Does an insulated slab and ICF construction vs. stick framing and a crawl space offer any advantages to building a Passive House?

Asked by Norm Hieger
Sequim, WA

We are planning to build a 1200–1600 sq. ft., 2-bed, 2-bath home on the upper WA peninsula, just outside the town of Sequim. We would like to build a home to LEED or Passive House standards. Our goal is to build an affordable, modest retirement home.


Anthony Addesso

Answered by Anthony Addesso

Hawthorne, NJ

Addesso Architecture

October 20, 2010

Design of a passive house is not as simple as using an insulated slab with ICF, over a stick frame on a crawl space structure.

  • In your area, you will require a good insulation level, and reduction of air infiltration can be obtained by either construction method.
  • Both methods of construction have their good points and bad.
  • There are many other factors involved to attain a zero or near-zero energy consumption, besides the basic construction method.

To be able to heat and cool your home with minimal or no use of mechanical means, you will need to incorporate many passive energy components into the structure. The house should be designed with the site in mind, including: 

  • topography,
  • orientation to the sun path,
  • layout of the home,
  • areas of glass,
  • wind direction,
  • average temperatures,
  • foliage,
  • all with the seasonal changes in mind.

With this analysis, decisions can be made about which systems can and should be included in the design.

A passive structure or zero-energy-consumption structure is a combination of all the components included in the structure. Items that can be included in the structure can be solar storage in slabs for heating, use of natural ventilation for cooling, etc. All play a part in the energy efficiency of the structure.

Working with your architect, you can review the information, and develop the best solutions for your project, by selection of materials, assemblies, and overall design.

Tagged In: icf, passive house

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