Passivhaus is a term we are all likely to hear more often as we become ever more focused on energy efficiency. As you might have guessed from the spelling Passivehaus has its origins in Germany being part of the countries building standards. Any house meeting the standard will have been built to take advantage of the sun's heat and any other freely available source - including people, household appliances and regular fresh-air. One of the main factors which help to reduce the need for traditional heating is super high degrees of insulation as well as air tight windows and doors. The entire fabric of the house, including floors and walls, work by storing heat to help maintain warmth in winter. The addition of Solar panels and heat pumps may also play a part in supplying efficient forms of heat.
The main aim of a Passive House is to have low impact on the environment and as such will usually require around 75% less heating than a regular home. Although build costs can be up to 8% greater than a normal build the big benefit is obviously the savings the homeowner can make on fuel bills. On top of this the owner can also be fairly smug about their carbon output.
Air quality is usually controlled through mechanical means and heat recovery systems. For anyone who loves to be warm this is undeniably the house for you as temperatures are maintained at a constant level. Dust and pollen particles are filtered out of the air which is an added bonus to anyone who suffers from related allergies.
Adhering to the standards can be tough. Anyone keen on building a Passive House will need to consider the design and layout from the beginning. Planning permission will need to allow for large south facing windows and ventilation etc, so the right plot of land is essential. Consideration should also be given to internal lighting, appliances and any other energy demanding equipment you intend using in the house. When choosing an architect look for someone who understands the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP). This will enable the architect to gauge energy performance at the design phase. Ultimately you will need to have the house certified by the Passivhaus Institute, the BRE or the Scottish Passive House Centre so getting the design right is essential.
There's a lot to go though before you sell up and call in the removals company. Ignoring extra build costs, the Passive House philosophy has to be the logical position for all new home builders to aspire. Once you've considered the long term benefits, especially in such a windblown island as the UK, to build anything less is to build a house which effectively leaks heat. The Passive House is almost the exact opposite to a heating leaking house. By concentrating on minimising heat loss the need to constantly pump more heat into the house is virtually eliminated. Granted, all those tight fitting doors and windows and super efficient insulation don't come cheap, but it's exciting to think that technology can now deliver a much smarter home as well a more comfortable one.