Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

Yes the Passivhaus standard is applicable to any part of the world including warm climates.  In Canberra, the summer heat can sometimes be as severe as the winter cold and therefore external shading and window specifications are important factors.  There are many examples of successful Passivhaus buildings in warm climates around the world.

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Spain
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Mexico
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USA
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Indonesia

In short, yes you can open your windows but it will cost you extra in energy bills and comfort.  A Passivhaus doesn’t require windows to be opened in winter as they are designed to have better ventilation than conventional houses.  It does this by sealing the house airtight and using mechanical ventilation which is much more effective, reliable and healthier than relying on the wind pulling air through cracks in the walls.

Despite this, Passivhaus occupants are free to open their windows at any time during the year.  In fact it is encouraged to open the windows on cool evenings in summer to help cool the house down naturally.

Relying on natural breezes is an unreliable method to ventilate a house.  This article clearly explains why it is better to use mechanical ventilation. A mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery has the additional benefit of:

  • filtering the incoming air of pollen, dust and other pollutants;
  • allowing fresh air to enter the house whilst keeping traffic noise out;
  • not relying on the occupants being home in the middle of the day when it is warm enough to open the windows in winter.

In some cooler climates like Thredbo and Jindabyne, triple glazing is a must if you want to feel comfortable standing next to a large window.

In Canberra, high performance double glazing and a well insulated frame are enough to achieve the same comfort levels.

In other cases, triple glazing could be a cost effective way to offset heat losses due to large expanses of glass.

In other climates, the advice will be different.

Passivhaus homes don’t have to look like boxes, but often their owners choose to for good reasons.  In fact, Passivhaus concepts are compatible with any form of architecture.  Check out these examples of certified Passivhaus buildings with unusual forms from around the world.

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Austria
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Japan
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Korea
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Australia

Most Passivhaus buildings, however, are compact and box-like for a reason.  It is cheaper to design and build regular shapes and it is easier and cheaper to insulate a compact house as there is less surface area and so less opportunity for heat to escape.

Passivhaus buildings do cost more to build than conventional buildings but you end up with a much better product.  The additional materials include :

  • Better windows and doors
  • Better insulation and more of it
  • Better shading devices
  • Better ventilation systems

The higher costs are offset against not needing a huge air-conditioning system, lower energy bills, higher resale value, and peace of mind that the house will withstand future climate variability.

The two terms mean the same thing.   The Passivhaus standard originated in Germany and has spread to become an international standard.  The word Passivhaus is German and so it is sometimes referred to as the Passive House standard in Australia.  However, it is often confused with the term Solar Passive.

A Solar Passive house is a house that relies on solar gains, thermal mass, shading from eaves and natural cross ventilation for cooling.  It is a type of house suited to some climates, whereas Passivhaus is universal and applicable to all climate zones and housing types including residential and commercial.

There are many excellent books aimed at those wanting to explore the idea of Passivhaus as well as those wanting the details on how to build one.  This list is great starting point.