Guest post by GWU graduating senior and Planet Forward Intern, Charlie Rybak

If we want to create a better energy future for ourselves, we need to start being smarter so we don’t have to correct our mistakes. In few places does this apply more than how we construct our buildings. Passive Houses offer a design model that can save people money, allow people to live more comfortably, and help people conserve energy all at the same time.

Often, when people build, they neglect to take the total cost of ownership into account. The sticker price stands out and they forget that the actual amount of money they put into their new home is dependent on how to heat and cool their home, energy bills, and windows. Passive Houses take all of these things into account so that homeowners pay a little bit more up front so that they can save money for years to come. A small investment that decreases future costs and raises the value of your new home is a no-brainer.

The Passive House design technique, which is very popular in Germany and several other countries in Europe, emphasizes some great, green technology like an energy recovery ventilator and triple-glazed windows (see more about these in the video) and they cost around 5-7% more to build. Habitat for Humanity is starting to build Passive Houses across the country to lessen the back-end burden for low-income families so they aren’t slammed with extra costs down the road.

We talked to David Peabody, LEED certified architect and owner of Peabody Architects, who told us that on a $350,000 house, you will probably pay around 8% more in front end costs to make it meet passive house standards. If you have a 30 year mortgage, that extra 8% pays for itself in 10 years. They estimate that the monthly energy bill for the house we profile in the video will be around $750 per month, while the average house in the neighborhood has a bill of around $2,800.

If we want the amount of energy we use to be smaller, we have to start by living smarter. Passive House design is a great way for all of us to start making that happen.

Want to see more ideas like this? Check out the architecture and green buildings topics pages on Planet Forward!


  1. David Peabody
    Alexandria, VA
    May 8, 2011, 5:05 pm

    One quick correction on the energy use numbers for the house in the video:
    Using Passive House energy modeling software we project that our annual total energy cost will be $2,400/year. That works out to about $.55/sf/year.
    In contrast, the annual total energy cost for an average house in the same zip code (from is about $3/sf/year. That works out to be about $13,200/year or $1,100/month for a house the same size as ours.
    You can see more about our projected energy use at our blog: