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:
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. Continue reading →
Architecture is often described as the combination of art and science. The role of art in architecture is understandably subjective and open to debate. However, what about the role of science in architecture?
Clearly buildings do obey the laws of science, as they must. And specifically, the structure and services of a building are calculated and designed using physics. Understandably, it is most often these areas of science that get expressed in architecture. We can see this, for example, in the structural expressionism of Santiago Calatrava or in the romanticised high-tech style of Richard Rogers.
Aside from structure and building services, however, does science inform architecture in any other ways? Perhaps not as often as it should! As I wrote about previously, design is central to passivhaus. And science is central to passivhaus design – at the macro level of form and orientation, and at the micro level of airtightness and thermal bridging.
Architectural design is typically carried out with little or no environmental consideration integral to the process. Once the design has reached a certain stage environmental considerations – whether material toxicity, water conservation, carbon emissions or energy conservation or something else – are then assessed. At this point decisions are made to revise and iterate the design for better environmental outcomes or to add ‘environmental features’. We know the results of this disjointed design process and we know this has to change if buildings are going to be better for people and the planet!
Unfortunately many environmental standards reinforce this process in two ways. Firstly by being separate from the design process, often as an assessment procedure. Secondly by requiring ‘environmental features’ be added in order to score points or increase the rating of the design.
The Passivhaus Standard is different. Unlike most environmental standards for architecture, design is central to the Passivhaus Standard. And the Passivhaus Standard is central to the design process.
…intended to provide knowledge of both the methodology and the skills needed to achieve genuinely low-energy buildings, whether new or retrofitted, that perform as intended.
While passivhaus is not just for houses, The Passivhaus Handbook really is the ‘bible’ for developing passivhaus housing, particularly if you are thinking of a self-build passivhaus. The authors give substantial background into the “how and why of passivhaus” and then hold your hand through the whole process of a project. There is valuable guidance on setting up a passivhaus project, particularly applicable to self-build passivhaus, and then key practical aspects of a passivhaus project are each given a chapter. The book wraps up with chapters on living in a passivhaus, illustrated with four case studies, and a chapter specifically about UK policy.