A Passive House (Passivhaus in German) is a building standard that is truly energy-efficient, comfortable, affordable, and ecological at the same time. Passive House is not a brand name, but a construction concept that can be applied to any building. What is more, Passivhaus is a standard that has been applied and has stood the test of time and practice.
It is more than just a low-energy building:
- Exceptional Thermal Insulation: Every Passive House is lined with exceptional insulation. This insulation drastically reduces the need for external heating or cooling.
- No Thermal Bridges: The construction is meticulously designed to ensure that there are no ‘thermal bridges’. This means, that the building envelop has no weak spots where heat can easily escape.
- Airtightness: Passive Houses are virtually airtight. This means, the loss of energy through air is minimized, ensuring that the indoor environment is both controlled and comfortable.
- High-Performance Windows and Doors: The windows and doors in a Passive House are designed to be highly efficient. This way, the windows and doors of a Passive house keep the warmth from escaping (or entering) the building.
- Ventilation with Heat Recovery: Passive Houses use a ventilation system with heat recovery. This ventilation system provides constant fresh air without letting heat escape. Moreover, this system filters the air before entering the building which ensures a better air quality than the outside.
This concept results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. Moreover, it taps into the intrinsic energy sources within the building – such as the body heat from occupants or solar heat entering the building – to maximize efficiency. The result is a system that not only saves up to 90% of heating costs but also provides a uniquely comfortable living environment. It’s a forward-thinking, sustainable approach to architecture, reducing the building’s ecological footprint and promising a future-aligned with environmental stewardship and energy conservation.
Passive house explained in 90 seconds:
Why Passivhaus in Cyprus
Adaptation to the Mediterranean Climate
- Energy Efficiency: Cyprus experiences long, hot summers and mild winters. A Passivhaus design minimizes the need for air conditioning in the hot months due to its super-insulation and airtight construction, which keep the indoor temperature stable.
- Thermal Comfort: The high levels of insulation and triple-glazed windows in a Passivhaus keep the interior cool in the summer heat and warm during cooler winter months without relying heavily on heating or cooling systems. This creates an indoor environment that’s comfortable year-round.
- Solar Gain Management: Passivhaus design can be optimized for Cyprus’s sunny climate, using window placement and shading to take advantage of solar energy in the cooler months while minimizing overheating during the summer.
- Reduced Utility Bills: By dramatically cutting energy consumption for heating and cooling, Passivhaus buildings can lead to substantial savings in utility bills, which is an appealing prospect for residents in Cyprus where air conditioning can be a significant cost.
- Low Maintenance: The simplicity of the heating and cooling systems in a Passive House leads to fewer maintenance issues and lower maintenance costs over time.
- Sustainability: Cyprus is rich in natural beauty, and sustainable living is essential to preserving the island’s environment. Passivhaus buildings significantly reduce carbon emissions because they consume less energy, aligning with environmental conservation efforts.
- Energy Independence: Cyprus, like many islands, benefits from reducing its dependence on imported energy. Passivhaus standards help ensure that homes and buildings use as little energy as possible, which can be provided by the island’s own renewable resources.
Health and Air Quality
- Improved Air Quality: The ventilation systems in Passivhaus buildings provide a constant supply of filtered fresh air, reducing humidity and the risk of mold, which is particularly beneficial in Cyprus’s coastal areas.
- Durability: The high-quality construction required for Passivhaus buildings means that they are built to last, with materials and systems that will require less repair and have longer lifespans.
- Property Value: As global awareness of energy efficiency grows, the demand for sustainable homes increases. Investing in a Passivhaus could potentially increase the property’s resale value in the future.
By presenting these tailored benefits of Passivhaus design that apply to the Cypriot context, you can effectively argue that it’s an ideal choice for the island’s climate, economic, and environmental conditions. It’s not only a sensible investment but also a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle in harmony with the local environment.
What is the cost of a Passivhaus?
Calculating the precise cost difference between a Passivhaus and a regular house in Cyprus can be complex. To do so, it involves a variety of factors including local building regulations, cost of materials, labor costs, and the specific design of the building. However, it is possible to provide a general framework for understanding how costs might differ.
- Upfront Costs: Passivhaus buildings often have higher upfront costs due to the need for specialized materials like high-quality insulation, triple-glazed windows, airtightness membranes and tapes, and ventilation systems with heat recovery. These materials and systems are more expensive than those used in standard construction. Additionally, the labor involved in constructing a Passivhaus can be more intensive due to the precision required to meet the stringent standards.
- Design and Planning Costs: The design and planning phase for a Passivhaus can be more involved and require specialized skills, which may increase the costs. Architects and designers with Passivhaus experience or certification may command higher fees.
- Long-Term Savings: Passivhaus buildings are designed to use up to 90% less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings. In Cyprus, with its warm climate, the cooling demands can be significant, and thus the energy savings in a Passivhaus can be substantial over time. These savings can offset the initial higher investment.
- Maintenance and Operating Costs: Passivhaus buildings are designed to be highly durable and may have lower maintenance and repair costs over the long term due to the high quality of construction materials and methods used.
- Economic Incentives: There may be grants, subsidies, or other financial incentives available in Cyprus for energy-efficient buildings, which can reduce the overall cost difference between a Passivhaus and a regular house.
- Real Estate Value: Passivhaus buildings may have a higher market value due to their energy efficiency, comfort, and sustainability features, which can be attractive selling points.
On average, reports from various countries suggest that the extra cost for building a Passivhaus compared to a standard house can range from 5% to 20%, depending on the factors mentioned above. In Cyprus, the specific cost difference would depend on local market conditions and the availability of materials and skilled labor. It’s worth consulting with local builders, architects, and a cost consultant who have experience with Passivhaus projects to get a more accurate estimate.
Retrofitting an existing building
Retrofitting an old building to meet the full Passivhaus standard can be challenging, but it is often achievable. The process involves a comprehensive upgrade to the building’s thermal envelope and ventilation system to meet the rigorous energy efficiency and comfort criteria set out by the Passivhaus Institute.
Here are the key challenges and considerations in such a retrofit:
- Thermal Insulation: Upgrading insulation to meet Passivhaus standards in an existing building requires careful consideration of space and the potential for changes to the building’s appearance. Internal or external insulation can be used, but it must be done in a way that manages moisture, prevents thermal bridging, and retains or enhances the building’s character.
- Airtightness: Achieving the high levels of airtightness required for Passivhaus certification often means a meticulous sealing of all gaps and cracks in the building’s structure, which can be labor-intensive in older buildings where irregularities and historical construction methods present challenges.
- Windows and Doors: Replacing old windows and doors with high-performance, triple-glazed units is typically necessary. This change must also consider the building’s design and historical aesthetics, especially for heritage buildings.
- Ventilation: A mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery (MVHR) is a core component of a Passivhaus. Integrating this system into an old building without compromising its structural integrity or interior space can be complex.
- Thermal Bridges: Eliminating thermal bridges is a requirement for Passivhaus certification. In existing buildings, this often involves additional work to insulate or isolate elements of the building’s structure that conduct heat.
- Cost and Feasibility: The economic feasibility of a full Passivhaus retrofit depends on the existing building’s condition and the budget for the retrofit. In some cases, aiming for EnerPHit certification, which is specifically designed for retrofits and allows for some flexibility, might be more practical.
- Heritage Considerations: For historically significant buildings, there may be restrictions on the types of alterations that can be made, which could limit the ability to fully achieve Passivhaus standards.
If a complete retrofit to meet the full Passivhaus standard is not feasible, the EnerPHit standard is an alternative, as it is tailored for existing buildings and offers a degree of flexibility. It requires many of the same improvements as Passivhaus but recognizes the limitations and potential constraints of retrofit projects. EnerPHit is considered a practical approach to drastically improve the energy efficiency of older buildings while respecting their structural and historical characteristics.
Who can design a Passivhaus?
A Certified Passive House Designer (CPHD) or Consultant is a professional who has successfully completed a specialized training program and passed the exam administered by the Passive House Institute (PHI) or a PHI-accredited training provider.
Training and Certification
The certification process for becoming a CPHD typically involves:
- Intensive Coursework: The training covers a wide range of topics, including Passive House principles, thermal insulation, airtightness, thermal bridge-free design, high-performance windows and building services, ventilation, heating and cooling systems, and the use of the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) for energy modeling.
- Passive House Planning Package (PHPP): Proficiency in PHPP, the detailed energy modeling software used to design Passive Houses, is a core component of the training.
- Examination: After completing the coursework, candidates must pass a rigorous exam that tests their understanding and application of Passive House principles.
- Practical Experience: Some programs may require candidates to demonstrate practical experience in designing or contributing to a Passive House project.
Roles and Responsibilities
Once certified, a Passive House Designer is qualified to:
- Design Buildings to Passive House Standards: They can lead the process of designing buildings that meet the strict energy efficiency and comfort standards set out by the PHI.
- Consult on Passive House Projects: CPHDs offer consulting services to architects and builders who are aiming to achieve Passive House certification for their projects.
- Conduct Energy Modeling: Using PHPP, they can accurately model the energy balance of a building and make informed decisions to optimize its performance.
- Quality Assurance: CPHDs ensure that Passive House buildings are designed and constructed to the highest quality standards, resulting in structures that require very little energy to heat or cool.
- Educate and Advocate: They often play a role in educating clients, contractors, and the public about the benefits and practices of Passive House design.
Certified Passive House Designers are recognized worldwide as professionals specialized able in deisgning highly efficient buildings. The CPHD credential is highly regarded in the field of sustainable architecture and is seen as a mark of quality and expertise in energy-efficient building design.
Hiring a Certified Passive House Designer ensures that a building project is approached with a high level of expertise and a commitment to achieving the stringent Passive House standards, which can lead to significant long-term benefits in terms of energy savings, environmental impact, and occupant comfort.