Where is all the timber needed to construct more Passivhaus buildings going to come from?

This was a question (paraphrased) asked by a person at a recent presentation I gave about the international Passivhaus Standard. They were clearly under the impression that it was easier / better / necessary to use a timber frame construction system to build to the standard.

I shouldn’t have been surprised since I was presenting on behalf of Architype, where I work. Architype are leaders in designing Passivhaus buildings and timber buildings, so the majority of the Passivhaus buildings I presented were timber construction.

It is a common misconception that timber is best for Passivhaus construction.

Ironically, there is also a misconception that ‘natural materials’ are not suitable for Passivhaus, therefore ruling out the use of timber.

Neither is true!

The international Passivhaus Standard is a performance standard: many different construction systems are possible.

041 Passivhaus Construction Not Just Timber
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This is a Passivhaus Basics blog post that gives an overview of a specific aspect of the Passivhaus Standard.

The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) is one of the most powerful design tools available for designing low energy buildings. It can seem intimidating as an extensive programme of interlinked worksheets, typically used in Micorsoft Excel. However, when viewed worksheet by worksheet is it apparent how straightforward it is.

It is a necessary part of Passivhaus design, both for Passivhaus Designers and Consultants and for Passivhaus Building Certifiers. For designers, it is a useful tool at all stages as detail is gradually built up. And it provides a large degree of the all-critical quality assurance of the international Passivhaus Standard. And finally it is the tool used for certification of a Passivhaus Building.

At it’s most basic, the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) is a collection of clearly defined building physics algorithms. When the required information is entered, accurate reliable results are produced. And it continues to be developed as the Passivhaus Standard evolves and the world transitions towards a renewable energy future. (No matter how slow that transition might seem to be going currently!)

The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP): design tool, quality assurance tool and certification tool + all the essential building physics a low energy building needs.

040 What is the Passive House Planning Package PHPP?

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Volkswagen has been caught out cheating emissions tests. There is a gap between the performance promised by the car manufacturer and how Volkswagen cars perform in reality. There has been strong reaction to this in many countries and in the media.

Does the same problem exist with our buildings? There is plenty of talk about the “performance gap” in the construction industry, but no major outcries like there has been with Volkswagen.

The building performance gap encompasses energy consumption, CO2 emissions and occupant comfort.

So, is building performance more complex than car performance? Or do we just accept that buildings don’t perform as predicted?

There is a whole host of reasons for the building performance gap. None of them are insurmountable, though.

How can I say this with confidence? Because there is ample evidence that the building performance gap can be eliminated.

The international Passivhaus Standard eliminates the building performance gap.

039 Mind the building performance gap
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This is a Passivhaus Basics blog post that gives an overview of a specific aspect of the Passivhaus Standard.

Windows, doors, rooflights, curtain walling and any other glazed elements often lose (or gain) significantly more heat than the surrounding walls or roof of the thermal envelope. For this reason, the international Passivhaus Standard pays particularly close attention to the design and specification of glazed elements.

This blog post looks at Passivhaus Windows as these are usually the main glazed element of a Passivhaus building. Other glazed elements can be considered along similar lines.

Reducing heat loss conserves energy, but it’s not just about energy efficiency. Reducing heat loss is also about providing optimum comfort for the people using the building. This is, after all, what the international Passivhaus Standard is all about: providing exceptional comfort whilst being radically energy efficient.

The international Passivhaus Standard also provides healthy living environments. Passivhaus buildings have plentiful clean fresh air and are free from mould. And the rigorous quality assurance of the standard results in highly durable buildings.

Passivhaus Windows have an important role in all of these aspects: Energy Efficiency, Comfort, Health and Durability.

What is a Passivhaus Window?
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The international Passivhaus Standard is most often associated with cooler climates. People assume it works best in climates like that of Germany and Northern Europe where the standard originates from.

But physics works wherever you are.

And people the world over want to live in comfortable, energy efficient homes.

So what about Australia?

We most often associate Australia with the beach and warm climates. With Sun, Sand and Surf.

And yet, Passivhaus is rapidly taking off in Australia. From a standing start of zero certified Passivhaus buildings only a year or so ago, there are now six at the time of writing.

Superpod delivered one of these certified Passivhaus homes. In this blog post, I interview the Superpod founder, Fiona McKenzie.

We talk about Superpod homes, Passivhaus Prefabrication and why Passivhaus is relevant in Australia despite what you might think.

australia: sun sand surf and passivhaus

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