Last night, my local ABC affiliate in San Francisco ran a news story about a home in Berkeley, Calif., that is staying warm through the winter without a furnace.

First, I was impressed to see that the local news was covering an HVAC-related story. Next, after watching the report, I was amazed to see how close designers are to creating zero-energy homes.

The home in Berkeley is called a passive home, which is a new European standard of construction. The architect featured on the ABC affiliate, Nabih Tahan, explained that appliances in homes give off heat. This includes everything from computers to stoves. He calls it “free heat.”

To keep the heat in, old air is ventilated out of the home and fresh outdoor air is vented in through hidden vents. A box in the attic of the home controls the flow of ventilation, making sure that the warm air continues to circulate.

The home has also been caulked and sealed at every possible point where air could leak out, including the foundation.

Passive homes in the U.S. are very rare, but Tahan has formed a group in the Bay Area that will examine how to build more passive homes. So what does this mean for the HVAC industry? What about sheet metal workers?

If passive houses become the norm, what do HVAC contractors need to do to stay on top of the changing times? Let me know what you think.