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Passive House – Definition and Examples

The importance of sustainability and energy efficiency is increasing more and more within the last couple of years. Especially the real estate sector can contribute a lot towards this change as it accounts for a large part of the global energy consumption.  

In order to achieve the most efficient buildings, new technologies and concepts have shown up in the market including IoT, AI, Machine Learning and Big Data solutions. In addition, to measure the level of these implementations, sustainable building certifications have been used by many organizations. 

One of these building standards and concepts that has been recognized internationally, is the passive house. In the following article, we will define what is meant by this and highlight its benefits for the building owner.

Passive House Definition

A Passive House is a building standard that aims to provide high levels of comfort, while reducing energy consumption related to heating and cooling to a minimum. In order to qualify for a Passive House, certain international requirements have to be met that are given by the Passivhaus Institute. 

History of the Passive House

In the 1980s, the idea of buildings that consume less energy has gained track for a while but eventually has not seen the necessary movement to fully adopt a change.  

A few years later, at the beginning of the 1990s, two research organizations started to put a focus on the possibilities of passive housing. Bo Adamson from the Lund University in Sweden and Wolfgang Feist, from the “Institut für Wohnen und Umwelt” in Germany, were debating this concept. 

As more research has been conducted on the idea of a passive house, more financing was available and so the first few prototypes could have been developed. In Canada, the Saskatchewan Conservation House is one of these early examples

This building was able to achieve this status as a passive house by using advanced energy-saving technologies. These include better ceiling and wall insulation, improved window sealing, a heat recovery air exchanger, and a hot water recovery system.

Requirements

In order to qualify a building as a passive house, it needs to meet specific requirements. These were designed by the Passive House Institute and are applied internationally.

  • Space Heating Demand
    The demand for space heating energy cannot exceed 15 kWh or 10 W peak demand per m² of net living space per year. 
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  • Space Cooling Demand
    The demand for space cooling, if it is needed, should not exceed the same numbers as the heating requirements.
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  • Primary Energy Demand
    The energy demand has to be derived from renewable sources and cannot exceed 60 kWh per m² of treated floor per year.  
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  • Airtightness
    A passive house has to be airtight enough to only account for a maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals pressure.
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  • Thermal Comfort
    The thermal comfort for tenants has to be met during all seasons of the year and room temperature cannot exceed 25°C for more than 10% of the hours during a year.
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Benefits

  • The operating costs of a building can be reduced as the energy consumption will get lower.
  • It is often cheaper to implement passive house technologies, such as better insulation of ceilings, walls and windows.
  • It reduces CO2 emissions, because of the lower energy consumption that is often based on non-renewable sources.
  • Increased comfort for tenants is one of the benefits that is even written down in the requirements. The even level of temperature and improved air-quality is a noticeable advantage for every person living in a passive house.
  • Fever maintenance and related costs due to less technology installed in a house that could potentially break down.
modern building with large windows

Conclusion

A passive house is a standard and concept that is aiming at improving the energy consumption related to heating and cooling. These buildings started to come up in the early 1990s and since then have found international recognition. Even though passive houses have to comply with certain requirements, they can have many benefits as well. This includes increased tenant comfort, reduced energy consumption and lower costs. All in all, a passive house can be a good way to develop sustainable buildings that are not that costly.

If you want to learn more about smart cities and sustainable real estate, feel free to take a look at our other blog articles

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