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What Exactly is a Passive House?

David Cartwright

Senior Marketing Manager - Software

Feb 12, 2018 6:02:00 PM

There’s no doubt that the Passive House is an important design trend in Australian building right now. For the last few years, people have been debating its merits, its possibilities and its appropriateness for certain climates. 

But what exactly is Passive House? Let’s take a look.


What Exactly is a Passive House?

The idea originally came from a conversation between two men, Bo Adamson from Lund University in Sweden and Wolfgang Feist from the Institute for Housing and the Environment in Germany. This conversation took place in 1988, and the researchers soon began a number of development projects funded by the German state of Hessen. These projects led them to develop what would later be known as “Passive Houses.” 

Passive Houses use energy from the sun as a heat source. Other innovations, such as the use of superinsulation and advanced window technology, help to significantly reduce heating costs. Most Passive Houses still use supplemental space heating, however, through a low-volume heat recovery ventilation system. 

By 1996, approximately 25,000 Passive Houses had been constructed. Most of them were located in Germany and Austria, but today there are Passive Houses in Australia, the United States, Poland, Ireland, England, Qatar and other areas.


Benefits of Passive Design

Clearly, many people are seeing the benefits of Passive design in eco-friendly construction, which has been used not only in residences but also some schools and commercial buildings. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of Passive design.

1. Comfortable Interior Climate

Passive houses capture energy from the sun in the form of heat instead of having to convert sunlight into electricity, which then is used to fuel a heating system. Because of its efficient use of sunlight, there are no temperature variations from room to room in a Passive house. Some people choose to install space heaters in certain rooms, but generally speaking, the interior climate is consistent and comfortable.

12 tips to building eco-friendly

2. Energy Efficiency

Unless you opt for space heaters, you won’t have to pay for heating in a Passive House. However, solar capture isn’t the only feature that makes Passive Houses energy efficient. They’re also built with superior insulation, airtight construction and specially designed windows. All of these factors add up to a building that is comfortable and virtually free to heat.

3. Excellent Ventilation

With an airtight house, you might worry that the rooms would feel stuffy, but Passive Houses are built with a ventilation system that constantly supplies fresh air. Each Passive House has a highly efficient heat recovery unit that allows for the re-use of heated air as it cycles through the home.


Potential Problems or Deficiencies of Passive Houses

As you can see, Passive Houses offer some incredible benefits. But there are also a few problems or challenges that you should be aware of.

1. Water Consumption

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth, so water usage is important to us. While Passive Houses do an excellent job of tackling problems associated with gas and energy consumption, they don’t address water consumption at all.

2. Lack of Specific Building Expertise

There has been some discussion in recent years about whether the Australian building industry has the expertise to properly build Passive Houses. The skill sets required for constructing these buildings is specific, and it may be difficult to find all the construction specialists necessary to deliver on the design intent.

3. Links to Health Problems

Research from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands suggests that there may be some health risks associated with living in Passive Houses, and these problems are caused by poor overall ventilation. Some of the health issues identified by the researchers include insomnia, concentration problems, headaches, irritated eyes, hay fever, frequent colds, bronchitis, asthma, and muscle pain. The researchers make some suggestions for resolving these issues: peak ventilation in the kitchen, personal adjustment of temperature, and flushing services to reduce overheating.


Eco-Friendly Building in Australia

What can everyday builders do to incorporate more eco-friendly practices and options into your services? This is an important question to ask because homeowners are increasingly interested in eco-friendly home options.

  • Develop expertise in eco-friendly building practices
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest green building innovations
  • Use construction software to reduce waste and increase efficiency
  • Build your network of contractors and subcontractors to include those with green building skills 

For more information about how to use our professional construction software, get in touch with us at Buildsoft or start a free trial of Cubit today.

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