You may have heard of Passivhaus, which means, simply, “passive house” in German. You will probably have wondered what a Passivhaus is and what it does. You might even be thinking of building your own, or of having your existing house retrofitted to Passivhaus standards. It’s actually quite easy to understand.
What Passivhaus means
Passivhaus is an internationally-recognised standard for sustainable architecture and building practices. The first ever Passivhaus was built in 1991 in Germany, and since then the concept has spread around the world, with more than 30,000 completed projects so far. The Passivhaus concept can apply to all buildings, not just houses, and so there are factories, commercial buildings and also renovations.
The Passivhaus is very comfortable
These buildings are very comfortable, with triple-glazed windows to retain warmth in the winter and keep unwanted heat out in the summer, leading to a fairly constant temperature all year round. Smart ventilation means that the houses never become stuffy because there’s always fresh, pollution-free air being drawn in.
It uses much less energy
Due to the excellent insulation, the Passivhaus uses only 10-20% of the energy used by the average Australian home!
Passive houses are heated by either trapping the heat from the sun or from internal sources like cooking and even body heat from humans and animals! In the summer, cooler temperatures are maintained by blocking out the sun’s rays while still letting in light. This means heating and cooling bills are vastly reduced.
There’s an initial cost
It does cost a bit more than “normal” to build a Passivhaus, but once it’s up and occupied, the householder will see huge energy savings and a much more comfortable home life.
Passivehaus is a design standard, not a style or method of construction, so designers and architects can create their dream homes, made from brick, wood or even adobe and straw if they want!
You don’t have to start from scratch
The principles and standards of Passivehaus can be applied to an existing building to improve its energy performance enough to pass muster. A retrofit is usually cheaper than going back to the drawing board.