Our baby was born early in April, just as Spring is arriving here in the northern hemisphere.
Our house isn’t a passivhaus home.
There are many reason’s why we don’t yet live in a passivhaus home, but that isn’t the subject of this blog post. Now with a new baby as well as our toddler, even more so than before, I wish we did live in a passivhaus home. I care very deeply about the comfort and health of our children. And knowing first-hand the benefits of the Passivhaus Standard, I am acutely aware of what we are missing out on.
Affordable to run, comfortable and healthy to live in, passivhaus homes are ideally suited to young families. Of course, passivhaus homes are ideally suited for all people to live in! However, young children are particularly vulnerable and in need of comfortable and healthy homes. And with the cost of bring up children, parents need a comfortable and healthy home to be affordable.
Sustainable and environmental design are often talked about in terms of the benefit for future generations. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions, this can be abstract and vague. The Passivhaus Standard, on the other hand, is a practical immediate solution that benefits the next generation, today.
The Passivhaus Standard ensures homes are comfortable, healthy and affordable to run. Passivhaus homes are of immediate benefit to next generation: our children.
Keep the Kids Warm, Affordably
With a newborn in the house, we have the heating on much more than we did a few weeks ago. Even though Spring has arrived and we are enjoying some beautiful warm sunny weather here in England, the nights are still cold. There was even a light frost in the garden this morning. So our boiler is running seven or eight hours a day keeping the house warm from evening until early morning. And the gas meter is swiftly ticking over. I dread receiving our next gas bill!
Even though the heating is on so much, it doesn’t stop the double-glazed windows from feeling cold to touch or cold to be near. And because the house is not well insulated, a lot of the warmth inside is quickly lost through the walls and the roof.
With another small child, our laundry load has increased considerably also. So our electricity meter is also ticking over swiftly, adding further woes to our utility bill.
In a passivhaus home with an airtight, well-insulated building envelope and high-performance glazing, we would be warm, day and night with minimal heating. Passivhaus wouldn’t reduce our laundry load, unfortunately. However, with our heating bill 90% less, the additional cost of all the laundry wouldn’t make the utility bill quite so daunting.
Passivhaus homes keep the kids warm, without costing an arm & a leg.
No Cold draughts on the Kids
We have a beautiful cotton hat for our newborn. One of those cute pointy ones with a knot at the top. In fact, it’s a hand-me-down, it was a gift from my mother when our toddler was born. The main reason our newborn needs to wear a hat inside the house is because of cold draughts. Without it, the cold draughts make him sneeze.
Cold draughts where outside air comes through gaps in the building envelope.
Cold draughts where warm inside air meets the cold surfaces of the double glazed windows, cooling down suddenly.
Cold draughts where the hot air rising from the radiators pushes the cold air around.
In a passivhaus home with an airtight (draught-free) building envelope and high-performance glazing, we wouldn’t suffer any of these draughts. Our newborn might still wear the hat because he just looks so cute in it. But he wouldn’t need it to avoid draughts.
Passivhaus homes keep the kids draught-free, with less sneezing.
Breath Easy, Kids
One way we attempt to reduce draughts in our nowhere-near-passivhaus home is by keeping windows closed when it’s cool outside. This quickly results in stuffy indoor air. There’s four of us breathing. Our toddler is often running around being very active, more often than not leaving his toy trucks where we will trip over them. And we are running upstairs and downstairs, changing nappies, doing the laundry, cooking… and all the other endless tasks parents with young children will all be familiar with. Oh yes, did I mention nappies? With two in nappies, you can just imagine the smells in certain parts of the house!
So we open the windows again. Then close them when the draughts get too much.
In a passivhaus home with a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery, we would have fresh warm air at all times. All the stale smelly indoor air would be eliminated. No need to open a window and get a cold draught, we could just open windows when it is warm enough outside. Or when we want to listen to the birds.
And our children would have filtered clean fresh air at all times. No outside pollution coming in, no indoor pollution building up.
Passivhaus homes keep the indoor air clean and fresh for healthy growing kids. No smell of nappies!
Shhh, Don’t Wake the Baby
Spring has arrived here in the UK. And with it comes the sound of lawnmowers and other noisy power tools being put to use. Contractors were outside our house earlier in the week strimming the overgrown roadside grass and hurtling around on ride-on-mowers. Our toddler was enthralled with all the action and the tools. Our baby was woken up!
Even with the windows and doors closed, loud outdoor sounds penetrate and interrupt the quiet tranquillity inside our home. (Okay, the idea of quiet tranquillity is only wishful thinking with a toddler, I know!) As parents will know, a sleeping baby presents a precious opportunity. Either for the parents to get things done around the house or to take a much-needed nap themselves. So outdoor noises waking the baby are not welcome.
In a passivhaus home with an airtight building envelope and high-performance glazing, outside noises don’t disturb the quiet indoor tranquillity. In fact, in a passivhaus home, there actually can be quiet indoor tranquillity. (Toddlers can still be noisy though!) Check out this short video in New York from 475 High Performance Building Supply and you’ll literally hear the difference.
Passivhaus homes keep the indoor nice and quiet, outdoor noises won’t disturb the baby.
Shhh, Don’t Wake the Neighbours
Outside noises aren’t the only problem, of course. A toddler and a baby can produce a considerable amount of noise themselves. We have elderly neighbours in the terrace house next to us and they have reported also hear the concerts given by our toddler on the drums, tambourine and xylophone! Luckily for us they are very good natured and understanding. No doubt they also hear our newborn making it very clearly known that he needs feeding or a nappy change. Hopefully as conscientious attentive parents, our baby doesn’t cry long enough or loud enough to disturb their sleep as much as he does ours.
In a passivhaus home with an airtight building envelope and high-performance glazing, inside noises don’t disturb the neighbours. All sorts of noisy activities could take place discreetly. And to enjoy our toddler’s concerts, the neighbours would have to come around to visit.
Passivhaus homes keep the sounds inside, the baby won’t wake the neighbours.
Mould-free for the Kids
In many houses, including ours, mould seems inevitable. Unfortunately, this is as true for many new houses as it is for old houses. In our house, windows frames and reveals are particularly susceptible to black patches of mould, as are the silicone sealant joints in the bathroom. The mould grows because of moisture. The moisture persists because our house doesn’t have an airtight building envelope or an adequate ventilation system. It’s not nice, and it’s not healthy for children, or for anyone else for that matter.
Yes, if you have damp and mould you are more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system.
In a passivhaus home with an airtight building envelope and a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery, the indoor air is kept fresh, clean and dry. When you take a shower the bathroom mirror barely steams up. Excess moisture is swiftly eliminated and doesn’t build up indoors.
Passivhaus homes keep the inside fresh, dry and mould-free for healthy kids.
Sorry Kids, No Drawing on the Windows!
The house I grew up in had single glazed windows and I remember waking up to condensation on the windows for a large part of each year. I didn’t mind, it was an opportunity to draw on the windows! To make patterns and shapes to look through and see the world outside.
Now, in our current house we have double glazing (and better heating) so we get less condensation on the inside of our windows. But nevertheless, it still happens for part of the year. As a parent, I am much less thrilled to see condensation on the windows in the morning. Never mind the children enjoying drawing on the windows, it’s a hygiene concern. It’s part of the reason why mould grows on the window frames as mentioned earlier.
In a passivhaus home with an airtight building envelope, high-performance windows and a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery, the indoor air is kept fresh, clean and dry. Windows don’t get condensation on the inside when it is cold outside. There isn’t excess humidity inside the house to condense. And the surface temperature of the windows is always comfortably warm so moisture wouldn’t condense anyway.
Passivhaus homes eliminate condensation on the inside of windows. Sorry kids, no drawing on the windows, but it’s much healthier.
Passivhaus homes: I wish I had one!
Passivhaus homes are affordably warm and comfortable. They are draught-free and yet supplied with plentiful fresh clean warm air.
Passivhaus homes are quiet and tranquil inside, or at least as quiet and tranquil as the inhabitants. No doubt if we lived in a passivhaus home right now, our toddler would still keep the volume turned up!
Passivhaus homes are free from excess moisture and the heath risks associated with mould.
These benefits are, of course, excellent for all people’s comfort and health. And affordable for anyone, not just young families. However, young children are particularly vulnerable and it is important that they get a good start in life with comfortable healthy homes to live in.
It is heartening to see the increase in Passivhaus Standard social housing across the world. It brings all these benefits to families that need them the most.
The next generation, our children, need homes that are comfortable and healthy to live in, not some time in the future, but today. Our children need Passivhaus homes.
A friend of mine, Ben Adam-Smith of House Planning Help recently released a documentary called “The Future of Housing – And How Airtightness can help“. (Disclaimer: I helped him a little with it.) Part of his inspiration for this project was the recent birth of his son as you can see in the film. And his conclusion is that he needs a passivhaus home to bring his son up in. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do so today. It’s free to view online.
And please share this blog post with your friends – especially if they are planning a new home and a family!