CEPHEUS – Living Comfort Without Heating

The book CEPHEUS – Living Comfort Without Heating is actually the compilation of Passive House (PH) results for buildings in Central Europe. They turned their findings into a book to give a great overview of different houses with the one common element of being Passive House.

As a Brooklyn Passive House contractor I found it very interesting seeing a diverse array of buildings that all met the PH standard. It was encouraging as we continue our exploration of building PH house brownstones while incorporating our Zero Brownstone goals.

The key to understanding PH is that it is based on populist goals of making good buildings for middle class people. It is not a luxury to live in a comfortable house that costs next to nothing to run. Because of this PH does not cost more to build but produces aesthetically beautiful homes. At the same time PH homes are very affordable to run since they need little to no heating and cooling.

Of course this benefits the global ecology too since PH homes consume much less energy and fossil fuels than “normal” homes.

The CEPHEUS project is a success story. For the most part they succeeded in their goals. This was not a theoretical exercise. The end result was a large body of houses that offer massive improvements over older building techniques.

My one critique is that all the houses are new construction, which consume vast amounts of new materials no matter how green they are. Not only that but they take up more space that previously was nature’s ground.

The book is divided into German on one page and English on another. It has nice photos of the houses, their technical characteristics, the goal of the builder, the cost to build and the final result.

Of course that is the great thing of PH: it is nothing if it does not pass the final test. Unlike useless LEED for example that can have all sorts of bells and whistles, PH gets nothing if it does not pass the very rigorous testing once the building is built. With LEED once it is built, who cares!? Accountability in LEED is a joke. In PH it is everything.

This guarantees results. And the cool thing is that the results are achievable with a normal budget and simple intelligent building. It is really quite amazing. That is why Eco Brooklyn is so into being a Passive House contractor in Brooklyn. We can offer this great service at the same cost to build a “normal” crap brownstone.

From the CEPHEUS site:

Why Build Passive House?

The Passive House standard offers a cost-efficient way of minimizing the energy demand of new buildings in accordance with the global principle of sustainability, while at the same time improving the comfort experienced by building occupants. It thus creates the basis on which it is possible to meet the remaining energy demand of new buildings completely from renewable sources – while keeping within the bounds set by the limited availability of renewables and the affordability of extra costs. The Passive House philosophy builds upon two basic principles:

Principle 1:
Optimize what is essential anyway
What makes the approach so cost-efficient is that, following the principle of simplicity, it relies on optimizing those components of a building which are necessary in any case: The building envelope, the windows and the automatic ventilation system expedient anyway for hygienic reasons. Improving the efficiency of these components to the point at which a separate heat delivery system can be dispensed with yields the savings which largely finance the extra costs of improvement.

Principle 2:
Minimize losses before maximizing gains
Passive Houses prevent available heat from escaping as rigorously as possible (i.e. give precedence to loss minimization). Both the computations carried out with theoretical models and the practical experience gathered with numerous projects show that, under Central European and comparable climatic conditions, such a strategy is fundamentally more efficient than strategies relying primarily upon passive or active solar energy use.

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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