Multi-Family Passive House: Duplexes, Apartments and Condos, Oh My!

by Cody Farmer

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…but it was extremely uncomfortable full of cold drafts, her children’s allergies were always acting up, and the energy bills were through the roof!...or through the boot hole…. or whatever. She really wished that her adult children could take some of the other kids and move out of her shoe and into an apartment but all of the apartments around had the same energy and temperature issues. What’s a girl to do??!

 

Enter…the Passive House-elves. Ok, ok…we’re not elves, just people, but the work we do on building design COULD be described as magic!

In all seriousness, there has been some debate over whether or not passive house principles can work for multi-family buildings.

With all of the influx of families moving from other states into our beloved Colorado, there is now a high demand for more housing…including multi-family buildings like apartments, condos, and duplexes. In fact, MainStream is currently working on a 44 unit Passive micro-housing apartment in Longmont, Colorado. Email us about it, as it solves the demand for an affordable, efficient, and healthy building; a commonly studied topic for investment, academic, and government communities. This is why we started talking about it here: https://radiopublic.com/-6V3qX8/s1!a1c0c#t=86 Start listening at 16:20.

Thank you again, J. Massey.

But is this really feasible? My initial answer is it doesn’t matter. Codes are slowly causing builders to build tighter without holistic consequential views. EH?? We need to go all the way or go home because not going all the way causes buildings to rot…How do you like me now?

Real Answer: IT IS FEASIBLE TO DO THIS CORRECT 

Obviously, if the building is leaky, the owner loses money as the heat and/or AC treated air leaks out of the cracks and crevices in the leaky building. This is the cheap part happening all over Colorado. You see plastic wrapped buildings all over with little exhaust pipes for the bathroom fans. Buildings are depressed and so are the people inside!

That air tightness causes the air to feel stale and stuffy and causes residents to frequently run exhaust fans (which are insufficient and create an imbalance of air pressure) or they open windows. This problem is exacerbated in colder climates, (like Colorado and our surrounding neighbor states of Wyoming and Nebraska) because, as you know if you live here, we really only have 3 or 4 months of warm weather…all other months are far too cold to open a window. Not only that but if you have seasonal allergies, opening a window to let in all that pollen is torture. 

To fix this tight indoor air problem Passive House Consultants use large super-efficient and dependable Energy Recovery Ventilators instead of Bathroom fans. The ventilators can serve many units' constant fresh air needs without tenants even touching a switch. They just feel better and smell better. Humidity and smells are always leaving as new fresh air is coming in. Please note that Supplying Fresh Filtered Air is not a code requirement. It’s that funny! 

However, they’re coming around FAST. Local codes with the new energy goals and the recent environmental awareness ignition (Save the world!) will soon require Energy Recovery Ventilation as the solution. And they should require fresh air to your home.

Here’s the rub. MainStream is the only company that sells a retrofit ready solution for commercial and residential. We can fix stale air with whole building air purification that fits in existing 2x4 walls. We’re fixing a foam home right now in Littleton Colorado.  It’s time to fix your indoor air quality.

Zehnder heat recovery ventilators supply and exhaust equal amounts of air into the building, keeping air from getting pulled in through gaps in the enclosure and dispensing with the need for windows to ventilate the home. Not only that, but since Zehnder heat recovery ventilators (HRV) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) run non-stop to maintain optimal ventilation levels, there’s no need to cross your fingers and hope that occupants will remember to turn the system on and off. It runs for them, it runs for you, and it #savestheworld.

These systems help keep moisture and carbon dioxide levels in a healthy range without compromising energy efficiency. Zehnder ventilators have filters to remove smog, smoke, pollen, mold spores, bacteria, and other contaminants!

Building Passive House multi-family housing is a win-win for both the owners and the residents. And that makes it a win for you, the builder, as well because happy clients equal more business from referrals and that’s something we could all use more of!

If you’re interested in more ways to be kind to the environment and save money, you can check out how we can apply passive house principles to your home, church, office, apartment, library, maintenance building, or upload your plan sets so that you can reduce your energy bills to nearly nothing per month! We provide passive house services for: passive house Colorado, passive house Wyoming, and passive house Nebraska. In addition, breathe clean and easy with Airtight and Ventilation solutions at mainstreamcorporation.com we ship all over the place! We exist for the sole purpose of helping the world build healthier wealthier and wiser!