Although the inclusion of commercial-style gas ranges and wood burning fireplaces in New York Passive Houses might be questionable to some, architect Michael Ingui recently insisted at the Passive House Canada conference in Toronto that his design clients would not buy a Passive House design without these fixtures.
Environmentalists assert that the burning of gas negatively impacts interior air quality, and say that gas should remain in the ground. Passive House, they point out, requires so little energy that multiple heating options are available.
Natural gas is inexpensive due to fracking. An abundance of natural gas lingers in the pipelines, and is leaking into the air. And half of New York’s electric power originates from burning natural gas.
New York officials have announced the intention to continue the reduction of fossil fuel use for power generation to zero levels by 2040. If a home is heated by gas, then it will continue to require that energy source. In the structure of Ingui’s Passive House buildings, gas is not used for heating purposes. In the future, residents can buy a new type of stove and gas dryer. But there still remains the issue of air quality.
Michael Ingui designs his exhaust hoods and makeup air for the gas range to adhere to Passive House standards. He inserts CO and other sensors in the exhaust to guarantee that all elements are escaping up the exhaust and not into the home—thus ensuring good air quality.
In regards to the wood-burning fireplace, Ingui incorporates models into his design that contain hefty, sealed glass doors and makeup air.
So the air quality of the Passive House is assured. However, wood-burning fireplaces are faulted for pushing the PM 2.5 levels upward. Aside from autos, they are considered the most significant urban source of particulate matter.
Michael Ingui acknowledges that no-gas homes would be preferable, and despite his preference for heat pump hot water and dryers, his clients continue to insist on a gas stove. And although New York City residents crave fireplaces, in Passive Houses the fireplace overheats the room in moments and he finds that clients never use them. He encourages clients to sample cooking on his induction range and foresees the eventual phasing out of gas stoves and active fireplaces.
Some environmentalists insist that the Passive House standard should go carbon-free and be devoid of gas and fossil fuels. Hopefully in the future, Passive House will become fully active in the promotion of alternate energy sources.