passive house matt lee

Tips and Advice for Building a Passive House

Passive house

Did you know that the average home is massively inefficient when it comes to conserving energy? Most homes are losing energy from thermal bridging, air leaks, insufficient insulation, and other inadequacies that become especially harmful in extreme temperatures. This inefficiency plagues most of the homes in America. Fortunately, environmental awareness seems to be peaking right now. Some homeowners are gravitating towards the other end of the spectrum when it comes to energy efficiency. This is where a passive house comes into play.

Passive housing is just about as energy-efficient as humanly possible. If you’re interested in constructing a passive house, here is some advice and tips you can use during the building process.


Passive Housing: Start from the Top Down

By the top, we mean the roof. If you want to build a passive house, you need to make sure the roof is totally airtight. Simple fiberglass insulation won’t do the trick.

Yes, you’ll still need all the normal insulation typically found in a roof such as fiberglass pads in the attic. You’ll also need an extra layer of exterior protection, like polyiso insulation, laid beneath all other material on the exterior of your roof.

This is because the majority of heat is lost through the top of a home. So, having a layer of polyiso insulation underneath your concrete roof tiles or asphalt shingles is essential.

house with red roof panels

Fortify Your Windows

Windows are another part of the home that leaks an incredible amount of energy. If you want to build a passive house, you need triple-paned glass. Simply adding some caulk and a layer of plastic over your windows isn’t enough to achieve maximum energy-efficiency. 

With triple-paned windows, you can sit right next to the window in the dead of winter without getting cold or needing an extra sweatshirt. 

ICF Construction

A passive house can be built with regular wooden framing on a concrete foundation. Doing this, however, would require a ton of extra insulating materials on both sides of the walls, as well as inside them. 

Instead, opt for an ICF construction, which uses interconnected hollow concrete blocks layered with special insulation. This is a comprehensive foundation/wall system with no air gaps or breaks in the design. 

ICF construction is the most naturally airtight way to build the frame of a building. It essentially eliminates thermal bridging as well. 

A Passive House Can Put Money in Your Pocket

Aside from being much better for the environment, and less wasteful, a properly designed passive house will nearly eliminate your heating/cooling costs. It takes very little heat to warm a passive house. It can also stay that way for hours on end thanks to the efficiency of the design. 


If you want to avoid having to use your heating system all day during the winter and make a positive impact on the earth as well, using these tips in the construction of your passive house is one of the best ways to do so.

Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.

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