Over the next year, we will be working with Arckit to create an entirely new series of videos to document our ideas of holistically sustainable design prototypes and explore various solutions in passive design. Arckit is an award-winning modular component system from Ireland that represents modern construction techniques and building codes. It enables us to rapidly design, build, and modify scaled structures.
What is Passive House?
Passive House (German: PassivHaus) is an extremely rigorous standard for energy efficient building design with the goal of eliminating ecological footprints. Comprised of a set of design principles, its focus is to maximize gains and minimize losses, similar to LEAN construction. A passive building is designed and built according to five building-science principles that quantify energy efficiency within given comfort level bounds.
Many early passive houses were designed around the research and construction experience of North American builders in the 1970s. In direct response to the international oil embargo at the time, these research homes were designed and built to use no energy or as little energy as possible. The term "passive home" was then derived from the passive solar features each home implemented, using the sun as a primary source of energy generation.
In 1988, Professor Bo Adamson from Lund University in Sweden and Dr. Wolfgang Feist from the Institute for Housing and the Environment in Germany met to find a solution that would lead a movement for low energy developments. Their vision, now known as Passive House (PassivHaus) was founded on the principles of creating homes that provide comfort, affordability, excellent air quality/ventilation, and reliable performance, without compromising on design. This ideal emphasized that buildings should require an extremely small heating energy demand, to create homes that keep warm “passively” by using only internal heat sources, solar energy, and the minimal heating of fresh air via mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR). Two years later after several small-scaled projects, a pilot scheme that constructed the world’s first Passive House in Darmstadt-Kranichstein, Germany, was a tremendous success.
With renowned recognition by 1996, the Passive House Institute (PHI) was founded as an independent research organization to both promote and control the new Passive House standard. Today the standard has become a worldwide phenomenon and a generic term for a low-energy building with holistically sustainable construction techniques and unparalleled occupant comfort. There are now over 40,000 Passive House-certified structures, and several thousand low energy developments have been inspired by the model.
Basic Building Principles and Energy Model
Passive House building standards can be applied to any building typology – from single family homes to apartment complexes, from office buildings to skyscrapers. Although Passive House standards are generally for new construction, they can also be used for refurbishments.
Employs continuous insulation throughout its entire envelope without any thermal bridging.
Keeps the building envelope extremely airtight, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.
Employs high-performance windows (typically triple-paned) and doors.
Uses some form of balanced heat/moisture-recovery ventilation and a minimal space conditioning system.
Solar gain is managed to exploit the sun's energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season.
Passive design strategy carefully models and balances a comprehensive set of factors, including heat emissions from appliances and occupants, to keep the building at comfortable and consistent indoor temperatures throughout the heating and cooling seasons. As a result, passive buildings offer tremendous long-term benefits in addition to energy efficiency.
Super-insulation and airtight construction provide unmatched comfort even in extreme weather conditions.
Continuous mechanical ventilation of fresh filtered air provides superb indoor air quality.
A comprehensive systems approach to modeling, design, and construction produces extremely resilient buildings.
Passive building principles offer the best path to Net Zero and Net Positive buildings by minimizing the load that renewables are required to provide.
In practice, a single standard for all climate zones is unworkable. In some climates, meeting the standard is cost prohibitive; in milder zones, it's possible to achieve the European standard without realizing substantial cost-effective energy savings. Still, as of 2018, committees around the globe are developing passive building standards that account for the broad range of climate conditions, market factors, and other variables in diverse climate zones. Regardless of the metric, the basic principles always stay the same.
As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or comments, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below or through email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to send me pictures or videos of your own creations, I always enjoy seeing all your models.
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