Passivhaus is known as the world’s leading energy efficiency standard for buildings. It drives building energy consumption down as much as 90% compared to code requirements.
Passivhaus requires that the whole delivery team pay very close attention to how a building is designed, detailed and constructed. Energy must be used efficiently and not wasted. Very detailed energy and performance modeling must be carried out using the PHPP during the design process.
This can seem complicated and technical, on top of all the other challenges of being an Architect. So why not leave it to the ‘sustainability experts’ who love this kind of thing?
It is true, Passivhaus does take effort. It’s simple but not easy. However, Passivhaus offers important opportunities for architects.
Here are three reasons you should get into Passivhaus: Climate Change, legislation, and to make a difference.
Bjarke Ingels is a “Starchitect,” an international superstar architect. He is also a great storyteller and perhaps this is why he has risen to such prominence in recent years. People love stories.
Arguably, it is the narrative that people give to buildings that elevate them to “Architecture.” The trouble I have with most “Starchitecture” is that the narrative often appears to be whimsical, egocentric and divorced from environmental context.
Bjarke Ingels is a different kind of “Starchitect.” He offers a narrative where architecture embraces environmental context. His term for this is “Vernacular 2.0.”
Vernacular architecture arises out of a direct response to the climate it inhabits and the resources available locally. And this is exactly what the Passivhaus Standard aims to ensure in a contemporary context.
Heating is a key element of occupant comfort. So why does the Passivhaus Standard have a limiting benchmark for heating energy of 15kWh/m2 per annum? Isn’t this contradictory?
While this may seem contradictory, there are good reasons for it. Firstly, heating makes up a significant proportion of energy consumption in buildings, so it needs to be addressed to improve energy efficiency and reduce climate change impact. Secondly, setting a very low heating energy benchmark drives a fabric first approach, which has several benefits, comfort being a key one. And thirdly, having a heating energy benchmark singled out from primary energy means it can’t be achieved by offsetting with renewables or any other energy accounting cheats.
15kWh/m2 for comfort – delivered with radical energy efficiency, fabric first design and no cheating!
The Passivhaus Standard is the world’s foremost standard for energy efficient and comfortable buildings. Buildings certified to the Passivhaus Standard are often more energy efficient than conventional buildings by a factor of 10. In the face of climate change, architecture in the anthropocene must change. Buildings need to consume radically less energy to emit radically less CO2.
Buildings certified to the Passivhaus Standard are also incredibly successful at meeting design predictions. The performance gap is eliminated. And passivhaus buildings maintain their performance over time. The rigorous integrated design and quality assurance requirements of certification process for the Passivhaus Standard ensure this.
And yet there are many misunderstandings about what the Passivhaus Standard is. In some cases it gets confused with other aspirations. In other cases the standard gets accused of not being one thing or another, regardless of what it actually is! There is even a sense of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ at play within the sustainable / green building community sometimes.
This blog will help clear up some of the common misconceptions around the Passivhaus Standard.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face today, as I wrote in a previous blog about ‘Zero-Carbon Buildings’. Clearly we need to reduce CO2 emissions globally to zero, or to less than zero, to address climate change. We need to approach this in two ways: radical energy efficiency to reduce demand and de-carbonisation of energy generation, in other words, a massive scaling-up of renewable energy generation.*
In some situations these two approaches are going to manifest as ‘Zero-Carbon Buildings’ or ‘Net-Zero Energy Buildings’. Even though there are many reasons why this is the wrong target (and if you read the comments you’ll find there are more than just the 9 reasons I wrote about.)
What then, is the best approach to achieving these notional targets of ‘Zero-Carbon Buildings’ or ‘Net-Zero Energy Buildings’?
Passivhaus First is the best approach and I explore why in this blog.