Passive houses are all about energy efficiency. Whether you want to build a certified passive house from scratch or renovate with energy savings in mind, you can take inspiration from the passive house movement (also known as passiv haus). This quick guide will delve into the history and principles of passive houses, explore the benefits of passive house certification, and discuss the future of this innovative approach to energy efficiency.
When did the passive house concept originate?
The passive house concept originated in the late 1980s in Germany. The first true passive house was built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1991 by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist. The project was inspired by Adamson’s trip to China, where he observed that houses that were not heated could still be comfortable due to their design.
Feist, a physicist and building physicist, had been contemplating the problem of carbon dioxide emissions and the high amount of energy used for heating buildings since the 1970s. He and Adamson decided to “tackle a problem at its roots” by improving homes’ energy efficiency through practical design changes. The passive house concept was born out of this collaboration.
The Five Energy-Saving Principles of Passive House:
The idea behind the passive house is to focus on five energy-saving principles outlined by the Passive House Institute. These include thermal insulation, windows, heat recovery ventilation, airtightness, and thermal bridges. By prioritizing these areas, passive houses are able to reduce energy consumption by up to 90%.
The main characteristics:
Highly energy efficient: Passive houses are designed to be highly energy efficient, with energy consumption typically up to 90% lower than traditional homes.
Well-insulated: Passive houses are built with high insulation levels in the walls, roof, and floors to minimize heat loss and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
Airtight: Passive houses are designed to be airtight, with minimal air leakage to prevent heat loss and improve indoor air quality.
South-facing orientation: Passive houses are typically oriented with a south-facing orientation to maximize solar gain.
Compact shape: Passive houses are typically designed with a compact shape to minimize heat loss and reduce energy demand.
High-quality windows: Passive houses are equipped with high-quality, energy-efficient windows that are properly fitted and insulated to minimise heat loss.
Heat recovery ventilation: Passive houses are equipped with a heat recovery ventilation system to expel stale air and bring in fresh, filtered air, which is warmed to the correct temperature through a heat exchange.
Use of passive house-certified components: Passive houses may use passive house-certified components designed to meet strict energy efficiency standards.
Passive House Certification: What It Takes and How to Achieve It:
There are very strict criteria that a building must meet to obtain passive house certification. This typically involves using passive house-certified components, which can be incorporated into new construction or retrofitted into existing buildings. If you are considering building or renovating with passive house in mind, it is important to work with a certified passive house planner and use certified components to ensure that your project meets the necessary standards.
The Future of Passive House:
Technology and Innovation:
As technology improves, so do the possibilities for energy-saving components in passive houses. In recent years, we have seen the development of the first high-rise residential passive house building, as well as advances in areas such as heating and cooling systems, windows, and insulation materials. The passive house movement has a bright future ahead, with endless potential for further innovation and growth.
Passive House vs. LEED Certification: Which Is Right for You?
If you are considering building or renovating with energy efficiency in mind, you may be wondering whether to pursue passive house certification or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Both approaches have their own unique sets of criteria and benefits, and the right choice for you will depend on your specific goals and priorities.
Passive House Case Studies: Real-World Examples of Success:
One of the best ways to get a sense of the potential of passive houses is to look at real-world case studies of successful projects. From single-family homes to multi-unit residential buildings, the passive house has been proven to deliver significant energy savings and improved comfort levels.
There are many examples of passive housing in real estate around the world. Some examples include:
The Zero Energy House in Freiburg, Germany: This single-family home was built in 2006 and is certified as a passive house. It features a highly efficient insulation system, triple-glazed windows, and a heat recovery ventilation system.
The Pacific Northwest Passive House in Portland, Oregon: This single-family home was built in 2010 and is also certified as a passive house. It features a superinsulated envelope, triple-glazed windows, and a heat recovery ventilation system.
The K2 House in Vancouver, Canada: This single-family home was built in 2010 and is certified as a passive house. It features a highly insulated envelope, triple-glazed windows, and a heat recovery ventilation system.
The Passive House Apartments in Innsbruck, Austria: This multi-unit residential building was built in 2010 and is certified as a passive house. It features a highly insulated envelope, triple-glazed windows, and a heat recovery ventilation system.
The Upper House in Gothenburg, Sweden: This multi-unit residential building was built in 2012 and is certified as a passive house. It features a highly insulated envelope, triple-glazed windows, and a heat recovery ventilation system.
Passive houses are buildings that use very little energy for heating and cooling. They are designed to be extremely energy efficient and comfortable to live in. Passive houses are becoming increasingly popular in Europe as a way to reduce energy consumption and combat climate change.
One example of a passive house in Europe is the “PlusEnergy” house in Darmstadt, Germany. This house, which was completed in 2008, generates more energy than it consumes through the use of solar panels on the roof. The building is also highly insulated and has triple-paned windows to prevent heat loss.
Another example is the “Passivhaus Plus” in Freiburg, Germany. This house, completed in 2011, also generates more energy than it consumes through the use of solar panels and a heat pump. The house also features a green roof and rainwater harvesting system.
The “Passivhaus Trogen” in Switzerland is another great example of a passive house. Completed in 2010, the house is highly insulated and has triple-paned windows to prevent heat loss. The house also has a ventilation system that recovers heat from the air inside the house and uses it to heat the fresh air that is brought in.
These are just a few examples of passive houses in Europe, but there are many more being built every year. Passive houses are an important step in reducing energy consumption and combating climate change. They are excellent examples of sustainable building and can be an inspiration for others to follow.
Photo: The Zero Energy House in Freiburg
Is a passive house more expensive to build and why?
Passive houses can be more expensive to build than traditional homes, but they can also offer significant long-term cost savings in energy bills and maintenance.
One of the main reasons that passive houses can be more expensive to build is the need for high-quality, energy-efficient materials and components. These can include superinsulated envelopes, triple-glazed windows, and heat recovery ventilation systems, which can be more expensive than traditional materials. Additionally, passive house projects often require the use of certified passive house components, which can also add to the cost.
However, it is important to note that passive houses can offer long-term cost savings due to their extremely low energy consumption. Passive houses are designed to be highly energy efficient, with energy consumption typically up to 90% lower than traditional homes. This means that homeowners can save significantly on energy bills over the life of the home, which can offset some of the initial building costs.
Overall, whether a passive house is more expensive to build compared to a traditional home will depend on a variety of factors, including the specific materials and components used, the location of the home, and the design of the project.
Additionally, passive houses are often built with high-quality materials and components that can provide long-term benefits in terms of maintenance and durability. This means that homeowners may have lower maintenance costs and a longer lifespan for the home compared to a traditional home.
Are today’s architects specifically trained in passive house building techniques?
Not all architects are trained in passive house design, but many are familiar with the concept and have experience working on passive house projects. Passive house design requires a deep understanding of energy-efficient building techniques and materials and the ability to design airtight, well-insulated buildings and equipped with efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
There are several ways that architects can become trained in passive house design. Some universities and architectural schools offer courses or programs specifically focused on passive house design, and several professional organizations offer training and certification programs for architects and other professionals interested in passive house design. These organizations include the Passive House Institute, the International Passive House Association, and the Passive House Alliance.
Overall, architects need to have a strong understanding of passive house design principles and best practices to design and build energy-efficient buildings effectively.
Where are the best areas and terrains for passive houses?
Passive houses can be built in a variety of locations and terrains, as they are designed to be highly energy efficient and adaptable to different climates. Some of the best areas and terrains for passive houses may include:
Mild climates: Passive houses can be particularly well-suited to mild climates, as they are designed to take advantage of natural heating and cooling sources. This means that they can be a good option in areas with moderate temperatures and low energy demands.
Well-insulated sites: Passive houses rely on high levels of insulation to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, so it is important to consider the insulation potential of the site when building a passive house. Sites that are well-insulated, such as those with a lot of tree cover or those that are protected from the wind, may be particularly well-suited for passive houses.
Areas with access to renewable energy: Passive houses are designed to be highly energy efficient, and they can be further enhanced by using renewable energy sources such as solar panels or geothermal systems. Building a passive house in an area with good access to renewable energy sources can help to maximize the energy efficiency of the home.
Flat or gently sloping terrain: Passive houses are typically designed with a compact shape and a south-facing orientation to maximize solar gain. Building a passive house on flat or gently sloping terrain can make it easier to achieve these design goals.
Overall, it is essential to consider the specific characteristics of the site when building a passive house and to work with a qualified passive house planner to ensure that the design of the home is well-suited to the location.
What is the percentage of passive houses overall?
It is difficult to answer this question definitively, as the percentage of passive houses in the overall housing market can vary significantly depending on the location and other factors.
According to data from the Passive House Institute, there are currently over 50,000 certified passive houses worldwide, with the majority of these being located in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. However, it is important to note that this represents a small fraction of the overall housing market in these countries.
In other parts of the world, the percentage of passive houses may be even lower. However, the passive house movement is growing rapidly in many regions, and it is likely that the percentage of passive houses in the overall housing market will continue to increase as more people become aware of the benefits of energy-efficient building design.
Spain has a growing number of passive houses, with several projects located in the country’s northern regions. The Spanish Passive House Association (CASPH) has also been working to promote the passive house concept in Spain, and there are some passive house projects throughout the country.
France also has several passive house projects, with the French Passive House Association (AFPH) working to promote the concept in the country. Passive house projects are located throughout France, including in cities such as Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse.
Overall, both Spain and France have a growing number of passive houses, and the concept is becoming increasingly popular in both countries as more people become aware of the benefits of energy-efficient building design.
Fractional ownership for second-homes, another way to optimise second home use.
Fractional ownership for second homes is an excellent way to reduce energy waste when multiple families share the use of a single home. This is because when a second home is only used occasionally, it often sits empty for long periods of time. This results in unnecessary energy consumption for heating, cooling, and lighting the home, even when no one is there.
With fractional ownership, multiple families can share the costs and responsibilities of owning a second home. Each family can use the home for a certain period of time, such as a few weeks or months each year. This means that the home is not left unoccupied for long periods of time, reducing the amount of energy needed to heat, cool, and light the home.
Fractional ownership can also help to reduce the overall environmental impact of second homes. When multiple families share a single home, the need for additional new constructions is reduced, which in turn helps preserve natural resources and reduces carbon emissions from construction.
Additionally, fractional ownership can help make second homes more affordable for families. By sharing the costs of ownership, the cost of a second home is spread out among multiple families, making it more affordable for each individual family. This can also help to increase access to second homes for a wider range of people, which can be beneficial for local economies.
In conclusion, fractional ownership for second homes is an excellent way to reduce energy waste and environmental impact while making second homes more affordable and accessible. It’s an innovative and sustainable way of owning and enjoying a second home.
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