Passivhaus: An Affordable, High-Efficiency Standard

The Passivhaus approach is neither a building style nor simply a new build­ing technology. It is simply a perfor­mance standard, the implementation of which requires a set of experiences, tools, and high quality components available to all building professionals. Various projects have shown that the standard can be met in a wide variety of climates and with a wide range of archi­tectural styles, construction types (masonry, timber, steel or concrete) and building types (single family homes, large apartment complexes, offices, schools  and more).

The PassivHaus performance stan­dard is ambitious and clearly defined: 15 kWh per square metre per year for heating and, if needed, for cooling, combined with an aggressive total pri­mary energy limit, resulting in energy savings of some 75 per cent as com­pared with existing European new build projects. The remaining energy con­sumption of a PassivHaus is so low that it can be easily and affordably met with regional energy resources. Even renew­able energy, somewhat more expensive than today's oil and gas, becomes an affordable and competitive option when the amount of energy needed is as low as it is with a PassivHaus.

While measures to increase energy efficiency do not come free of charge, a PassivHaus integrates these measures into components that are needed in every new building. Improving the quality of the building envelope, the services, and the on-site project implementation not only results in energy savings, but also ensures greatly enhanced structural integrity, thermal comfort and air quality as compared to existing buildings.

 Halle 58 Architekten’s three family apartment complex in the outskirts of Bern

Halle 58 Architekten’s three family apartment complex in the outskirts of Bern

A residential building in Liebefeld, Switzerland by Halle 58 Architects took first prize at the 2010 Passivhaus Architecture Awards (ph: Christine Blaser).

In a PassivHaus, the focus is on the longevity of the components, which will add value to the building during its life­cycle. Additionally, the heating require­ment, especially in the UK's climate, will be so low that the heating system can be substantially simplified, thus reducing investment and maintenance costs. Most of the components in a PassivHaus are simple to use and easy to maintain, such as high quality insula­tion, high performance windows and efficient heat exchangers.

Last but not least, the PassivHaus Standard is not an abstract theory; it has been tested and proven time and time again. All that architects and engineers need in order to realise a PassivHaus is know-how. The International Passive House Association has been working with affiliates worldwide, such as the UK's PassivHaus Trust, to further PassivHaus knowledge. Additionally, PassivHaus edu­cational programmes are available in almost all European countries. In short, PassivHaus is the affordable, almost zero-energy building solution.