Archive for 'Thermal Comfort'
Posted on 06. Aug, 2010 by Rebecca Firestone.
Imagine a home built in the Plains region of the United States that stays warm in the winter without central heating, and cool in the summer without massive air-conditioning. It’s airtight but with an endless supply of fresh air constantly circulating through a filtered, pressure-balanced ventilation system. Every surface is comfortable to the touch, neither too warm nor too cold. Street noise is barely audible through the gasket-sealed, triple-paned windows.
It sounds futuristic, but so-called Passive Houses have been around for at least 15 years, and it’s yet another strategy for saving energy. Unlike a Net Zero Energy home that might rely on “active” power generation, albeit from renewable sources, a Passive House is just that – passively absorbing heat from its surroundings to release it slowly as it is needed. (In hot climates, Passive Houses are designed to recover and store cooler temperatures.)
Posted on 16. Mar, 2010 by Rebecca Firestone.
Green living is sometimes viewed as a sacrificial process whereby one by one, all our pleasures and comforts must be set aside in the name of saving the planet: walking instead of driving, sweeping instead of vacuuming, home cooking instead of take-out, turning the thermostat down in the winter while our hands and feet turn into blocks of ice, low-flow showerheads designed by bald men that take forever to rinse the shampoo out of a long-haired-girl’s mane, limiting one’s diet to only locally available seasonal produce (which could be nothing but cabbages if you live in Chicago), calling three hardware stores to find one that carries low-VOC paint, giving up meat because it takes too much grain to feed a cow, trudging everywhere with a backpack filled with stuff that otherwise we could just keep in the car. In essence, the increased physical hardship comes from asking our own bodies to start doing more of the work. And what’s our reward? A nice warm feeling of altruistic glow, and maybe a slimmer figure.
Efficiency is often seen as achievable only at the cost of comfort – some of us East Coasters remember shivering through the 1970s oil crisis as our dads re-defined 58 degrees during the day as “normal” and turned the thermostat down at night till the pipes froze, and our mothers finally complained. Well, so what? What’s the big deal? We all have to give up something. Well, the problem is that this “fix” didn’t really fix anything. Reducing consumption is not the same thing as having an efficient building, and neither approach presents qualitative factors like comfort or contentment as worthy of consideration.