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What is Passive House? Quick Guide

Passive houses are all about energy efficiency. Whether you want to build a certified passive house from scratch or are just looking to renovate with energy savings in mind, you can take inspiration from the passive house movement (also known as passiv haus).

A quick explanation of passive house

A sturdy house built with quality materials can still be very inefficient when it comes to energy. This can have a big environmental impact, cost the homeowner money, and reduce comfort levels.

Passive house

True passive houses can reduce energy consumption by up to 90%. The idea is to focus on five energy-saving principles, as explained by the Passive House Institute, summarized below:

1. Thermal insulation

Having the right type and level of insulation is vital for energy efficiency. This is true for both hot and cold climates, helping to regulate the temperature and to avoid unwanted heat loss through areas like walls and roofs.

2. Windows

Windows can be one of the biggest areas of heat loss, even when they are closed. In passive houses, windows must be properly fitted, insulated, and use low-emissivity glazing.

3. Heat recovery ventilation

It’s important to have a way to keep indoor air fresh while maintaining the right temperature. Efficient heat recovery ventilation systems (HRVs) do just this. They expel stale air and bring in fresh, filtered air, which is also warmed to the correct temperature through a heat exchange.

4. Airtightness

It’s all very well installing energy-efficient materials, but if heat can escape from gaps in the house, the new designs won’t save much energy. Passive houses need to meet a high standard of air tightness.

5. Thermal bridges

Every building has areas where heat is more easily transferred and lost. These are called thermal bridges. Usually, these are found between the inside and outside of the building, and need to be treated.

There are very ridged criteria that a building must meet to get the passive house certification. Usually, this involves using passive house certified components which can be built into new buildings or retrofitted to existing buildings.

However, homeowners looking to improve their energy efficiency can still take inspiration from these tried and tested principles if they can’t currently meet passive house standards.

A quick passive house history

Passive house might be considered the gold standard in energy efficiency by many, but the movement certainly didn’t build the first ever energy-efficient house. People around the world have been finding creative ways to raise the standard of living and lower the impact on the environment for years.

The first ever true passive house was built in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1991. The project was a collaboration between Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist and was inspired by Bo Adamson’s trip to China, improving the comfort of houses that weren’t heated.

Why was passive house invented?

In an interview with the International Passive House Association, Dr Wolfgang Feist explained that, as far back as the 1970s, he’d been contemplating the problem of carbon dioxide emissions. Realising that over one-third of modern energy consumption was being used to heat buildings, he and his partner decided to “tackle a problem at its roots”.

They set about improving the efficiency of homes by looking at practical issues and how they could implement important changes.

How is passive house different today?

As technology improves, so do the possibilities for energy-saving components. In the above interview, Dr Wolfgang Feist claimed that the passive house-certified components on the market today are almost 50% better than those they made themselves back in the day.

The possibilities for passive house are expanding, too. In recent years, the very first high-rise residential passive house building was completed in partnership with Cornell Tech. With 26 stories to account for, in an area that saw average temperatures from -5°C to 30°C, it was no small challenge.

Who we are

At Balearic Properties, we combine local market expertise with the world-renowned trust that comes with being a Savills partner. Our multilingual team is here to help our clients find their dream home or find the perfect buyer.

We work across Mallorca and are based in local offices in Pollensa. To find out more, simply start browsing our current beautiful properties.

Can’t see what you’re looking for? Please get in touch to tell us how we can help.

By Iris Gruenewald

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