The Untapped Potential of Passive Energy Housing Developments
Recent reports paint a dire picture of the potential worldwide effects of climate change. Since our buildings’ energy consumption plays a significant role in the production of greenhouse gases, many more energy-efficient buildings could affect a major reduction in carbon production. Single-family developer housing represents a high percentage of US construction at close to a million starts per year. Yet, the typical subdivision is designed with little to no regard for orientation to sun, wind and thermal envelope efficiency. Since single-family homes consume around 80% of residential energy use, a million passive energy house starts per year could have profound effects on our energy use but most architects appear uninterested in suburban housing design. This segment of the market is prime opportunity for applying passive energy strategies on a massive scale. So with the looming specter of climate change, why do most architects and builders seem apathetic to the suburbs and continue to disregard this opportunity despite the potentially catastrophic results? This research/design project questioned: if passive solar houses have been around for decades, why are there few passive single-family housing communities, and why haven’t they made the leap in scale? The research component investigates the historical reasons for the disconnect between architects, large housing developments and passive energy. Based on the findings, the design component proposes a variety of model house types, based on the Charleston House typology, and subdivision designs, both in the suburbs and as urban infill, as potential present-day strategies for extending the strategy to the massive scale. The research produced two governing questions that informed the design solutions: 1. How do we apply passive energy strategies to the pre-manufactured developer house? And, 2. How do we make passive houses marketable in a well-established industry?