Passive Passion: Local builder screens documentary on low energy building design

Jobes Builders is holding a screening of Passive Passion, a documentary film on low energy building techniques. Image courtesy of Jobes Builders. Jobes Builders is holding a screening of Passive Passion, a documentary film on low energy building techniques. Image courtesy of Jobes Builders.

A Charlottesville builder is working to drum up interest in ultra-low energy housing, and is inviting locals to learn more at a documentary screening on the topic tonight in a Ridge Street neighborhood home that is a poster child for the movement known as “passive house.”

Bill Jobes of Jobes Builders is showing Passive Passion, a 20-minute film on the passive house design method, at 7pm today at 229 Lankford Avenue, a Jobes-built residence that’s now on the market.

Jobes said he got interested in the high energy performance building movement, which got its start in Germany in the late 1980s, because it combined so much of what he cares about, both in terms of design and conservation.

“It’s very much a new frontier, and it’s very exciting,” he said. “As a builder, everything I’ve been doing for the past 30 years, it’s all logically funneling itself into this.”

Passive houses are designed to cut energy use by 80 to 90 percent, Jobes said. Extra thick walls, superinsulation, double-glazed windows, and passive solar heating techniques can almost eliminate the need for heating and cooling, he said, rendering a lot of other green technology essentially irrelevant. Solar, geothermal heat—“they’re all Band-Aids that you stick onto a house that’s not built very well,” he said. “When it’s built properly, you just don’t need it.”

It’s not easy to convince people that they should shell out at the time of construction to save money—and energy—in the long run. There has to be a major cultural shift before that happens, Jobes said. Europe is years ahead on that front, said Jobes, but if it’s going to happen anywhere in the U.S., it can happen in Charlottesville.

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