Passive House

In this blog PLA Director, Paul Lonergan, explains why he felt it was important to offer clients a Passive House Consultancy.

Why Passive House.

We all spend most of our time in buildings. At home and at work we spend more than 80% of our time indoors. I think we all intuitively know that our environment can affect our moods, and even our health; perhaps your home is a bit dark, or noisy; perhaps you live on a noisy street, or one with a lot of traffic and fumes from traffic; perhaps your house is just old, a bit draughty and cold. We really do deserve better than this.

Of course new houses are built to be better insulated than existing houses. This is an important step forward. However, the build quality and design of new homes can also be an issue. In November 2018 The Guardian reported that

‘ Just over half (51%) of new home owners have experienced major problems with their properties.’  

In the same month the BBC reported on new homes with 300+ defects, and the Daily Mail reported on new homes with major defects.

This is reflected the preference that house buyers show for older properties over new builds. In 2016 the Home Owners Alliance, reported the results of a survey that showed,

– New builds are not popular – more than twice as many people prefer an older home (49%) to a new build home (19%)

Add to this that our homes, new and old, can cost a great deal to run, in terms or every increasing energy bills and it seems sensible to look to an alternative standard for building.

 

Passive House

I believe Passive House is the sensible alternative.

The improved build process and certification process ensures better build quality, and the design process ensures greater comfort, a healthier environment and lower fuel bills.

 

How is this achieved?

New homes in the UK, and many refurbishments, must comply with the Building Regulations. The Building Regulations are a minimum standard and are intended to ensure a home is safe. The Building Regulations do not ensure that a home is comfortable, healthy or inexpensive to heat. Neither do they necessarily ensure a home is well constructed.

Passive House homes are built to standards in excess of the Building Regulations and undergo additional testing and certification. The design and the build process are also more rigorous.

A simple example will illustrate this point. The standard new home is usually tested very close to completion for it’s level of leakiness (an air pressure test is performed). However on larger developments it may be that no more than half the homes are tested, and as there is very poor oversight of this process, many new homes are more leaky then intended.  The outcome of this poor performance is that these homes can be more draughty and have higher fuel consumption for heating.

This is rather like car manufacturers making misleading claims on fuel consumption. Some new built homes just do not perform as well as claimed.

This leads to higher fuel bills than intended but can also have effects on your health. Close to the unintended leaks surfaces can be colder than expected. This can lead to condensation, damp and mold. Homes can also be noisier that intended as the leaks allow in sound as well as cold air.

The Passive House Alternative

Passive houses are tested during construction, as well as at completion, and must achieve a very high standard of air-tightness. As the house is tested as the build proceeds any issues can be resolved before problems are covered over and then become difficult or impossible to reach. This additional testing is not complex or expensive but it does ensure that the completed home performs well and performs as intended.

This is one example of how the design process and the build process are improved by following the Passive House method.

I will be following this post with a regular post on Passive House homes and construction.