditioning system because of lower space conditioning loads
  • Building a well-detailed and extremely airtight building envelope, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air while increasing envelope durability and longevity
  • Using some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation to significantly enhance indoor air quality
  • More details available here

Passive Building Education Is Coming to Greenbuild

As the largest annual event for green building professionals worldwide, Greenbuild will expand educational content and resources dedicated to passive building practices for residential communities.

Passive building has been a topic at Greenbuild in years past. At Greenbuild 2022, Brightcore President and former NY Ranger NHL all-star Mike Ritcher discussed passive houses on the keynote stage with Greenbuild’s brand director, Sherida Sessa.

At Greenbuild 2024, Phius, the non-profit focused on decarbonization in the built environment, will integrate its annual conference, PhiusCon, into the Greenbuild International Conference + Expo in 2024 to expand the reach of passive building education to a global audience. Phius will also lead a Greenbuild Summit as well as sessions focused on passive building projects, strategies, and innovations. Additionally, Phius will host a pavilion of passive building suppliers on the Greenbuild expo floor.

New Policies Incorporating Passive House Building

The passive house building standard has influenced building codes at the state level. Starting January 1, 2024, every new multifamily building built in Boston must meet passive building requirements, with Phius certification representing the most established path to reach those requirements,” according to a Phius news release.

With sweeping changes to building codes in many U.S. cities, making sustainability and energy efficiency requirements in building standards, many have a positive outlook as we make a more substantial step towards decarbonizing our homes, structures, and communities.