The Passive House Standard
The term Passive House (or ‘Passivhaus’ in German) refers to the Passive House standard created and controlled by the ‘Passivhaus Institute’ in Darmstadt. Note: in Germany ‘haus’ means building not just house or dwelling! It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy to heat or cool them. In fact in general they can be built without conventional heating systems as the level of insulation and airtightness allows much more constant internal temperatures while the mechanical ventilation system recovers heat from the outgoing air and warms the incoming air, thereby providing almost all the heating needed. This allows significant savings in mechanical systems in the building which help pay for the extra insulation and quality control.
The Passive House standard can be used for all building types and there are wonderful examples of houses, schools, shops, banks, apartment buildings etc. built to this standard throughout Europe.
In Ireland, SEAI have adopted this standard as a means to achieve the stringent guidelines set out by the Energy Performance of Buildings directive. By 2016 there will be a requirement for all new buildings to be close to/meet the Passive House standard of construction. In practice this means a revolution in (a) the construction methods the Irish Construction Industry uses, (b) the understanding of building performance its designers and builders need to have and, perhaps most of all, (c) the care taken during design and on site to deliver quality construction.