EpiPHany Corner | Position High-Performance as the Baseline

You cannot discern how a building will perform by appearance alone. The home pictured below must be at least code compliant in order to pass inspection, but it might be a high-performing building in terms of energy efficiency, comfort, indoor air quality, durability, and environmental responsibility. It may even qualify as a Passive House. You need additional evidence from modeling and testing to make a determination.

The key word here is “additional” because that is how the explanation of high-performance has been positioned in the marketplace. We know that code compliance eliminates most potential “defects” but achieving more than minimum acceptable requires some “additional” effort and expense—a premium. That positioning forces architects and contractors to explain and justify higher performance as an upgrade.

The pandemic and smoke from wildfires have raised awareness of healthy indoor air quality as well as several other benefits of high-performing buildings. Passive House design and construction deliver those benefits. It is time for Passive House performance to be considered the baseline, rather than a series of available upgrades.

When high-performance is presented first, as the standard, it changes the positioning… and the game. Now the question from architects and contractors (and realtors) to potential homeowners is about what they would like to give up in order to save a little money. “What would you like to sacrifice – energy efficiency, control of air-quality, comfort, resilience, durability, resale value, peace of mind, or… ?”. People like to receive extra benefits and will sometimes pay a premium, but they really hate to give up things that provide value.

We need to position the high-performance of Passive House as the baseline. When we do, many of the people who might have balked at paying a premium, will embrace the value of Passive House performance.

Author: Jay Gentry