The first thing you read about Passivhaus is often the set of technical requirements and performance metrics. It’s got to be airtight. No thermal bridges are allowed. 15kWh/m2.a, 10W/m2, 120kWh/m2.a, 0.6 ach. . . But these figures don’t help you understand how to design a Passivhaus building. These figures don’t tell you what is different about designing a Passivhaus building to designing any other building.

Passivhaus might be the world’s most stringent and fastest growing building energy efficiency standard, but does it work in urban locations? Must a Passivhaus building strictly face south?

This post is a simple and brief introduction to 5 things to know about Passivhaus before you get into the technical requirements:

  1. Integrated Design
  2. Location
  3. Orientation
  4. Form
  5. Construction System

Once you have a grasp of these 5 things, then you’ll be in a good place to start digging deeper into what is required for Passivhaus.
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Passivhaus overheating shouldn’t happen: it’s one of the criteria of the international Passivhaus standard.

Even so, people sometimes ignore this requirement during the early stages of the design process.

It shouldn’t be ignored. Overheating is a key design issue and should be addressed from the beginning as an integral part of the Passivhaus design process.

But how?

This blog post is a simple guide to preventing Passivhaus overheating by design.

047 Passivhaus Overheating Design

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This is a Passivhaus Basics blog post that gives an overview of a specific aspect of the Passivhaus Standard.

The international Passivhaus Standard is a clearly defined and rigorous standard for energy efficiency, comfort and quality assurance of buildings. Designing a building to achieve the standard requires detailed knowledge and a rigorous methodical approach to design and documentation. To ensure this happens, it is possible to train and qualify as a Certified Passivhaus Designer or Consultant.

The route to certification is the same for a designer or a consultant. It is only the individual’s prior qualifications and experience that determines if they qualify as one or the other. For clarity, this post will only refer to a Certified Passivhaus Designer, but for all intents and purposes, ‘designer’ is interchangeable with ‘consultant’ in this context.

A Certified Passivhaus Designer, regardless of their prior qualification, works across disciplines on a Passivhaus project. Their role integrates architecture, structure, building services, building science, energy modeling and construction detailing. They will at times both support and challenge the other designers on a Passivhaus Project.

The Certified Passivhaus Designer on a project doesn’t need to be completely independent. They can also be the architect, structural engineer, building services engineer, or another consultant on the team. And the same person fulfilling two roles does have advantages. However, in many cases combining two roles requires more time and work than one individual has available. Regardless, it is best if the Certified Passivhaus Designer is an integral part of the design team rather than just an occasional consultant.

The Passivhaus Building Certifier must be independent of the design team.

A Certified Passivhaus Designer brings the detailed knowledge and rigorous methodical approach needed to design buildings to the international Passivhaus Standard.

043 What is a Passivhaus Designer

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This blog post is a review of “The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual: A technical guide to low and zero energy buildings” published in October 2015 and edited by Christina J. Hopfe and Robert S. Mcleod. Until now, there hasn’t been an English language manual for Passivhaus Designers. Training courses include relevant teaching material, but it is only available for course attendees and makes the most sense in the context of the course. This book covers all the main topics of a Passivhaus Designer course in an accessible and technically detailed format.

It is intended to provide a technical reference on important topics that often require more detailed explanations than can be found in most introductory handbooks. It is assumed that those reading the book will already be familiar with the fundamental principles of low energy design.

It is a design-focussed manual, bringing the academic and practice-based knowledge of the long list of authors together into one volume. Suitable background information is provided for each topic, but the main thrust is towards practical application in designing Passivhaus, or low and ‘zero-energy’ buildings.

Passive buildings are not all about technology. Their greatest benefits are not in avoided costs and emissions but in quality of life. Why did people meeting around our dining room table stay alert and cheerful all day, than in an ordinary office, become sleepy and irritable in half an hour?
– Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual could easily be the textbook for a Passivhaus Designers course. It will certainly become the reference book of choice for many Passivhaus Designers and the source of self-study for many aspiring Passivhaus Designers

042 Passivhaus Designers Manual sm
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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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