Passive House Design began in the 1970s as a response to the energy crisis and increased awareness of climate change. Based on incorporating principles intended to reduce energy needs for heating and cooling, this type of construction can be found all over the world and can be applied to anything from single-family homes to larger buildings. Here are some of the more accessible principles to incorporate.
Continuous, High-Quality Insulation
Perhaps the easiest passive house principle to include in existing structures, the concepts behind continuous and high-quality insulation are chiefly concerned with keeping heat or cooling inside the home and providing an energy barrier between external sources of energy transfer. The effectiveness of insulation is rated by its R-Value—the higher, the better.
When using cavity insulation, the framing material can still transmit energy through a process called thermal bridging. Thermal bridging detracts from energy efficiency and is especially problematic when metal framing is used. Continuous insulation, the more efficient system, can counteract this effect. It refers to a single continuous layer of insulation wrapping an entire structure.
While insulation helps guard against losing the energy needed to heat or cool interior spaces, it can’t do its job if the structure it’s installed in is leaking air. Airtight construction ensures direct air transfer, minimizing the amount of heating or cooling needed. Every home has necessary design elements like drains and vents that penetrate roofing or exterior walls and windows and doors must be fitted with adequate sealing (like gaskets or caulk) to avoid unintended energy loss.
Solar Heating and Shading
An ancient design principle, examples can be found in early architecture all over the world. Capturing the sun’s light for heating or blocking it to provide cooler interiors can be as easy as installing larger windows in an appropriate location or planting a tree outdoors to shield parts of a house from direct sun. Deciduous trees work well for this, as they’ll block the sun’s light in the hot summer months, but after losing leaves in late autumn, they will allow it through in the winter months.
An airtight house requires ventilation to bring in fresh air and vent CO2, moisture and built-up pollutants. This venting means air exchange, representing energy losses in heating or cooling air taken into a structure. A heat recovering ventilator continuously replaces stale air with fresh air without mixing the air streams, resulting in significant energy retention, sometimes as high as seventy-five percent.
Have a Passive House Project in Mind?
If you’re thinking of remodeling or redesigning an existing structure to incorporate passive house principles or would like to pursue a new construction project, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture for assistance. Committed to sustainable and ecologically responsible design, Sebastian is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world, he is also available for consultation via email or phone.