Pergola on passive house with large panoramic windows

Imagine you are planning to build a new house engineered around passive design concepts. You choose an architect specializing in mountain contemporary architecture before contacting a real estate agent in hopes of finding that perfect piece of land. Would manufactured housing ever enter your mind?

Passive design and manufactured housing are often viewed as being at odds with one another. But they really aren’t. California’s Plant Prefab is proof of that. The company just unveiled a new line of contemporary homes built around passive design. The most expensive in the line can cost more than $900,000 when all is said and done.

Sparano + Mooney, a Park City, Utah architectural firm that specializes in passive design, says that passive concepts are not exclusive to custom-built luxury homes. Anyone can design a home around the passive idea, even if the resulting design is ultimately destined to become the blueprint for an affordable manufactured home.

Basic Passive Design Concepts

If you were to hire Sparano + Mooney to design a new home in Park City, they would look at a number of factors relating to passive design. Note that passive design is mostly about reducing energy consumption by limiting the need for mechanical HVAC. If you can heat and cool your home without using mechanical systems, you ultimately save money.

Here are some of the basic concepts of passive design:

  • Trees – A home designed around passive concepts takes advantage of natural shading. The home is protected by trees on the south side in order to help keep the structure cooler during the summer. During the winter, those trees are bare. Sunshine is allowed to warm the house, thus reducing the need for mechanical heating.
  • Windows – Along those same lines, architects will design windows with awnings or other types of protective coverings. During the summer, when the sun is high, not as much direct sunlight is allowed through the windows. The opposite is true during the winter when the sun is lower.
  • Orientation – Passive design also accounts for a home’s orientation on the land on which it is built. Living spaces tend to be situated on the south side of the house. This includes great rooms and kitchens. Bedrooms are on the north side. Again, this is to take advantage of the home’s position in relation to the sun.
  • Air Flow – How air flows through a home’s interior can influence mechanical heating and cooling. Architects design homes to allow for as much air flow as possible so as to distribute warm and cool air more evenly.

There is more to passive design than these four considerations. The point is that passive design results in a home that is less dependent on mechanical heating and cooling. Passive design concepts can be integrated into an $80,000 home just as much as a luxury home costing upwards of $1 million.

Not Exclusive to the Wealthy

The point of this entire discussion is to illustrate the fact that passive home design is not exclusive to wealthier people capable of affording custom-built luxury homes. As such, there really is no good reason to build any new homes without including as many passive design features as possible. We do not have to continue wasting energy on mechanical heating and cooling.

Passive design really rests in an understanding of how to work with nature, rather than against it. The thing is that civilizations have been doing it for thousands of years. There really is no reason we cannot continue to do it today, even in the modern arena of manufactured housing.