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400 MPG Architecture
Save money, breathe easy...
Posted on August 1, 2023 @ 5:42PM

Imagine you are considering the purchase of a new car that gets 40 miles to the gallon... when you learn about a similarly priced high performance alternative that is far better built, looks great, and runs 200 to 400 miles to the gallon, depending on your driving habits. It uses some German parts and a lot of German technology, but it is mostly a domestic product.  

Oh, and another thing; the maintenance is a whole new game. Just keep the air filter clean, maybe change out a fan belt every decade or so. 


I'm pretty sure you would be. Even without thinking about what will happen with the cost of fuel moving into the future, increasing your payment by ten percent to see those kinds of savings would make obvious sense. In fact, the option of the car you were previously considering would suddenly seem pretty unreasonably dumb in comparison.

This is a reasonable way to help think about the difference between building with mainstream construction technologies boasting to be 'green' and building with Passive House technology. The energy required to heat and cool a building designed and built with passive house technology - any building, not just houses - will be ten to twenty percent of conventional construction. Doing the math, this would be the metaphorical equivalent of extending the mileage of a 40 mpg vehicle as dramatically as 200 to 400 mpg.

Our buildings consume forty percent of our national energy consumption, mostly just powering heating and cooling systems... the largest single component of our energy use, by far, is poorly designed and built buildings. Buildings still being unnecessarily designed and constructed with obsolete technologies. Whether we align with the political camps of 'drill, baby, drill' or 'tree hugger' or anywhere in between, there is one obvious fact we should all easily agree on: needing a lot less energy to begin with is an important first step in the right direction. So much better for our budgets, environment, health, quality of life, and even our national security. Using less energy to live better... what part of this does not make sense?

Author: Sam Rodell

Sam has practiced as an award winning architect for forty years, and has also built many of his clients' projects.  He is licensed throughout most of the western USA and Canada, and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) which expedites registration in other states and provinces. He was the first Certified Passive House Consultant architect in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

Author: Maren Longhurst

Maren is a licensed architect particularly interested in high performance architecture and building science.   She holds a Masters in Architecture from Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and is a Certified Passive House Consultant, certified LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environment) professional, and a WELL Accredited Professional (a credential that signifies knowledge in health and wellness in the built environment and specialization in the WELL Building Standard). Maren is also on the Passive House Northwest board of directors.