Author: PodMarket

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Why our 9+ Star Superpod® House Barely Reaches 7 NatHERS Stars

PodMarket South Elevation Dwg

Why our 9+ Star Superpod® House Barely Reaches 7 NatHERS Stars.

This is the street frontage of an old house, showing a Superpod® house extension going up soon (peeking out from behind) in an old established part of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The house at the front is very old. In fact, the houses in this street are 130 years old.

The Superpod® house extension at the back is over 200 sqm with 2 storeys, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, kitchen, dining, and 2 lounges. You won’t see it much from the street. It’s the shaded orange part in this image.

The extension, if it was rated under the NatHERs energy rating scheme, would be a 9 star house.

Sounds good, but we think it’s better than that. That’s because the NatHERS scheme doesn’t fully recognise all the benefits of our certifiable passive house system. Like the performance of our fully imported windows. Or our thermal breaks. Or our airtightness.

Check out one of our previous stories on this: NatHERs star rating doesn’t test airtightness

But, alas, we can barely reach 7 stars with this whole building. That is, taking into account the old house together with the super performing extension. Retrofitting the old 1890’s house at the front isn’t going to make it easy. It faces south. It’s got single glazed windows. And insulating the poor old walls will be a trick.

But let’s focus on the good part. We are facing climate change head on. We are providing optimum comfort and health. We are loosening the hold of the ever growing power bill. All this without solar panels. It’s the good building that counts. Jewellery on the roof doesn’t replace decent clothing in the fabric of the building.

PS Our Superpod® system is a fast, easy way to achieve the world’s best practice for energy efficiency and comfort. The International Passive House Standard. Our patent pending system (United States next, here we come!) is available for licence to designers, developers and builders. From tiny pods to high rise and commercial buildings.

I know, it’s hard to get your head around. Licensing a building system? After years of developing our IP we think it’s worth it. Innovation is often hard to get your head around. We look forward to co-innovators who want to work with us!

2D South Elevation Drawing
2D South Elevation Drawing
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Just Who Is Fiona McKenzie?

A feature article about our founding director, Fiona McKenzie, which partly explains her training, expertise and passion for rigorous and creative thinking.

This article was originally presented in the February 2018 issue of the Law Institute Journal of Victoria.

Building for the future

Fiona McKenzie
Fiona McKenzie

By Karin Derkley

01 Feb 2018

The rigorous discipline associated with law has been the perfect foundation for designing a failsafe building system.

Barrister Fiona McKenzie is not one for sitting around watching TV after work. Instead the administrative law specialist has been using her spare time over the past couple of years boning up on physics and engineering and poring over spreadsheets to devise sustainable building systems and design award­ winning furniture.

“I’ve always been interested in design and artistic expression as well as the law,” she says. “I’ve never been just a bookish person or just a creative person – I like having a balance between those two sides of me.”

Helping out family and friends with their renovation projects started as a way of “feeding that other part of my brain,” she says. But then the lawyer part of her brain became intrigued by how to make buildings work better.

“I became very interested in the engineering aspect of how buildings perform and affect the comfort of their occupants,” she says. “I put on my legal research hat to interrogate these things.”

That led her to what she says is the best building standard in the world, the International Passive House Building Standard, which uses physics­ based engineering to create buildings that reduce energy use by up to 90 per cent.

Evenings and weekends were spent reviving her high school maths and physics to calculate exactly how a building can be designed for complete control of the indoor environment. “It is about designing a thermally sealed building envelope that ensures there are no air leaks, while also providing fresh filtered air all year round.”

That involves designing carefully designed joins, double or even triple glazed windows depending on the local climate and orientation, and high levels of insulation.

“The idea is to create a building that is completely comfortable for its occupants and that is also beautiful,” she says. “Things have got to work practically but they also need to be well ­designed and look and feel good.”

Ms McKenzie built her first prototype Superpod passive house in Cape Paterson in 2015, which was recognised with a Good Design Award. She decided it was so important and useful she has refined the system to offer to others. “Once I got the building envelope right, I wanted to look at a more holistic offering and offer different looks.”

That part has been a challenge. The building industry is resistant to new ways of building, she says. So she is relying on commercial projects in the educational space, other markets such as ecotourism operators and healthcare providers, and even owner builders to recognise the benefits of the system.

The Cape Paterson house is available for holiday rentals so people can try out the system for themselves, and she has recently started the process of building a mini-­hotel near the Museum of New and Old Art in Hobart that will not only showcase the podhouses, but will also be fitted out with the PodMarket range of furniture designed by her fellow director and furniture designer Harry Strouzas.

The furniture range is designed along similar principles of sustainable design, Ms McKenzie says: “functional, and a minimalist use of beautiful materials”. PodMarket includes a range aimed specifically at barristers and solicitors – including storage, seating and tables. One of the tables has been nominated for the German Design Award 2018.

“In the same way we approached the issue of how do we solve designing buildings better, we looked at how we could resolve furnishing rooms better.”

Her training as a lawyer has come in handy for drawing up contracts and applying for patents, Ms McKenzie says. But the rigorous discipline associated with the law has also been the perfect foundation for helping her design a failsafe building system that appeals aesthetically to potential buyers.

“It’s a lot like when you have to present a brief to a judge,” she laughs. “You have to hold their attention and you know it’s going to be picked apart. You can’t have any loose threads.”

To see the article as it appears in the Law Institute Journal please follow this link:

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Certified Passive House – Why Bother?

Passive House

Without a certificate, it’s just a passive house. Or is it?

I was pleased to be informed that I have been invited for the second time to present on this topic at the International Passive House Conference.  This one is in Munich, 2018.

Below is the abstract I submitted.


“Certificates are sometimes treated as a unnecessary label, and other times like a necessary evil. They can be ignored as irrelevant; or resented and feared as a barrier to entry.

The Passive House Standard requires certificates. Sometimes for building components. Other times for designers. At all times for the building itself. The physical building as built and tested.

This list of certificates makes it more difficult to achieve the Standard.

But, after all, it is a standard. It is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling (although it is that and much more).

Certificates for components can be hard to obtain. And certified components are not yet imported around the world.
Certificates for designers are hard to obtain. And certified designers can be thin on the ground in your country, let alone designers who have actually designed a certified passive house. Newly qualified designers do not have “runs on the board”.

And certificates for buildings are hard to obtain too. The process is so rigorous and laborious, from design stage to building stage to completion and testing. You can do everything well until the end, and fail the blower door test. What a disappointment that can be for all involved.

Because the certificates are hard to obtain, people find ways of dismissing their relevance. They can see the benefits of the Passive House Standard, but they can’t obtain them. So they start to appropriate the terminology of the International Passive House Institute and claim that their inferior buildings are equivalent. They call their buildings “passive house” buildings. And members of the public do not know the difference.

In some countries like Australia, this is complicated by the fact that solar panels are easy to instal. So people claim their houses are “net zero” ie better than passive, simply by adding a few solar panels to the roof. The customer may end up paying no power bills, so they are relatively happy, not knowing that the Passive House Standard could have produced so much more.  Because of ignorance in this field, and salespeople who are keen to sell their products and services, the benefits of potential certification are lost.

Sometimes people think that they can tack on or add on a certificate to a good quality building. But the road to certification is long and paved with obstructions. Without a certification aim, their design, insulation, connection details, windows, and ventilation will be sub-standard.

A certificate for a passive house building is not just a ticket. It is the result of a complex, rigorous process with commitment from all involved.

Certification makes a massive difference to the end product, the comfort for users, the existence of drafts, condensation and mould, and the power consumption.

For those who understand the Passive House Standard, we need to explain to consumers what it means. Perhaps explaining it will help people to choose true Passive House, instead of a poor alternative.”

With the Superpod® system, we aim for certification every time.  We are not content to stop when architectural lines are on a page.  We are content when the building is finished, tested, and certified.

What do you think?

Do you think solar panels and timber linings make a building sustainable?

Do you think any building with passive house elements can be called a Passive House?

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Why do triple glazed or double glazed windows make a difference?

Triple glazed windows are standard from Unilux

Why should you choose triple glazed or double glazed windows or doors for buildings in Australia?  Many people think it’s a waste of effort.  But a closer look shows you that it can make a massive difference to your life.  Working, resting, eating, sleeping, and living – all are improved when you have high quality windows as part of your build.

We posted earlier this year on some technical info regarding double glazed and triple glazed windows.  You can see our post here:  What’s going on with U values?

So we ask the question: why bother with double glazed or triple glazed windows in Australia?  Aren’t we too mild a climate for it to matter?

The first point is that we are not that mild in Australia.  Not in Darwin.  Not in Canberra.  Not in Melbourne.  Not in the Blue Mountains.  Not in Tassie.  It’s not too mild when it’s 5 degrees outside.  And it’s not too mild when it’s 35 degrees outside!

So let’s dispel that myth that Australia is too mild to need high quality windows.

It’s simple.  An extra layer of glass (or two), with gas in between the panes, can make a massive difference to your comfort.

And it can also make a big difference to your heating or cooling bills.

In our earlier post,  What’s going on with U values? , we explained why lower U values bring you better resistance to heat flow in or out of the building.  That’s another way of saying that triple and double glazed windows provide better insulation.

That means you can sit next to these good windows on a cold day but you won’t feel cold coming through the glass.  And heat can be kept out too, if it’s a hot day outside. (A bit of external shading will help there, of course.)

Of course, you need good window frames too.  Layers of glass aren’t enough.

And you have to instal the windows well.

And yes, it’s preferable that your building is well insulated too!

But getting back to windows and triple or double glazing.  Here’s a comparison visual for you.

Windows by Unilux have low U values
A Kommerling window frame with triple glazing made by Unilux.  Triple glazed or double glazed windows are high performing to insulate your building from extreme temperatures.  You can almost see how hard it is for extreme temperatures to get through!
Windows can look the same but double and triple glazed windows with proper frames are very different
Standard supply Australian metal frames with heat travelling through the metal and single glazing will have poor performance.

So back to the topic.  Why do double glazed and triple glazed windows make a difference?  It’s easy to see.  Windows are your weak point.  If you instal thin metal frames and single glazing, you will be much more uncomfortable next to that window, extreme temperatures will get in easily, and your power bills will be higher.

Not only that, but condensation and mould will be something you continually battle with.  Not good for the health.

However, if you buy a high quality double glazed or triple glazed window with a properly designed frame made from an insulative material like Upvc or timber, you will be much more comfortable, and your power bills will be lower.

Don’t be fooled by how the frame looks on the outside, look at the soul of the window – on the inside.

If you’d like advice or a quote for your next project, send us an email at  If you’d like to use our web form or sign up to our email list, ry this link:  High quality windows Inquiry Form.

Study the options carefully.  Examine the inside of the window frames, not just the outside.  Ask your suppler to give you U values of the glass and frame.  This might be a more important purchase than your next car!

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Australian High Rise Buildings Should Cut Glazing by at Least 50%

Melb CBD

Australian high rise buildings are inefficient.  They do not run efficiently.  They are not comfortable enough.  They waste energy.  They contribute to climate change.

The latest, state-of-the-art high rise office buildings I have visited, get too hot and too cold.  In one room you try to work, stifling in the Western sun. There’s no relief except for airconditioning, which is too cold and too erratic. The next room is cold as it faces South.  You are uncomfortable standing or sitting next to the glass in either room for much of the year.

Continue reading Australian High Rise Buildings Should Cut Glazing by at Least 50%

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Climate Change Act in Victoria

Sun Feature Munch

Make a cup of tea, this post is a little more technical than usual.  It’s about how the Passive House Standard relates to Climate Change.

The Victorian Climate Change Act 2017 was passed in February and will come into operation this year. What does it mean for those who procure, design and build buildings?

Continue reading Climate Change Act in Victoria

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What’s Going On With U Values?

U Values Feature

Have you been wondering how U values for windows are calculated, and why different suppliers and different countries seem to use different numbers?

Let’s start by looking at the basics, as getting a handle on the fundamentals is critical.

What is a U value?

Continue reading What’s Going On With U Values?

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Sound Insulation + Windows

New windows. For a quieter, healthier life.

 Roads, industry, railways, planes: our world is becoming louder and louder. It is therefore all the more important that this noise does not penetrate your personal living space. Noise has been proved to be harmful to health, even when you are no longer aware of it. The consequence can be cardiovascular diseases, irritability, and poor concentration. The unit used to measure volume, or sound pressure, is incidentally called decibel (dB). When sleeping, over 30 % of the population are exposed to a permanent noise level exceeding 50 dB. This is two and a half times more than the maximum recommended value of 20 dB for bedrooms. Effective noise protection therefore provides a sustainable boost to the quality of living.

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New uPVC Windows + Saving Energy

 New uPVC windows. Saving energy and heating costs, and protecting the environment.

New PVC-U windows. Saving energy and heating costs, and protecting the environment.

Energy is expensive, and it’s getting more so. A good enough reason to start saving where it really counts: the heating. The German energy agency Dena has calculated that modern, tight windows, efficient heating technology, and an insulated envelope drastically reduce energy consumption. Savings in heating costs can reach a five digit sum in ten to fifteen years! Merely replacing old windows with modern, insulated PVC-U systems can make perceptible savings in your heating costs.

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Passive house windows. For the highest thermal insulation requirements.

Passive house windows. For the highest thermal insulation requirements.

Energy saving designs are growing in importance. Today, the passive house is considered objectively to be the most energy efficient form of building: Every year, it consumes no more than 15 kWh of heating energy per square metre of living space, corresponding to 1.5 litres of fuel oil. In other words, it consumes 90% less heating energy than a conventional existing building, and 75% less than an average new building. This high energy efficiency is made possible by the combination of the windows’ refined multi-chamber design, airtight construction, triple glazing, controlled ventilation with heat recovery, as well as the passive use of solar irradiation – conventional heating is no longer necessary.

Continue reading Passive house windows. For the highest thermal insulation requirements.