This blog post is a review of the 3rd, revised edition of “Details for Passive Houses: A Catalogue of Ecologically Rated Constructions” published in 2009. This book is edited by the IBO, the Austrian Institute for Healthy and Ecological Building. It is a large and hefty hardcover tome at 3.2 x 24.8 x 35.6 centimetres.

People often ask if there is a catalogue of suitable details for Passivhaus construction. There isn’t one, at least not in English, that I am aware of. Of course, this might be because it is possible to build a Passivhaus with almost any construction system, so such a catalogue would be a huge undertaking. However, this book is the closest thing there is to such a catalogue.

The purpose of “Details for Passive Houses: A Catalogue of Ecologically Rated Constructions” is twofold; to provide an ecological evaluation of a range of Passivhaus-suitable construction details and to suggest alternatives that “illustrate the possibilities and limitations of ecologically motivated material selections.

The book contains 130 Passivhaus construction details, with assembly cross-sections and junction details. The details are beautifully illustrated to scale in four colours throughout.

Details for Passive Houses: A Catalogue of Ecologically Rated Constructions” is an excellent reference for successful Passivhaus construction detailing.

Successful Passivhaus Construction Details Cover

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

The international Passivhaus Standard does not explicitly require mechanical ventilation. And yet almost every certified Passivhaus building includes a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery.

What is mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) and why is it needed in Passivhaus buildings?

Mechanical ventilation is familiar to most people. This leads to the assumption that a Passivhaus ventilation system is the same as other mechanical ventilation systems. It is not.

There are things that MVHR does not do. It is important to know what these are in order to understand the difference between Passivhaus MVHR and other types of ventilation.

And there are things that Passivhaus MVHR does do that other ventilation systems don’t, including ‘natural ventilation’. It is important to know what MVHR does do, as MVHR is vital to the consistent success of the passivhaus standard.

Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) is key to delivering the benefits the Passivhaus Standard promises – radical energy efficiency and exceptional comfort.

036 What is Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR)?
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