Utility Free Cabin

by Cody Farmer

It’s part of the evolution of buildings because it solves the ‘calculation portion of the human requirement.’ Today’s building codes merely require an estimated guess of how much energy a building needs. Which is why designing Net Zero buildings is difficult you run out of rooftop for the solar panels.

Jabba the Home and the Old Utility Free Cabin

Chopping Logs Outside a Snow Covered Log Cabin oil painting by Cornelius Krieghoff

 ‘Green Building’ is a cold cabin, with a water well or spring, an outhouse, and a fireplace. It was also a great examp­­le of a Utility Free building. It was independent of the grid.

What can we learn from the Cabin in an evolutionary context? (Besides chimneys leak a lot of air and cabins are uncomfortable?)

The cabin had no electricity, no gas, and no solar panels. Through evolution of human desire, sanitation and health the cabin has turned into the modern home with all the heating, cooling and power plugs-ins required for an on-demand life. But Modern Homes have BIG problems. Without power or fuel they act just like a cold cabin.

inside cold cabinsThis is because the buildings we live in and work in are usually designed for the wrong climate. We see buildings in Florida sweating to death and buildings in Denver freezing their snow balls solid. Our buildings are bare boned minimum structures, something coined ‘business as usual building,’ by Katrin Klingenberg. It means cheap, fast and built to code. In addition, the cheaper it is to build, the more likely it will appraise within the correct price-range. If it appraises, it is much easier to finance.  Sense the conundrum?

The long term utility costs of modern buildings are as bad as compounded interest and they last the lifetime of the building.

This cheapness of building the modern home means they are leaky fossil fuel thirsty beasts! (Jabba the Home) Their appetite to foster smells, move dust, and chimney ground radon gases inside is unquenchable! They are dependent on monthly utility costs and like the cabin somewhat uncomfortable, although it’s nice to have warm water showers and a flushing toilet! Really nice..

So I go out on a limb to say we likely agree that buildings should continue to evolve and get better. To which I dream that somehow Mother Nature will marry Technology so humans can continue to have clean air, water, and technology without having to sacrifice the Amazon. Pun intended.

I mean healthier, more comfortable, less energy used, less money spent! And we can have the technology too..

It does costs more..

BUT…. IT PAYS BACK BETTER THAN YOUR $401k and You’ll LOVE it!

Prepaid expenses ARE investments. You pay for memberships to get discounted groceries.

Passive House is the tool for designing discounted utility bills. A.K.A. Performance Buildings.  And that’s what MainStream does and teaches.

It’s part of the evolution of buildings because it solves the ‘calculation portion of the human requirement.’ Today’s building codes merely require an estimated guess of how much energy a building needs.  Which is why designing Net Zero buildings is difficult you run out of rooftop for the solar panels. 

performance meter

How much does the Healthy Home called Passive House cost?

Everyone wants to know what net zero costs, or the pay back of Passive House performance. “How much will it cost me to build that?” “What will it save?” “What will my Return on Investment Be?”

It Costs 10%-15% over a code driven budget and the ROI is 12-15%.

What maybe truly the most profound thing to think about it that the Passive House industry is the only industry that studies buildings’ utility bills, and compares them to their energy model.

So if all the buildings in the world that use energy were space ships, only the Passive House buildings would actually land at their destination. 

There are over 25,000 certified Passive House’ in the world today.

Our homes and buildings temperatures stay around 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit. This means we heat or cool spaces when the outdoor temperature is not within that parameter.

If the cabin was on the design team it would ask ‘how do I heat, and cool myself for free?’

And the Passive House would ask ‘how do I store that temperature without it going stale for 5 days?’

You can probably sense where I’m going with this. Utility Free Buildings in the past haven’t been comfortable. 

And comfortable buildings aren’t known to be Utility Free.

Green Building has become much easier with Passive House.

We’ve been busy at MainStream researching ways to make high-performance building easier and more affordable for the lender, the builder, and the owner. 

Are you ready to develop Passive House with us? Let’s get work!