This is the second of a three-part series on passive building presence at NESEA BE13. Part one sets the stage for the series and part three completes the tour.
Last year’s NESEA passive trade show tour was a huge success for exhibitors and attendees. This year’s will be even bigger and better: Remember, you can join me for a tour of Passive Place–a concentration of passive component manufacturers organized by PHAUS on Wednesday, March 6. I’ll also be doing a stage presentation just before the tour. Here are the details:
Demonstration: Cool Passive House Gadgets
Wednesday, March 6, 4:30, Stage 2, off the 1100 aisle
Passive House Trade Show Tour with Katrin Klingenberg
Wednesday, March 6, 5:30 – 6:30 (leaves from the NESEA Lounge #507)
If you can’t be there, like last year I’m going to run through the highlights here on the blog. Because we have more exhibitors, this year I’ve organized it around foundation passive building principles. We’re off!
Passive building principle No. 1: SUPERINSULATE AND USE THERMAL-BRIDGE FREE DETAILS
Knauf Insulation — Booth 862 (http://www.knaufinsulation.us/) is a leader in fiberglass insulation. Knauf makes every imaginable form of fiberglass insulation, but with an ecological twist: Knauf’s ECOBatt Glasswool insulation features a new binder that is more environmentally responsible; it reduces harmful chemicals and the amount of embodied energy typically found in binders. Knauf also uses post-consumer recycled glass bottles. Knauf’s application forms include blown-in blanket systems—perfect for passive building because they provide slightly higher R-values per inch, and the blown in material fills all nooks and crannies. Knauf also makes higher density batts for acoustic insulation purposes or high temperature pipe insulation. A great range of products for passive building!
The tour moves on with a quick walk down memory lane: I was introduced to the Schoeck Isokorb during my very first year of architectural education (it was the year the wall came down, when I had just moved to Berlin, Germany). Schoeck is to this day the world leader in thermally broken structural fasteners, check them out: Schoeck USA — Booth 662 (http://www.schock-us.com/).
Other insulation manufacturers on the NESEA floor are National Fiber — Booth 717 (http://www.nationalfiber.com/) with its cellulose insulation product and Icynene — Booth 911 (http://www.icynene.com/) with a spray foam product.
Passive building principle No. 2+3:
BUILD AIRTIGHT and PREVENT MOISTURE MIGRATION INTO WALL
Air barrier systems are getting smarter and more efficient to apply. PROSOCO, Inc. — Booth 949 (http://www.prosoco.com/) and Tremco Commercial Waterproofing & Sealants — Booth 860 (http://www.tremcosealants.com/) both offer exciting fluid-applied air and water barrier systems; they range from impermeable to vapor open with matching through-the-wall flashings. Tremco also offers specialty window-install systems to tie windows airtightly into the wall opening, such as the pre-compressed air sealing tape specifically developed for passive building.
Back to barrier systems: the planning and implementation of air-tight layers is particularly intimidating for large buildings. I know at least one passive building architect who’s having some sleepless nights worrying whether the airtight barrier will be installed perfectly. The fluid-applied systems from Prosoco and Tremco can help designers and builders of large projects sleep better. They optimize work flow and ease to prevent defects during application. Both brick and frame with exterior gypsum board construction types have lots of joints and interconnected air gaps. Wrapping the entire building from the outside in an airtight fluid applied skin is a great strategy to get all those gap leaks. The chemistry of these skins means they can now be dialed in just right in terms of permeability, based on the climate. Very exciting as we are moving more into multifamily new and retrofit construction.
Huber Engineered Woods LLC — Booth 953 (http://www.huberwood.com/) offers the ZIP-system that many passive buildings have used as their air-tightness approach. In this system the structural sheathing serves as the air-tight layer—perfect for single-family framed homes. All seams are sealed with a special tape that adheres to the sheathing permanently. This is a great approach to “tunnel through the cost barrier”: A material that is already necessary—the structural OSB—can be cross purposed as the air-tight layer and vapor control layer! But careful: this approach is highly climate specific. The CPHC must properly locate this air-tight/vapor control /zip system layer within the wall assembly. OSB has only a 0.7-1.0 perm rating.
SIGA — Booth 620 (http://www.sigacover.com/us/) offers European smart membranes for wind- and air tightness applications, impermeable or diffusion-open, and tapes and gaskets of all varieties. There are tapes for every occasion and with any desired perm rating. Creased tapes allow for easy and perfect installation in the 90 degree corners at windows. Really well thought out systems that have been proven to last over time!
475 High Performance Building Supply — Booth 759 (http://www.foursevenfive.com/) is a Brooklyn, NY based firm offering a variety of European passive house product imports. From airtightness membranes and tape solutions by INTELLO plus and Pro Clima, a wood fiber sheathing/insulation product from Gutex, triple pane skylights from Fakro to thermally broken fasteners from Schoeck. There is also a through-wall decentralized apartment venting solution with a ceramic heat recovery core from Lunos.
Passive building principle No. 4:
HIGH PERFORMANCE WINDOWS AND DOORS
Selecting windows with the right climate-specific thermal and solar gain performance is critical. We’re happy to see more manufacturers and more varieties than ever. And European windows are still mostly stealing the show.
Passive Place will feature H Windows/Energate — Booth 959 (http://www.hwindow.com/products/), Klearwall Industries — Booth 963 (http://www.klearwall.com/) and New England Fenestration / Unilux Windows, LLC — Booth 955 (http://www.newenglandfenestration.com/NEF_products.html). Energate was represented in the US early on and made headlines when they won the DC Solardecathlon with the Darmstadt team in 2007 and then did it again in 2009. They are window technology leaders.
A newer entrant in the North American market is the Ireland-based Klearwall (http://www.klearwall.com/), made from UPVC and available in various performance specs. The Thermal break in the frame is provided by adding still air chambers; for higher performance models the profile is filled with insulating foam. UPVC is a more affordable option than the wood frame windows. Both manufacturers carry the European passive house certification for the central European cool moderate climate.
New England Fenestration / Unilux features Unilux windows and doors from Germany. The window products have an excellent reputation for quality, and offer a wide choice of frames and performance specs for different climates in North America. The door options are available in high performance insulated varieties and feature superior airtightness and triple seals. Another excellent performer represented by this company are energy efficient windows from Schueco.
Pinnacle Window Solutions — Booth 763 (http://www.pinnaclewindowsolutions.net/) offers Alpen High Performance Products’ fiberglass window, the only North American made window on NESEA’s show floor that meets passive house requirements. Alpen (http://www.alpenhpp.com/) is the same group that developed the well known heat mirror technology, which has worked successfully in many passive buildings across the nation. This fiberglass window features excellent U-values well suited for all climates, from very cold to hot. Another plus: typical mounting flange installation means contractors will know how to tie it into the water resistive barrier.
Using suspended plastic film (instead of an additional glass pane) to increase the R-value yields a window that features quadruple pane window performance while maintaining a manageable weight. This is powerful for the cold and very cold climates in North America where even triple pane windows are not measuring up. That said, the high R of the heat mirror glazing package comes at a price: the Solar Heat Gain coefficient goes down significantly the better the R and the visible transmittance is lowered as well. The good news is that the owners of this technology are working to create even better windows that meet the passive house community’s needs in North America.
Intus Windows — Booth 624 (http://www.intuswindows.com/) are a very cost effective European window solution manufactured in Lithuania. It offers the European quality high performance frames, glazing, airtightness, multi-lock hardware as well as cool-moderate climate verification through the European window certification. Intus Windows also distributes the Schueco Passive House curtain wall system (cool moderate climate verified).”
Zola European Windows — Booth 628 (http://www.zolawindows.com/), another European import, is distributed from Denver, Colo. I have to say that I am somewhat partial to the Zola aesthetic, a more slender wood frame with a thermal break made from wood fiber, hence a more environmentally friendly solution over foam. But Zola also carries the UPVC window frame varieties, which are more affordable, as well. Zola’s windows carry the European cool moderate window value certification for its products.
Yet other European passive house certified window distributors with excellent performance and further options on the NESEA show floor are Bieber Windows — Booth 727 (http://www.bieberusa.com/), European Architectural Supply — Booth 729 (http://www.eas-usa.com/Products.cfm) and Yaro – DSI — Booth 559 (http://www.yaro-dsi.com/), all definitely worth a visit and a chat or two with the knowledgeable sales reps.
Passive building principle No. 5:
BALANCED VENTILATION WITH HEAT RECOVERY AND MINIMIZED SPACE CONDITIONING, EFFICIENT HOT WATER
Two veteran passive house manufacturers of the central piece of equipment–the ventilation system—offer distinctly different products that represent very different choices. We’re eager for more North American manufacturers to enter the market, but so far Ultimate Air — Booth 856 (http://www.ultimateair.com/) and Zehnder America, Inc. — Booth 864 (http://www.zehnderamerica.com/) are the only two meeting the passive building challenge.
Ultimate Air brings its proven American built and affordable classic Energy Recovery Ventilator – the RecoupAerator. It is the only residential product that uses an enthalpy wheel and meets the passive house efficiency requirements. The MERV 12 filter is integrated (it is the heat exchange medium in the wheel) and the humidity transfer rate can be adjusted from 40% to 20% by choice of different heat exchange filter pies…a pretty cool option to have in humid and mixed climates.
Over the past few years Zehnder has added more models. It offers a choice of HRV or ERV counter flow heat exchange cores, which are very different from the enthalpy wheel. Zehnder ventilators are all European rated products and recently also obtained North American Home Ventilation Institute efficiency ratings for its two most popular models, Comfoair 350 and Novus 300.
European testing methods differ from the HVI testing protocol and the two measures can’t be directly compared. Where we have HVI test results for both manufacturers we can quote apples to apples comparisons: Zehnder’s Comfoair 350 is rated by HVI at 93% Apparent Sensible Effectiveness (ASE) and the UltimateAir RecoupAerator is rated at 95%. Both ratings are truly exceptional. Both manufacturers offer options for defrost and pre-cooling / -heating / dehumidification through passive closed ground loop heat exchangers. Zehnder offers a time saving home run polyethylene 3” ducting system as well.
The Mitsubishi Electric — Booth 707 (http://www.mitsubishipro.com/en/professional/products/heat-pump-systems) mini-split heat pump is the perfect companion space conditioning point source solution to the ventilator. Mitsubishi has led with the highest efficiency ratings and its stable includes nine products that meet Energy Star’s most efficient equipment designation for 2013. Their mini-split systems have become popular choices for heating/cooling and dehumidification systems of choice for passive homes across North America’s climate zones. The units are available in small sizes for single zone and multi zone systems. They have excellent SEER ratings. They are available in three capacities, 9k, 12k and 15k BTU/h, the Hyper-Heat model that works down to temperatures as low as -15 F is available in 9k, 12k and 18k. An excellent, efficient, cost effective way to heat and cool a passive house by point source!
Also worth to visit Daiken AC – Altherma — Booth 418 (http://www.daikinac.com/commercial/home.asp), another leader in heat pump technology.
Stiebel Eltron Inc. — Booth 749 is one of the anchors of this year’s passive house product exhibit. I met Frank Stiebel at NESEA in 2006. I am sure he will not remember but I remember the conversation clearly and the impression it left me with. At the time we were looking at his solar thermal system (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/sol27.html) and the superior superinsulated hot water storage tank (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/sbb.html). There was nothing like it at the time. We had also used the instantaneous hot water heaters of the Tempra series (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/tempra.html) with great success in our first affordable passive house projects in Urbana, Ill.
Last year I reported on the heat pump hot water heater Accelera (www.stiebel-eltron-usa.com/accelera.html), a true heat pump (not a hybrid water heater as are most other products in this category). It’s easily the most energy efficient of the class and worth the money. Heat pump hot water heaters should be located inside the thermal envelope in super low load homes because they can contribute to cooling and dehumidification in the shoulder and summer seasons (this location even makes sense in heating dominated climates). Stiebel Eltron has 30 years of experience with this technology. Most recently Stiebel-Eltron in Europe is also offering a small decentralized through the wall ventilation unit with a ceramic heat exchanger. Those units “pulsate”, they reverse supply and exhaust ventilation and as the direction of the air flow changes across the ceramic heat exchanger energy is transferred and recovered. They are very efficient and are an alternate solution to centralized balanced ventilation systems, applicable to single room occupancies or small hotel rooms. Stiebel Eltron is considering introducing this product in the US. I admit I am a fan; Stiebel-Eltron products are well engineered and offer top performance!
Whew! Last year it took two posts to cover all the passive building exhibitors on the tour — this year, it’ll be three! I’ll post the third and final installment on March 5.
Thanks for reading,