Passivhaus buildings, also known as passive house buildings, are houses which have a very low environmental footprint and are extremely energy efficient. Given that they are designed to provide optimal indoor environments and lower long-term costs, as well as being better for the planet, there are many advantages to a passivhaus over a conventional house. In this article, we look at some of the key advantages.
Passivhaus buildings are designed so that they leave as small a carbon footprint as possible. By designing the houses in this way, passivhaus buildings do not usually have any ways to manually heat or cool the internal environment, as it should always be an optimal temperature. Passivhaus buildings are not only for residential purposes, as they have been built to accommodate offices, schools and even a supermarket. Most passivhaus constructions are currently located in mainland Europe, but their use is spread around the world. Given their efficient design, passivhaus buildings can provide many benefits to the occupier.
Given that passivhaus buildings are designed with a low environmental footprint, it should come as no shock that they are highly energy efficient and can use up to 90% less energy than standard constructions. Aside from the occupier living an eco-friendlier lifestyle, they also benefit from a significant reduction in utility bills as there is no need for central heating and/or air conditioning. Passivhaus buildings achieve this using a number of methods, including windows that let out 70% less heat than conventional double glazing, east to west facing windows that make the most of the sunlight, high-quality heat insulation, and highly effective ventilation systems which use heat generated from appliances and the sun to regulate the internal temperature.
Much of the enhanced comfort of passivhaus buildings is as a result of the steps taken to increase energy efficiency. Ventilation systems make the internal living environment more comfortable from a temperature and air quality perspective, and insulation helps keep the house airtight, preventing unwanted drafts, cold spots and excessive heating. In fact, one of the principles of passivhaus buildings is that the temperature should remain at around an ambient 20 °C, and a house should not exceed an internal temperature of 25 °C for more than 10% of the year.
The comfort of an occupant is also enhanced due to improved air quality in comparison to other buildings. This is a result of airtight ventilation systems, which prevent much of the particulate matter, toxins and pollutants from the external atmosphere entering the building. Even when pollutants do enter the system, the air is changed every 24 hours, preventing the chance of prolonged exposure. The result is a much cleaner air environment, which helps to prevent the spread of airborne bacteria and allergy stimulants, resulting in a healthier household.
As passivhaus buildings are so well insulated and designed and contain highly efficient windows, the amount of noise entering from outside is significantly minimized, to the point where most passivehaus buildings are practically silent when all the doors and windows are shut. Additionally, because passivehaus buildings have no need for a central heating or air conditioning systems, the noise that arises from inside the house is much less than in traditional homes.
It has been over 25 years since the first passivhaus building was constructed, and whilst most of the passivhaus buildings in use today are residential, they can be used for a wide variety of building purposes and the scope for non-residential passivhaus buildings is growing year on year. Due to the high quality of passivhaus buildings, there are no limits on the types of building materials that can be used, provided the key requirements are met. As a result, the construction, in terms of both the materials and the building’s functional use, is very flexible and can accommodate many scenarios, budgets and locations.
Due to this flexibility, the costs of passivhaus buildings need not be expensive, with the average building costing around 10% more than a comparative standard construction house. Long-term savings in energy costs alone can more than make up for this extra cost.
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