Passive House – Eco-chic Design That is Highly Energy Efficient

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Author – Matt Jambro

Sustainable construction methods are becoming more popular with the idea to create an environmentally friendly structure. With many designers using the latest technologies in home designs, eco-friendly homes are now being constructed using a combination of green building methods. New and trendy innovations are being mixed and matched to build Eco Chic houses!

Passive House is an excellent example of sustainable building. Such homes, built according to a particular standard, are highly energy efficient constructions, which reduce the ecological footprint. By adding a green roof or solar power system to these homes, the design gets pushed a little bit further and becomes the ultimate green home.

What is a passive building?

Source: Lushome Design

Passive house is a building design that provides specific design and building standards for reducing heating or cooling requirements by eliminating the conventional heating system. The home does not use wasteful amount of fossil fuels, rather it uses ‘free energy’, which allows the home to remain at the same temperature and is therefore seen as passive.

Where to build a passive house?

Germany became the forefront of the high passive home structures after conducting many research and development during the early 1990s to develop certain environmental design principles. Since the first passive home structures were intended to fit the temperate climate of Germany, people may assume that this design is mostly applicable to that particular environment. However, a Passive House is actually a building method, rather than a building style.

Some Passive home characteristics like the windows, insulation, stay the same in all climate areas. The main building styles may change for each country to cater to different climates. Therefore, most countries would have Passive Houses that look different, but the leading principles remain the same. It is safe to say, no matter what the climate is – cold, hot, tropical, hot/dry, hot/humid or a mild climate – the passive house building method can be implemented for all conditions.

How does a passive house function in different climates?

These homes are built with exterior walls that are two to three times thicker than conventional walls. The temperature inside the house is maintained throughout the house with a natural or controlled ventilation system, while the building is constructed in such a way that it is air tight and sound proof. Heat that is generated by electrical appliances such as stoves, freezers, computers, and lights gets utilized as ‘free heat’. The stale air, which is carrying this free heat, leaves home through a mechanical ventilation system. The air goes through a heat recovery ventilator and the heat gets transferred to the incoming fresh air to warm the home.

The Passive House design has the ability to function well in warm climates such as India. For cooling a home, the window quality kept at the same level, with proper shading added. The internal heat load gets reduced by making use of energy efficient equipment, and the small amount of energy still needed for cooling is delivered by cooling the fresh air supply. In other words, for reducing the peak cooling load, passive measures are chosen.

Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, the first net zero energy building in India is a great example of a passive solar design used along with energy efficient building materials. This new office for the Ministry of Environment & Forests has got the highest green building rating, i.e., GRIHA 5-Star and LEED India Platinum due to its  sustainable design.

To build a passive home for a specific climate, various modifications need to be made. In some tropical areas, dehumidification might be more necessary for cooling the home, while in another area, a passive solar design might be the main feature. By adding a growing living roof to a construction like this, you can provide a high cooling function in the summer, while insulation in the winter is improved. Green roofs have many other benefits as well; it can decrease storm water runoff, provide a natural habitat for wildlife, increase the home sound insulation, reduce the carbon footprint, etc.

With a combination of eco-friendly building implementation, Passive Houses are five to ten times lower than the average home and also decrease the carbon footprint two to five times. If every home builder decides to make use of eco chic design and choose combinations that fit according to their “energy” lifestyle, the world will become greener even faster.

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