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Passivhaus – the full 360

Updated: Jan 5


Passivhaus, or Passive House, is a voluntary building standard that aims to be energy-efficient, comfortable, affordable and ecological. In these times of global climate change and fluctuations in energy usage and availability, Passivhaus is a way of designing buildings that will meet the energy efficiency needs and comfort levels of the future. It’s not a brand name, but a concept, a philosophy of construction that can be applied to any project that strives to be a low-energy building.


Industry leading thinking


The Passivhaus standard was established over 20 years ago and has proved its worth in providing predictable, high-quality, low-energy environments. It is based on sound physics principles, centred on a ‘fabric first’ approach, so it is not impacted by newly-implemented government initiatives, such as ‘The Code for Sustainable Homes’. According to the Passivhaus Institute, the approach is driven by air quality and comfort – "A Passivhaus is a building in which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling the fresh air flow required for a good indoor air quality, without the need for additional recirculation of air."


The vast energy savings made in Passivhaus buildings are a result of a combination of factors, such as energy-efficient elements and a quality ventilation system. The ventilation system supplies fresh air, resulting in superior air quality, without creating unwanted draughts. An efficient heat recovery unit also allows for the heat contained in the exhaust air to be re-used. Passivahus is achieved by observing five principles: 1. High levels of thermal insulation 2. High Performance Windows 3. Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery 4. Airtightness 5. Thermal bridge free construction


Delivering real value


Despite having ‘haus’, the German word for house, in the name, the standard can be applied across all construction sectors, from commercial and industrial, to medical and educational. Though primarily geared to new-builds, it can also be implemented in retrofits, making it ideal for all kinds of building projects. Its real value comes from the assurance that its performance levels are closely met in real terms, to genuinely benefit the user and the environment. Buildings deploying this ethos aim to achieve heating- and cooling-related energy savings of up to 90% compared with typical buildings.


When it comes to oil-powered heating, Passivhaus buildings use less than 1.5 litres per square metre of living space per year, which is far less than typical low-energy buildings. Similar energy savings have been demonstrated in warmer climates, where buildings require more energy for cooling than for heating. Passivhaus buildings create spaces with an acknowledged high level of comfort. They factor in and incorporate energy sources inside the building, such as body heat from the residents, or solar heat entering the building, to make heating them much easier. This fluid thinking makes the concepts behind Passivhaus industry-leading. Any building is accurately modelled and evaluated prior to construction using the Passivhaus Planning Package software. This is an established and proven tool to predict very accurately the performance and demands of the future building and ensure much, much closer results from design to as-built compared to other methods, such as simply complying with Building Regulations.


Eyes on the future


The benefits of Passivhaus design include a significant reduction in energy consumption and consequently lower bills for customers. It means improved construction, that allows for high levels of thermal comfort and indoor air quality. Its high-quality standards eliminate building defects that can cause mould growth and building failure. It also optimises lifecycle costs that can be accurately predicted prior to commencing the building. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting health and well-being benefits too, such as a reduction in respiratory ailments, allergies and improved concentration levels for those living in and visiting the building.


At NWD, our Technical Director Matt Davenport is one of only two Passivhaus-accredited designers in the area. This enables us to be the only architectural practice covering Chester, Wirral, North & Central Wales and The Northern Welsh Marches with this design capability. As a result, we are uniquely placed to provide a full 360-degree design and management service, for low-energy construction projects using Passivhaus concepts. By embracing this approach, NWD is able to offer a service that has an eye on the demands of the present, but also on the design concepts of the future.


We are always happy to discuss your project or to arrange a free of charge initial consultation, so please get in touch with the team today

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