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July 29, 2020

A guide to the passive house standard

If you’re a self builder constructing your property from the ground up and keen to design it as energy efficient as possible, look to the principles of passive house (or passivhaus or PH).

Developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany, a passive house is essentially a low-energy property that maintains comfortable living without compromising architecture or design. According to the Passivehaus Trust UK, passive house buildings achieve a 75% reduction in space heating requirements, compared to standard practice for UK new build. 

Here, we take a look at exactly what passive house is and discuss the key principles behind the construction standard.

Image credit: Allan Corfield Architects 

What is passive house?
A passive house focuses almost entirely on the energy the building uses in that it should have as low a heat demand as possible. The standard encapsulates all the passive design techniques used throughout construction – for example, high-performing insulation or high-efficiency windows and doors – in one certification. Passive House design is driven by air quality and comfort. The Passivehaus Institute states ‘a passivehaus is a building in which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling the fresh air flow required for a good indoor air quality, without the need for additional recirculation of air.’  Energy needed to heat a passive house is 90% lower than that of a standard home – there’s no allowance for traditional heating and cooling systems like boilers and air conditioning. What’s more, these specifications should in no way restrict design or result in architectural compromise – it simply requires careful consideration from the outset to ensure design and energy efficiency work together. And often the end result can be architecturally complex, unique and stunning. According to the Passivhaus Trust, more than 65,000 houses have been built and tested to the standard worldwide.

How to achieve the passive house standard
Your build must be certified by the Passivehaus Institute or an authorised UK company and must incorporate the key Passive House principles to ensure stable air temperatures, comfortable indoor air and minimal energy use. These are:

Extremely high levels of insulation
Arguably, this is the most important. Building design must prioritise the quality of the insulation – the two go hand in hand. High-quality insulation will minimise the heat exchange with the outside environment.

No thermal bridges
All wall, flooring and roof space should well-insulated with no gaps. Ensuring this means there’s less of a need for additional heating or cooling to reach a comfortable temperature.

Airtight construction
The structure must be airtight so think about fabrics and materials used.

High-efficiency windows and doors
Windows and doors throughout the whole property must demonstrate extremely high performance and have insulated frames.

Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery
Insulation efforts then require high-quality ventilation to recover heat from the used air and transfer it to the incoming fresh air.

What are the benefits of passive house?
Houses accredited to this standard achieve great levels of comfort for all occupants. Temperatures are kept consistent from room to room in both summer and winter, without the need for additional heating or cooling systems. That means much lower costs too. These builds also achieve extremely high-quality indoor air. Conventional buildings are not airtight, meaning toxins and particulates from, for example, windy days or passing traffic can get into the building and circulate. In a passive house, the air is only ever exchanged for fresh, filtered air. Of course, the bonus of this is less time spent cleaning – and this type of home is beneficial to people with allergies or sensitivities to mold or mildew thanks to their tight envelopes.

A passive house greatly contributes to the nationwide move to protect the environment. It uses only natural energy from the sun so they’re a great choice for green living.

Deuren and passive house standards
If you’re embarking on a build project and require its to design to be as efficient as possible, all Deuren front doors can be made to passive house standards. They’re specified in Thermal, Thermal 1 and Thermal 2 configurations and work hard to minimise heat loss and provide super insulation. Where a standard door would have a U Value of 1.2, Deuren can help you meet passive house standards by manufacturing your doors to achieve a U Value 0.6. If your doors require glazed panels, we can triple or quadruple the glazing to add to the thermal qualities of the door and block out noise pollution.

If you’re looking for inspiration for a passive house project and need expert advice about your door requirements, book an appointment to visit our showroom and factory.