Houses that work for the environment, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, have a professional name: Passivhaus. This construction standard that originated in Germany in 1991, focuses on the construction of high-quality buildings and takes advantage of all the resources available to offer the best living conditions, leaving the smallest footprint in the environment.
The Passivhaus obtains most of the energy they consume from the sun and the natural conditions of their environment. They also combine an environmental approach, based on the motto of providing maximum comfort and affordable prices.
The orientation of the building, the care of air circulation, the use of suitable materials, good thermal insulation, and a mechanical ventilation system are the pillars of this construction system that every day gains more supporters.
Passive but productive
The Passivhaus responds to a construction standard developed by the Passivhaus Institute Germany, based on three modalities: classic, premium, or superior according to the luxury and finishes of the construction, but also include buildings that are renovated to achieve higher energy efficiency under the EnerPHit standard.
The motto of Passivhaus is to generate a thermal cover so efficient that it’s able to provide the most comfortable conditions regardless of the season or the weather, without resorting to the classic heating or cooling systems, which have become the main energy consuming factors in households.
This is accomplished, in part, by developing the construction based on a better access to sunlight and including in the design the use of special windows that manage to capture more thermal energy than what they lose. In this way, the Passivhaus manage to reduce electricity consumption up to 90% compared to traditional constructions.
The Passivhaus approach
In order for a building to obtain this distinguished standard of quality, the same must comply with strict conditions: not exceeding 15 kWh of annual consumption per square meter of built space. The cooling demand of the space must be equivalent to its heat demand, with an additional subsidy depending on the weather.
The primary energy demand of a Passivhaus construction mustn’t exceed the 120kWh. This energy demand refers to the needs of heating, refrigeration, hot water, and domestic electricity. On the other hand, they must be hermetic constructions with a minimum unwanted air inlet, maintaining a stable, and comfortable temperature despite the external conditions.
Buildings eligible for qualification must follow the specifications of the PHPP passive home planning package when it comes to their renovation and adjustment processes.
More than a trend
It is becoming increasingly common to find spectacular homes in North America or Europe that follow the Passivhaus standard, and although it seems to be a trend, it’s actually much more than that.
Aside from being able to brag about their modern and sophisticated designs, the users of this type of constructions might also enjoy the envy of their neighbors: their invoices for utility services are for minimum amounts.
The reduction of energy consumption has a logical consequence: a payment for services that keeps getting lower in time, a lower cost for the repair or replacement of heating equipment, lower risk of fire and even a significant exposure to radon gas, the main cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
So the Passivhaus method demonstrates that houses with heating and air conditioning systems, are obsolete piles or structures that don’t contribute to the smart use of energy.