Mar 16, 2022 1:00:00 PM | 11 Min Read

How to Talk About Passive Building for Energy Efficiency in Sales

Posted By Reynaers Aluminium
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How to Talk About Passive Building for Energy Efficiency in Sales

When people think about green homes and buildings, rooftop solar panels might come to mind — but there are many ways to incorporate sustainable elements into a building project. Many of these elements reduce the energy usage in the building instead of generating energy to operate. They’re critical to creating new green buildings and enhancing the performance of existing ones.

While renewable energy sources are a huge part of green building, reducing overall energy usage is critical. Often, strategies to reduce energy usage can be quick wins for renovation projects; they can come with a lower price tag than active energy generation strategies while providing other benefits, like reduced energy costs.

Two Roles of Zero Energy Building: Active & Passive

As we mentioned, when it comes to zero energy building, there are two ways buildings can lessen their environmental impact:

  • Active: Strategies that create energy
  • Passive: Strategies that reduce the building’s overall energy needs

While many people might focus on how they can produce energy in their homes or leverage renewable energy, passive home strategies can reduce energy consumption in the first place. Lower energy consumption is beneficial to new builds, remodels, and renovations. Passive strategies are a critical part of gaining many green home certifications.

When you’re talking to clients about green building, a discussion around energy usage is essential. Many strategies to lower energy consumption aren’t things we think about daily, so they may not come to mind when a client starts their green building or green renovation journey.

Passive building strategies often address things that already need to be considered in a home, like light usage and insulation. Homeowners or building managers will need to decide what insulation and air circulation systems to use and what windows to install, so having passive home options at the ready can point them in the right direction.

Common Passive Building Strategies

There are plenty of ways to improve the energy usage in a home, but these are a few of the most common ones when it comes to building and renovations:

Leveraging Natural Light

Placing windows to maximize the amount of natural light can drastically reduce the usage of electric lights during daylight hours. Beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows might spring to mind, but so might concerns of privacy. In areas with direct neighbors, skylights can help homeowners take advantage of that gorgeous sunlight.

Natural light can also aid in adding heat to the home in cooler months, meaning there’s less reliance on natural gas or electricity for heat.

Improved Thermal Performance

Strategies for thermal performance address the building’s ability to retain energy and prevent the loss of heated or conditioned air—thus reducing the energy needed to heat or cool the home. There are a few ways to do this, including natural light we mentioned above, as well as:

  • High-performance insulation: Insulation is like a jacket for your home. Using more insulation or high-performance insulation keeps the energy in the house. Sheep’s wool is an example of high-performance insulation—and it’s eco-friendly.
  • Airtight seals: Air should only be entering and exiting through designated points. Windows and doors, especially in older structures, can cause a lot of excess energy usage when air leaks out. Airtight seals can also prevent unwanted moisture build-up.

Improved Air Ventilation

If you’re worried that an airtight seal would make a space stuffy, know that passive building accounts for those ventilation needs. Passive homes and buildings employ efficient air filtration systems to continuously circulate and supply fresh, clean air. Ventilation is controlled via a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV).

Benefits of Passive Building Strategies

Passive strategies do more than improve the energy performance of a building. They also improve the building’s or home's comfort level and — perhaps the most significant benefit — reduces energy costs!

Even if the cost of a high-performance product is greater than the standard product, the cost in energy savings over time can offset some of that sticker shock. Also, high-performance doesn’t just translate to energy performance — they’re designed to last for a long time, which means less money spent on replacements later.

Lower energy bills are a big item for the pros column, but consider these other benefits:

  • Relying more on natural light than artificial light can improve sleep, mood, and overall mental health.
  • Large windows or skylights can offer incredible views
  • Systems used to improve ventilation also improve air quality, and ERV systems can also remove excess moisture and prevent mold.
  • Improved thermal performance means fewer cold or hot spots in the home or building, making the entire structure more comfortable.

Not to mention, the companies behind these high-performance building products do work to reduce their carbon footprint and implement environmentally and socially responsible business practices. Investing in these products supports these companies' work and affirms homeowners’ and building owners’ values that their new space is green for the materials’ entire life cycle.

Roles Passive Building Strategies Play in Green Certifications

There are a variety of green certifications out there that can be attached to buildings and products. And while these agencies seek to help people understand the environmental impact in construction, there are quite a few — which can feel overwhelming for salespeople and consumers alike.

Let’s cover some of the common certifications and how they apply to buildings and products:

Passive House Alliance / PHIUS

Passive House Standards, created by the Passive House Alliance, are based on energy efficiency and are one of the most rigorous building certifications. When it comes to enhanced energy efficiency, Passive House is based on these principles:

  • Continuous insulation and no thermal bridging
  • Airtight building envelope
  • High-performance windows and doors
  • Balanced heat and moisture-recovery ventilation
  • Minimal space conditioning

In short, Passive House principles aim to prevent energy loss, which lowers costs and overall energy consumption.

LEED

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications apply to buildings, residential or commercial, whether they are newly constructed or renovated structures. The LEED framework offers certifications in several areas, including:

  • Building Design & Construction
  • Operations & Maintenance
  • Interior Design & Construction
  • Neighborhood Development

The LEED system awards points to buildings based on various areas of environmental and health impacts. Points determine the level of LEED certification, including Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels.

Zero Energy Building or Net Zero Energy Building

While not a certification, zero energy building is a principle for construction and renovation to create structures that generate as much energy as they consume. “Zero energy” does not necessarily mean the building is entirely self-reliant, but that it can generate power.

For example, if a building uses solar panels to generate energy to operate, the amount of energy it can generate will vary depending on the day or season. When the solar panels collect less energy, the building can still use energy from the power grid to keep the lights on. But, when the solar panels collect more energy than the building needs to operate, the home can return excess power to the grid. Ultimately, the building’s energy return meets (or even exceeds) the amount of external energy it uses, resulting in net-zero energy use.

Minergie

Minergie is a Swiss building and product certification focused on increased comfort and efficiency in living and working spaces and value preservation. Minergie certifications focus on three areas:

  • Planning & Design
  • Construction
  • Operation

An important distinction from other certifications we’ve discussed is Minergie’s focus on increased comfort in addition to environmental factors. This includes heat retention in the winter and air circulation to reduce moisture build-up. Another aspect of Minergie is quality, meaning that products and buildings with Minergie certifications are high-quality, durable, and add value to the building.

Cradle to Cradle (C2C)

Cradle to Cradle, or C2C, is a product certification that does not just apply to building products. C2C certificates help consumers identify products that have positive environmental and societal impacts. C2C certified products meet sustainability requirements in five categories:

  • Material Health
  • Product Circularity
  • Clear Air & Climate Protection
  • Water & Soil Stewardship
  • Social Fairness

Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are a type of report about a product’s environmental impact, including what it’s made of and fabrication processes. EPDs are performed by a certified third party to create a transparent report about the product, which includes environmental impact across the entire product’s lifecycle.

EPDs help buildings gain green certifications. As the report is performed and put together by a third party, EPDs are also an objective source of product environmental impact information.

Takeaways for Sales in Passive Building Products

While thinking about windows and insulation might not be as flashy or fun as solar panels, they’re critical parts of a home or building’s environmental impact. Framing a conversation with clients around energy consumption and usage as a whole is important to helping clients create a green building to meet their goals. Reduced energy usage will also make active strategies like solar panels more successful!

When you’re talking to clients about green building, be ready to discuss the following:

  • Active vs. Passive building strategies
  • Environmental impact of high-performance passive building products
  • Different green certifications and what they mean for buildings and products

At Reynaers, many of our products have high thermal performance ratings, along with different certifications for passive building. Our products are used in residential and commercial buildings alike for their high performance, lifespan, recyclability, and aesthetics.

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Topics: Sustainability, Dealer, Industry Trends

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