What is a Passive House and why you should care

What is a Passive House and why you should care

Climate change is upon us. We need to tackle it, curb our emissions and adapt to the future conditions. And with building operations around the globe accounting for roughly 28% of the world emissions (according to the Global ABC status report from the EIA in 2018), drastic changes will need to occur in the way we build and live in our homes.

Imagine living in a place so well designed and built that you can live year-round with thermal comfort, a modern house fit for the future and with no temperature variations between rooms,a healthy non polluted environment, a totally quiet and soundproof place. And imagine all that, for the cost of a running hair dryer.

Welcome to the passive house.

© Construct Ireland

The passive house is a construction standard aiming to reduce the ecological footprint of any building and making the most of solar energy.

The first passive house was built in 1990 in Germany by Swedish structural engineer Bo Adamson and German physicist Wolfgang Feist, and since then, thousands of buildings have been built worldwide according the following 5 key principles :

  • A really good airtightness is required in order to conserve energy and to avoid moisture and structural damages. It also prevents the entry of pollutants or noise, and makes controlled ventilation possible.
  • A continuous insulation providing an efficient separation between the inside and the outside of the building, regardless of the climate,
  • No thermal bridges, as a good insulation will not have any value if not continuous. This means optimizing the construction to avoid any penetration, and using low conductivity materials when it can’t be avoided,
  • High performance windows, in order to optimize solar gains in winter and minimize solar radiation in warmer months,
  • Ventilation system with heat recovery, in order to improve the indoor air quality without opening the windows. The systems clean air from pollution, regulate humidity and also allow for warm and cool air recovery to provide heating or cooling in the building.

© Passive House institute

Even though investing in a passive house does require more upfront investment (In 2015, in Germany for example, the extra cost was 5% higher compared to a standard construction cost according to the Passive House institute), these costs tend to lower each year as the technologies mature.

© First passive house, in Darmstadt-Kranichstein, Passive House institute

On top of that, the running costs are much lower than standard constructions thanks to the passive building’s energy efficiency.

The occupants enjoy a much better life indoors with constant fresh air and less air pollution. They also profit from the reduced environmental impact of their house and are safeguarded with future energy prices increases.

At last, whether you want to renovate an old existing building or plan to build a new one, the passive house standard is the way forward and is the right thing to do.

© Snegiri Architects

So what are the next steps?

First, if you are a professional or someone who plans on building/investing in a future passive house, you can take the courses offered by the Passive House Institute in order to get in touch with the standard and its basic principles.

As an architect, an investor or any professional in the industry, you can then apply this knowledge to your next projects.

You can also share this article in order to spread the word a bit more and talk about the passive house standard around you. And if you want to know more, you can read the institute's brochure.

And then maybe, in a few years, you could sit in your new passive home and relax while humanity managed to tackle the climate crisis!