In the UK press there has recently been much buzz around ‘passive houses’ (PassivHaus in their origional German). After a bit of research I have found the source of this was a talk given by the leader of the PassivHaus Institute, Wolfgang Feist, when he visited London in November last year.
The term ‘PassivHaus’ refers to a specific construction standard for residential buildings which have excellent comfort conditions in both winter and summer. These principles can be applied not only to the residential sector as the name suggests, but also to commercial, industrial and public buildings. Like LEED or BREEAM, PassivHaus is a voluntary standard for buildings to meet. In Western Europe these standard is that building must be designed to use less than 15kWh/m²/annum supplementary heat and no more than 120 kWh/m²/annum primary energy (total of heating, lighting, hot water, appliances and any cooling) and an air-tightness for the building envelope of n50 ≤ 0,6 /h.
According to Fast Company PassivHaus homes run on roughly one-twentieth of the energy of a conventional house and only cost some 5% more to build. PassivHaus concentrates on energy efficiency holistically rather than just ‘low carbon’ alone. Feist’s intention is to concentrate the proverbial mind of ‘developed’ countries on cutting energy consumption rather than utilising the land of poorer nations to feed their fuel needs. Dr Feist confounds this argument with the idea that energy saving that reduces consumption of imported fossil fuel is also a stimulus to the regional economy due to the new demand for the production of home-grown insulation and other products.
There are currently 15,000 passive homes in the world, most in Germany and Scandinavia (according to The Sunday Times). Pictured above is the original PassivHaus in Darmstault, Germany. There appears to be a real momentum to the PassivHaus movement now however; the European Parliament has proposed all new buildings meet passive-house standards by 2011. And it’s not just Europe, apparently Barack Obama told Barbara Waltersthe other day at he’s going to have the White House energy efficiency audited.