Tag: architecture

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Beware “Greenwashing” Buzz Words like Net Zero and Carbon Offset

 

greenwashing

Increasingly, we hear claims that buildings are “green” or sustainable, with carbon neutral impacts and the like.

 In the recent past, these terms were optional add-ons for an interested few, but now it seems to be essential for many companies to be seen as green, eco, or sustainable.However, what do companies mean when they claim to be sustainable, or their buildings are net zero, or their activities attached to a carbon offset? It can be confusing, as these terms are fluid, or appear to be coined on the run, without a unified definition. And it gets even more confusing when we have a variety of certification and rating systems which apply sustainability “stars” to our buildings.

Let’s look at the terms “net zero” and “carbon offset,” starting with some popular definitions courtesy of Wikipedia, the font of all dictionary-type knowledge.

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Tassie Energy Crisis Shows Passive House Is Relevant in Australia

 

architecture

Finally, we got inside the very first certified passivhaus in the world.

 I first saw the outside of this house, the home of Dr Wolfgang Feist, founder of the International Passive House Institute, a number of years ago on a trip to Darmstadt, Germany. That’s when I first started examining the Passive House Standard in detail.I didn’t know then how assertive and groundbreaking this standard is.

I didn’t know how different it was from the way we build in Australia. I knew it was different – but I didn’t know by just how much.

I didn’t know how resistant people can be to change, even change for the better.

I didn’t know how many times I would hear the phrase “passive house is not relevant in Australia.”

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NatHERS Scheme Based on Untested Premise: CSIRO

 

thermal performance of homes

Australia has a star rating system, administered by the Federal Government, known as NatHERS. Stars sound very clear and positive. However, there is a bit of confusion about the star ratings produced by NatHERS.

 Importantly, NatHERS assumes something that is virtually never tested.The NatHERS scheme has the long title “Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme” and its website is administered by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Many people will know that 6 stars is the minimum requirement for new houses, and that 10 stars is amazing. In fact, the government website says that “occupants of a 10 star rated home are unlikely to need any artificial cooling or heating.”

I’m not sure about that. In any event, 10 stars is supposed to be better than 6 stars.

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Time to Take an Active Interest in Passive Houses

 

Passive House

An interesting building and design conference was recently held in Melbourne. Guest speakers included architects, builders, engineers and building physics experts from Germany, the US and the UK.

 All were talking about the most radical, comfortable, healthy, sustainable, well-developed, performance-based building standard in the world.

It is called the International Passive House Standard, otherwise known as the Passivhaus Standard.

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