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my passive house certification journey

Justine Money

Why?

For a few years now I was keen to become Passive House qualified and it was one of those many important ‘should do’s’ that got put on the back burner, until one day I was chatting with Adam Souter of Souter Built Pty Ltd. We discussed his recent Certified Passive House Tradesperson course and his enthusiasm for Passive House was totally infectious. The very next day I applied for the scholarship!

I was very humbled to receive the Scholarship but also determined to do well and make a difference to our current construction methods. There is a need to reduce the amount of energy used in the operation of housing with an aim of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

How…

When I turned up to my first day on the course and saw 6 thick text books for our 2 week course, for a moment I had to hold myself back from running out the door. I thought surely we are not covering all that content in 2 weeks? Well, we did just that and it was one of the most rewarding learning outcomes I have ever achieved, Daniel was so passionate and patient. He kept us moving in the right direction in a calm and assertive manner that kept our attention and kept us performing at a high level.

So if you are considering doing the course, I highly recommend it. I came out of those two weeks a changed woman with a revived optimism to really make a difference to the future of our buildings.

Group visit to The Fern, Alexandria – Passive House Apartment Block.

Our aim is to maintain impeccable design within the framework of the Passive House methodology.

So what is Passive House?

The Passive House standard, a design and construction methodology that promotes internal comfort and energy efficiency, was formalised over a quarter of a century ago and is based on research into past and present high performance structures.

In Europe, a Passive House building consumes up to 90% less energy for heating and cooling compared to typical buildings (Passivhaus Institute, 2017).

Passive House building must meet a number of fundamental performance criteria to be eligible for certification, with the three key criteria being:

• a minimised demand for heating and cooling

• an air tight thermal envelope, and

• significantly reduces whole building energy use.

A Passive House is typically certified upon build completion; with the airtightness test, commissioning report and photographic evidence verifying build quality, though there is no time limit. In its purest technical terms, Passive House is defined by independent research institute for Passive House, the Passivhaus Institut, as a building meeting the criteria in table 1 below:

Extracts from Environmental Design Guide 89 CP - May 2017 Passivhaus: The pathway to low energy buildings in Australasia. Clare Parry, Australian Passive House Association.

5 Basic Principles of Passive House

• A continuous layer of thermal insulation.

• Avoid thermal bridge effects.

• High performing windows suited to climate.

• An airtight envelope.

• Mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery.

The ultimate aim of building to the Passive House standard is not necessarily the final certification, but rather to achieve exactly what the standard promises to deliver: a comfortable, high quality, healthy building that costs very little to run.

Advantages of a Passive House building.

Healthy home.

The one aspect of the Passive House methodology that gained my interest was the health values of these buildings. Having the airtight layer and the mechanical ventilation system that not only filters the air to a very high level, it also creates a full fresh air exchange every three hours. Imagine that, living in a house that has constant filtered fresh air flowing – with no dust (dust mites), no bad odours, no pollution,  and if you suffer from hay fever no pollens!

Air flow is increased in bedrooms giving fresh air as you sleep and removing the CO2 build up that can make you wake up feeling groggy.

Minimal to zero energy costs.

In Australia we have a lower difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures compared to say Northern Europe, therefore energy costs can be reduced by 90% quite easily and the additional 10% can be created by renewables (i.e. PV cells) therefore creating a zero energy consuming home.

Internal comfort.

If you ever get the opportunity to visit a Passive House building do it!! It is very hard to describe the internal comfort levels compared to the real life experience of the space. All rooms are kept to the same temperature and the clean air is just so lovely, I never want to leave once I’m in.

If you would like to discuss more about Passive House or have any further questions, I am happy to chat at anytime. Please book in a telephone meeting via the link below and I look forward to assisting you further.

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