What is a Passive House?
“Passiv Haus” is a German building energy efficiency program which is designed to facilitate the design, predicted energy consumption, and construction of buildings that have a drastically reduced carbon footprint. In North America they are known as “Passive Houses,” and are most commonly associated with single family residences, although schools, apartment buildings, and office towers are now commonly built this way too. A Passive House is one which adheres to three very strict energy conservation requirements:
- A maximum amount of heating energy per square metre of floor space per year which is equivalent to about 85-90% less heat than a new code-built home,
- A stringent air-tightness rating for the home based on a test performed by a third-party energy analyst, and
- A maximum total energy consumption per square metre of floor space per year, which includes all energy usage in the building, including space heating and cooling, domestic hot water supply, ventilation equipment, lighting, appliances and electrical loads.
What does a Passive House look like?
A Passive House can look very much like any other building upon first glance. However, they tend to have simpler forms and shapes, to be a bit more compact, and to have an orientation that favours most of the glazing and surface area facing the south. Behind the scenes you will have wall, floor and ceiling assemblies with approximately double the insulating values that are conventionally built and windows and doors with approximately triple the insulating values commonly used.
What does a Passive House feel like?
For the occupant of a Passive House, the results are unmistakeable:
- An extremely comfortable interior climate,
- A remarkably soundproof enclosure,
- A healthy indoor air quality,
- Total energy bills that are less than half of a newly constructed code-built residence!
The Passive House standard was originally designed as a way to create the most comfortable and healthy buildings in the world. Only once the researchers and designers of the program had gained insights into exactly how to achieve this did they realize that the same parameters that ensured an extremely comfortable home were exactly those that also made it a remarkably energy efficient home with an accordingly low carbon footprint. This results in possibly the best of both worlds for the owner: a home that applies the most cutting edge principles in energy efficiency to reduce one’s residential costs and environmental impact, while at the same time providing an unparalleled quality of comfort within the home.