Passivhaus (or passive house in English) is the voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings. The concept of a passive house was conceived by two German professors in the late 80s and has developed into a leading eco building phenomenon.
Ultra low energy usage is required for houses to be cooled and heated if the standards are followed. Two of the standards include not using more than 15kWh per year in heating and cooling energy, and total energy consumption (energy for heating, hot water and electricity) must be less than 42kWh per year.
To achieve these standards some pretty major design and construction features are required. To help with this great feat the Economical Passive Houses Working Group has created the 'Passivhaus Planning Package' (PHPP) which uses computer simulations to highlight the techniques and technologies required and how they work in combination.
Passive solar design, super insulation, advanced window technology, air tightness, heat recovery ventilation, space heating, high-efficiency electrical appliances and compact fluorescent lamps are some of the technologies the PHPP incorporates.
Other than saving on using the dirty energy of fossil fuels like oil the benefits of passive houses over conventional buildings include fresher, cleaner, less dry internal air, more space due to the lack of radiators, equal temperature rooms and equal temperate walls (i.e. the outer walls are not colder than inside ones).
Passive houses are being built all over the world. In the UK new houses build under the Passive House standard use 77% less energy for space heating than comparative homes built under the UK Building Regulations. In Germany the careful design and success of passive houses has led to them being the same cost to construct as normal buildings, meaning they are accessible to all.
Passive houses are a step in the right direction and it is great to see that 20,000 have been built across the world since the standard was developed. However, ZEBs (or zero energy buildings), which are building that create all the energy it requires to function through the use of onsite renewable energy technologies like photovoltaic solar panel, will hopefully start to be as accessible as passive houses in the near future.
If you would like to learn more about passive houses in the UK visit Passive House Solutions website
. This company specialises in building passive houses using the PHPP design.