Tag: passive house

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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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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.

Abstract

“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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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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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?

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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.

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Why Are Politicians Confused About the South Australian Blackout?

 

south australia blackout

There was a blackout in September in South Australia. It was a disaster. It could have been worse.

 It should make us think about energy security, energy independence, and a sustainable, resilient future for all.  Storms and blackouts like this should make us think about what happens when we can’t have energy supplied to our homes, offices and hospitals. Do we freeze? Do we overheat? Do our machines break down? Can we eat?

It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves of changes we need to make.

We need better back-up plans for our changing environment, because our wild weather is going to get worse. Extreme conditions like storms, drought, and fire, are going to be more common. That’s because our climate is changing (and that’s because we have refused to make changes already).

 

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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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