Top 5 benefits of building a Passivhaus

Written by Craig Alexander – a Chartered Architect within our in-house Architectural Design team, and David Bryan – a Certified Passive House Consultant

 

Having worked within a team to build the UK’s first certified oak frame Passivhaus (also know as Passive House), in addition to designing and building the UK’s first certified oak frame Passivhaus Bed and Breakfast, we recognise there are a growing number of self-builders seeking to improve the performance of their builds. With this in mind, we have put together a list of how your future oak frame project could benefit from being designed and constructed to Passivhaus standards:

 

1. Comfort

Often side-lined by focus on the pounds and pence savings on energy bills, Passivhaus is actually also a rigorous (and fantastic!) comfort standard. Buildings are designed to be exceptionally consistent, even and comfortable in their internal environment, free from cold spots, draughts and risks of excessive overheating; creating an extremely pleasant home all year round. In addition, triple glazing ensures that even on a winter’s day, sitting near a window will be very comfortable and almost unnoticed (no need to fit radiators under windows as found in old houses!)

 

2. Healthy fresh air

In line with the above, Passivhaus projects are designed to have a managed, consistent supply of fresh and filtered air via the Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) system. This provides constant background ventilation at a rate that is almost imperceptible, diluting CO2 and pollutants (which are also extracted from wet areas), and can be complemented by throwing open windows. (It’s just a rumour that Passivhaus projects are hermetically sealed: in fact, the standard requires every habitable room has an opening window the occupant can control!)

The UK's first certified oak frame Passivhaus in Yorkshire

3. Energy efficiency

This is the big and impressive known fact about Passivhaus. When designed to the standard, buildings tend to use around 10% of the energy of a conventional modern Building Regulations-compliant building. Therefore, a 90% saving on your energy bills.

There can be many reasons for wanting to keep this figure low when self-building: self-reliance of a more ‘off grid property,’ being mindful of your carbon footprint, or conscious of inflation-busting, ever-increasing energy bills in your forever home, where you can balance a slightly higher investment in the building at the start to be rewarded with almost negligible running costs in the future!

 

4. Peace and quiet

Often overlooked, your additional insulation, rigorous airtightness and triple glazed windows ensure the even if you are in a busier area, your house will work really well acoustically separated from the outside, and the MHVR system will provide background ventilation if you would like to keep the windows closed. This is ideal when working from home.

Please click here to explore the high-performance range of triple glazed timber windows from Green Building Store.

 

5. Built for the future

It’s possible to enhance a buildings’ environmental performance or running costs of a conventional build by adding lots of ‘eco additions,’ such as solar panels, ground or air source heat pumps or other efficient/low carbon measures. Almost all of these systems are ‘active:’ i.e. they require maintenance, investment and upkeep to ensure they keep adding value and performing. For example, solar panels degrade and expensive PV power inverters can fail.

A Passivhaus approach instead focuses on the fabric of the building, which is actually the most difficult and disruptive element of your house to improve in the future (i.e. once your insulation is hidden in the walls or floor.) Investing in those elements up-front ensures this approach has no specific ongoing running costs or future investment. You can also then complement your fantastically efficient build with a more modest package of renewables, either at the time of construction or more easily in the future.

A glimpse from the inside out of the UK's first certified oak frame B&B in Worcestershire

For a house to meet certified Passivhaus standards, there are specialist organisations which have been approved to assess and issue the Passive House certificate; they follow a process involving an initial check during the design stages followed by a final assessment. Our WrightWall and WrightRoof Natural encapsulation system surpasses the basic Passivhaus standard in terms of performance, encasing each oak frame seamlessly, and we can adapt your encapsulation to meet your individual requirements. This ensures your oak framed property will meet the Passivhaus criteria, while still achieving your architectural design brief.

 

Here at Oakwrights, we have in-house Passivhaus specialists: Dr Pegah Behinaein – a Certified Passive House Consultant, and Craig Alexander – a Chartered Architect, alongside our Architectural Design team, to advise and help you to evolve your ideas for your Passivhaus design. To discuss your oak frame Passivhaus requirements, call 01432 353 353 or email enquiries@oakwrights.co.uk.

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