You wake up to a cold winter morning.  You want to get out of bed, but dread having to step on the freezing cold bathroom tiles.  Even under your warm blankets, you can feel the cold air inside your bedroom.  Despite this, you refuse to turn on the central heating unit because of rising heating costs. 

Now imagine this ~ No more cold tiles.  No more visible breath reminiscent of something out of The Six Sense.  The temperature of the air, floor, walls ~ all a balmy 70 degrees.  Even better, all of this without having to lay a hand on the thermostat. . .   

In Germany, this scenario has become plausible through the rise of “passive homes.”  Passive homes are hermetically-sealed homes that use advanced insulation and heat-exchange ventilation systems to minimize heat loss while allowing sufficient air circulation.  By using ultra-thick insulation and a series of complex doors and windows, architects create an airtight shell that keeps warm air in and cold air out.  By efficiently trapping heat (up to 90%), a passive home can stay heated with the use of sunlight, everyday household appliances, and even body heat.

But, don’t expect to jump on the passive home bandwagon anytime soon.  In the United States, this method of heat exchange is still new, which means LEED officials will have a difficult time determining whether or not it meets LEED certification.  Unlike Germany, where individuals pay around 5 – 7 percent more for passive homes, people here can expect to pay significantly more due to its rarity.  Moreover, the feasibility of passive homes is highly dependent on climate, location, and sunlight.  Finally (and perhaps most significant), passive homes are meant for small, box-shaped homes.  This means that the sprawling 4,000+ sq ft suburban tract homes are not likely to be conducive to passive heating. 

Plead read this New York Times article for more information.