What is the Passive House Standard?
The Passive House Standard represents today’s highest energy standard in building construction. It can be applied to any kind of building type i.e. single family homes, duplexes, MURBs, schools, hospitals, senior homes, office buildings, industrial buildings…there’s no limitations to building types.
The name “Passive” refers to the building’s ability to heat and cool itself most of the time. By an initial investment that’s usually only 8 -12% higher than normal construction costs it uses up to 85 per cent less energy than a conventional building built to current building code standards in BC and exceeds LEED Platinum. The little required heating energy is easily provided through renewable sources such as geothermal or solar photovoltaic. The Passive House Standard has become the leading construction standard in Europe over the past 20 years.
Although the Passive House approach to construction has been developed and refined in Europe over the past 20 years, it’s been said that the first real Passive House ever built was the Saskatchewan Conservation House designed and constructed in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1977 by a team including researchers from the National Research Council and Saskatchewan Research Council.
a bit more technical….
The Passive House Standard is being achieved by using very well insulated walls, triple pane windows, south orientation and a virtually air-tight but breathable building envelope. The building is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. The little remaining heat demand can easily be provided by renewable energy sources such as geothermal or photovoltaic. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. A heat recovery ventilation system not only regains a minimum of 75% of heating energy but also provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 85- 90% of space heating costs, but also provides an amazing indoor air quality and together with the high quality of the building envelope an incredible interior comfort is being achieved.
The Passive House Standard (certification) requires the annual heating and cooling energy not to exceed 15 KWh/m2 per year with the primary energy consumption not exceeding 120 KWh/m2 per year. The air-tightness pressurization test (blower door test) must result in 0.6 air exchange/hour or lower at 50 pascal. The Passive House Standard uses the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) as an energy modeling tool throughout the whole design process and for certification to verify that the requirements are being met.
If the goal is to build in Passive House Standard it is important to get qualified professional advice on achieving this standard from the beginning of the integrated design process. Budget, design, location, contractor, trades, climate, and construction method, reduced thermal bridging, airtight construction and mechanical system are the most crucial components impacting the end result and whether this standard can be achieved or not. Therefore, it is essential to set goals from the very beginning and have a common understanding of the challenges and the process.