Passive Houses are energy-efficient, healthy and sustainable homes designed to set guidelines, equations, and materials. If you have been researching a Passive House build, you may be calculating whether it’s possible to incorporate each of the Passive House principles, all within your budget.
In short, you can, but keep in that mind that sometimes doing just enough to meet your budget is counterintuitive. From our experience as passive house specialists, it is better to build a house with a smaller footprint that incorporates all the necessary Passive House principles over a larger home with fewer principles.
In this article, we’ll explore the principles of Passive House construction and provide tips for building an energy-efficient and sustainable home within your budget.
Let’s start with…
What is a Passive House?
A Passive House is a building designed to be energy-efficient, healthy, and comfortable without relying on traditional heating and cooling systems. The concept originated in Germany in the 1990s and has since spread throughout the world helping to facilitate a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Compared to the average Australian home, Passive Houses can require up to 90% less energy to run. That’s a huge difference!
“Compared to the average Australian home, Passive Houses can require up to 90% less energy to run.”
There are several key principles to passive house construction:
Principles of Passive House Construction
Passive house construction relies on several key principles:
- Airtight Building Envelope
A building envelope is the walls, roof, and foundation. In a Passive House design, these components must be airtight to prevent energy loss through air leaks. This is achieved by minimising unintended gaps in your home’s external envelope.
- High-Performance Windows
For energy efficiency, windows specified in a Passive House should be designed to maximise solar gain in the winter and minimise it in the summer. Typically Passive Houses will have double-glazed or triple-glazed windows specified.
- High Levels of Insulation
To ensure year-round comfort, the walls, roofs, and floors of a Passive House must be insulated to reduce heat loss and gain throughout the seasons. The performance of insulation is based on its R-value, or how well it resists heat flow, with your required R-value determined based on your climatic zone.
- Heat Recovery Ventilation
A heat recovery ventilation system continually supplies fresh air to your home, while removing old stale air and recovering the air energy, this ensures the air in your home is healthier, cleaner and more comfortable.
- Thermal Bridge-Free Construction
Thermal bridges are areas of a building where heat can escape more easily through steel structure, in a Passive House these should be minimised or eliminated through design.
Incorporating Passive House Principles on a Budget
Incorporating as many passive house principles into your building project is possible, even with budget constraints. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Plan for a Smaller Footprint
Building a smaller house can help you save on construction costs and energy costs in the long run. A smaller house requires less energy to heat and cool, so you’ll save money on your energy bills.
- Focus on the Envelope
The building envelope is one of the most important aspects of Passive House construction. Focusing on making your building airtight and well-insulated from the beginning, will ensure you have a comfortable home all year.
- Prioritise Windows
Windows are another key component of Passive House construction. Choose high-performance windows that are designed to maximise solar gain in the winter and minimise it in the summer.
- Invest in Insulation
Insulation provides effective thermal protection, keeping heat inside the home in winter and outside in summer. When building a Passive House ensure that high-quality insulation materials are specified in your home.
- Consider a Heat Recovery Ventilation System
While it may be more expensive upfront, A heat recovery ventilation system is an important principle that will save you money in the long run by reducing your overall heating and cooling costs, while providing your home with constant fresh air.
Incorporating Passive House principles into a tight budget is possible, but it is important to prioritise key principles like airtightness, insulation, and high-performance windows. While initially, build costs may appear higher compared to other types of home builds, building a Passive House is a worthwhile investment that offers you improved indoor air quality, saves you money on energy bills and reduces your carbon footprint.
It is important to work with an experienced Passive Home builder when designing your Passive House, as they have prior experience that will help you navigate budget challenges. By taking this considered approach to the construction of your home, you can experience a home that is healthier to live in, more energy-efficient and sustainable, and, all within your budget constraints.