The author spends quite a bit of time making good natured jokes of his personal experience and unfortunately (well meaning as he appears to be) drops in some rather misleading information. The German Passivhaus
standard is a type of house he could have considered. The standard was implemented in 1996 (predicated on some work done on project houses in Saskatchewan
Canada in 1977, as well as in Massachusetts, and also by the University of Illinois) is readilly achievable, even in very cold climates (like colder parts of Germany, Austria and Alberta Canada. Windows do not have to be some energy leaking sieves at all. Good windows require thermal breaks and should be triple glazed. South facing windows are large for heat gain in winter months and canopied for blocking high summer rays.
These houses basically - and readilly (with installed solar systems including Photovoltaic and Solar Hot Water, achieve a "Net Zero" energy requirement: In the span of one year on average, and all within their property envelope (urban settings too) they produce an amount of energy equal to, or more than ("Net Positive"), the energy they consume. That also requires choosing energy efficent appliances (fridges can be power hogs otherwise) that consume low Killowat hours of energy. LED lights are excellent. induction cookers
as well. The key thing on Passivhaus design is that the house has a very high R-value all round (walls can be a foot thick of insulation and roofs are R 80) and the house must be air-sealed to a specific blower door pressure test stardard.
Passivhauses do not have to look like bunkers or lunar outposts by necessity. The Mill Creek
Net Zero home in Alberta is one pleasing example, or this example
in Salem, Oregon. Because the houses are so well sealed (in contrast to regular built houses that leak air badly), air exchangers are a necessity and key to having fresh air. One of the benefits of a passivhaus is that the air is extremely fresh. To save conserve space heating energy heat recovery ventillators are used. Some heat recovery ventillators can be anywhere from 95 to 99% efficient
. In some cases - even in cold climates, the passivhaus standard built house actually doesn't need an auxilliary heating system, but the City officials can get a little freaked out and demand one anyway. Germany has many of these houses. Passivhauses can also work in hot climates