DEEP ENERGY REDUCTION RETROFIT WITH

PASSIVE HOUSE TOOLS
ARTICLE BY TIM DELHEY EIAN, TE STUDIO

A Primer To Cutting Up To 90% Of The Energy Use Out Of Existing
Buildings.
Deep Energy Reduction Retrofitting offers the promise of significant energy reduction in
existing buildings. The Passive House building energy standard can be used as a tool to
achieve and quantify these savings and insure a quality product.
Linda Wigington of Affordable Comfort, Inc. spoke at the 3rd North American Passive
House Conference about something she calls “Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit”. A
Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit project includes all the measures needed to cut 70%+ of
a building’s energy consumption.

TRUE SUSTAINABILITY
Most people in the sustainable building industry now agree that we need these kinds of
energy goals in order to curb the energy use-related environmental pollution and CO2
emissions from the building sector significantly enough to achieve true sustainability.
Sustainable buildings are an asset to the owner as well as society as a whole. They are
a major step towards energy independence and the best insurance policy for an
uncertain energy future. Buildings with a small energy footprint help insulate owners from
the ups and downs of energy costs and make operating cost predictable for the
foreseeable future.

FEASIBILITY
Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit projects will typically include more insulation, better
windows and doors, and likely a new or enhanced mechanical system. While that may
seem like a lot, it can potentially be done without changing the layout or interior finishes
much at all, therefore keeping cost to a minimum.
If you start with a building that needs new siding and/or windows, you can essentially
eliminate the cost for these measures from the cost of the Deep Energy Reduction
Retrofit budget, as they are part of ongoing building maintenance.
This is when Deep Energy Reduction is most affordable. In other words, if you buy

© TE Studio, Ltd.

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5/25/15

DEEP ENERGY REDUCTION RETROFIT WITH
PASSIVE HOUSE TOOLS
ARTICLE BY TIM DELHEY EIAN, TE STUDIO
or own a building with obsolete mechanical system, siding (roofing) and windows, then
you are in a great position to do an affordable Deep Energy Reduction Project. I am
starting to advise people to consider this when purchasing a used home.

CONSERVATION FIRST
You may notice that I have not mentioned embodied energy, green building materials,
improved indoor environmental quality and renewable energy sources at all. It is my
conviction that a best practice management approach, which includes all of the above,
goes along with any Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit project. The designer should be
aware of both the energy consumption potential, as well as the necessary “greening”
potential. I find that a lot of the discussion in the industry is still focused around what I
call “surface greening”—meaning putting in more earth-friendly finishes, or bolting-on
renewable energy sources such as solar panels. In the greater scheme of things—and
while these are important measures—green building materials, finishes and bolt-on solar
panels alone cannot help overcome the energy challenge we are facing today. More
often than not, the best answer and most affordable solution for retrofit buildings is
conservation. It is therefore imperative to analyze each building’s potential, and put
together a package that offers true sustainability and long-term value to the client.
Anything short of this will likely result in a “sunk investment”, that will effectively
prevent the current owner, or future owners from giving the building the makeover it needs to overcome energy obsolescence. At the same time, owners will not
be able to reap the maximum benefits that come from a comprehensive make over—
chiefly lower operating cost, improved interior environmental quality, comfort, and
durability.

RESPONSIBILITY
Existing buildings and their performance impact both the owner/inhabitants, as well as
the society as a whole. In response, the duty of a building designer is not just to the
client, it is also to the society as a whole.

Passive House Building Energy Standard And Deep Energy Reduction Retrofits
Deep Energy Reduction Retrofits do not require Passive House design. A Passive House

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DEEP ENERGY REDUCTION RETROFIT WITH
PASSIVE HOUSE TOOLS
ARTICLE BY TIM DELHEY EIAN, TE STUDIO
Consultant however can use tools and ideas derived from Passive House for a Deep
Energy Reduction Retrofit project, which means that the client will benefit from the
knowledge of the arguably best building energy standard today. In the future, there may
be a certified Passive House retrofit standard (EnerPhit). It’s being tested right now.

Here Is How A Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit Works In A Nutshell:









Assess the viability of existing building and level of existing obsolescence
(energy, siding, roofing, windows, etc.)
Set energy goals (typ. 70%+ improvement over existing condition, or clearly
defined standard such as EnerPHit)
Assess moisture transfer through shell and design assemblies that will be air-tight
but diffusion open
Demo and prepare the existing building
Establish the air-tightness layer, test air-tightness
Add an (exterior) insulation package
Install new doors and windows
Add heat-recovery ventilation system
Adequately size the mechanical system
Add renewable energy package as desired

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