A so-called passive home like the one the Landaus are now building is so purposefully designed and built — from its orientation toward the sun and superthick insulation to its algorithmic design and virtually unbroken air envelope — that it requires minimal heating, even in chilly New England. Contrary to some naysayers’ concerns, the Landaus’ timber-frame home will be neither stuffy nor, at 2,000 square feet, oppressively small.
It has been a good deal more expensive to build, however, than the average home. That might partly explain why the passive-building standard is only now getting off the ground in the United States — despite years of data suggesting that America’s drafty building methods account for as much as 40 percent of its primary energy use, 70 percent of its electricity consumption and nearly 40 percent of its carbon-dioxide emissions.
Proponents of the standard, who note that passive homes often use up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than similar homes built to local code, say the Landaus embody the willingness of more homeowners to embrace passive building in the United States.
From the NYT. I'm curious to see a little more detailed breakdown of the costs and payback of passive building. The article notes that passive houses in the US cost "at least 15% more". Therefore a $200,000 house would then cost an additional $30 thousand to make it passive. Now, assuming an average monthly heating/cooling cost of $200, a 90% reduction would save around $2150 per year, so about a 14 year payoff, using optimistic numbers, and ignoring design and architect costs. More information can be found at the US Passive House Institute.