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What is passive design: an introduction to passive design for Australian homeowners

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passive design

We all dream of owning a house that’s great to look at and comfortable to live in. Although technological advances can make a house comfortable, like heating and air-conditioning systems, most of them involve consuming electricity and can result in expensive utility bills. The good news is there is a way for you to have a comfortable but energy-efficient home with the help of passive design. This article will tell you everything you need to know about passive design and how to use it to design a comfortable, energy-efficient, affordable, and eco-friendly house. 

What is passive design?

Passive design is a standard for energy efficiency in a building. This principle uses several techniques in house design, so you have a naturally cool house during summer and stays warm during winter. What’s great about this concept is you can have a house with an ideal temperature without relying on artificial and costly heating or cooling methods. Aside from saving money, you are reducing your house’s carbon footprint and helping stave off global warming.

passive design

Benefits of passive design

Comfort

A passive house is more comfortable than a regular home because the interior temperature stays at optimum levels. If you live in an area that experiences extreme temperatures frequently, you will enjoy having a passive house because the interior temperature is always comfortable no matter how hot or cold it is outside. 

High Quality

A passive house utilises a design that takes advantage of high insulation levels to control interior temperatures. The insulation that passive houses use does an excellent job of eliminating cold corners and preventing excessive heat loss. A passive is also airtight and prevents moisture build-up that can damage its foundation and shorten its lifespan. 

Eco-friendly

A passive house uses little energy and has a minimal carbon footprint. This means that you will have a home that can help conserve energy resources for future generations to use. The reduction in fuel consumption also means reducing the greenhouse gases resulting from producing electricity. 

Affordability

Although building a passive house may cost more than a conventional house, you can expect long-term savings when you have a passive home. A passive home consumes less electricity for cooling and heating, so you can expect to pay lower electric bills.

As mentioned earlier, a passive house is airtight and reduces the likelihood of damage due to moisture build-up, which means a reduction in the possibility of expensive repairs due to water damage. 

If you are planning to sell your house in the future, a passive home design can also increase the value of your home. You can use the low electrical consumption as a selling point to entice buyers and command a higher selling price for your home.

Request a free quote so you can have an idea of how much your house design will cost.

passive design

Versatility

Using passive design is applicable not just for residential buildings but also for commercial and industrial buildings. What’s even better is that you can use this design principle not just for new buildings but also for old buildings. If you own an old house and are planning to renovate or remodel, you can speak with a building design expert about incorporating passive home principles in your renovations.

high-ceiling living room

Critical factors of passive design

Orientation

Carefully choosing the orientation of your house can go a long way towards making it a passive home because orientation can influence how your home receives natural heat. 

If you live in a naturally hot and humid area, you should have a house that is not facing the sun directly to avoid direct exposure. If you have an existing house, you can reduce exposure to the sun by building a wall that reduces the amount of time your house is exposed to the sun. 

For houses in areas that experience extreme cold temperatures, a house should face north to get as much sunlight as possible, especially during the winter months. 

passive design

Building materials

When selecting materials to use on the house, homeowners often consider materials that are durable or those that would look amazing for the house design they have in mind. However, aside from aesthetics, building materials absorb, store, release, and distribute heat throughout your house, and this property is called thermal mass. 

Materials with thermal mass use their density and conductivity to keep a house’s internal temperature stable. 

Examples of building materials with thermal mass include bricks and masonry. These materials are excellent in absorbing heat and slowly releasing it throughout your house. 

Thermal mass is also critical in keeping your house cool. When materials with thermal mass are not exposed to direct sunlight, they stay cool and help lower the internal temperature of a house. Marble is an excellent example of such building material. 

You will notice that even during hot summer days, a marble floor still feels cool to the touch and helps keep the temperatures of a room at comfortable levels. However, it is critical to prevent sunlight from directly heating a marble floor because it will conduct heat. This is easy to prevent by installing an overhang or using window treatments like blinds to prevent sunlight from getting into the house. 

passive design

Insulation

Proper insulation is another crucial element in passive design, and you can achieve this by using thick walls that provide adequate insulation. By using high-quality insulating materials that prevent the heat obtained from the sun, you can ensure that your house has proper insulation all year round. 

The downside is that thick walls may not be possible for all houses, especially if you are building on a small lot. However, there is a way to go around this problem through the help of a skilled interior designer. Since you only need thick outer walls, you can recover the lost space by using an open-plan interior that eliminates the need for many interior walls. In effect, you are devoting the space for interior walls to a thicker outer wall, so you end up with the same amount of interior space. 

Shading

Shading is an excellent way of controlling the amount of sun that gets into your house, and it is an essential factor in a passive house. We’ve already established that the more sun your house gets, the hotter it gets, and there are creative ways of limiting the sun your house receives. 

Although it is impossible to keep your entire house shaded, it is important to control the heat on strategic parts of your house, like the living room and bedrooms. You can do this by incorporating eaves, overhangs, awnings and pergolas in your overall house design. 

Another practical method of controlling the amount of sunlight your house receives is by using vegetation like trees and shrubs. Deciduous trees like white cedar, deciduous beech, pin oak, and silver birch are excellent for this purpose because they protect your house from the sun with their lush leaves during summer. During winter, they lose their leaves, so your house receives abundant sunlight to help keep your family warm. 

passive design

Windows

Windows are notorious for excessive heat gain and loss, but careful planning can minimise these effects. 

The placement of your windows can affect the insulating properties of your house. You can install large windows on the south and east-facing walls if you want balanced daylight. Small and high windows on the north-facing wall can help prevent high interior temperature because heat rises, and you need to provide it with an avenue to escape your house. 

The material of your windowpane can also affect the way your house handles heat gain and loss. The best type of glass for a passive house is quad-glazed glass because of its ability to retain heat. Although they cost more than double or triple-glazed windows, you can recoup your initial investment from the money you will save from reduced heating costs. 

Airtightness

Limiting the amount of uncontrolled air moving in and out of your house is another goal of a passive house because it can help prevent heat loss. Reducing heat loss will allow your heating system to work efficiently, resulting in reduced heating bills and preventing energy wastage. 

The easiest way to make your house airtight is by limiting the number of holes, like the gaps under the doors, keyholes, or small design features. You can do this by ensuring that your door is the right size for your doorway or by using smart locks that don’t use keys. 

Your contractor can also use sealants and tapes to cover joints and junctions that result in holes. Wet plaster also ensures that masonry like polished concrete is airtight.

open plan living room

Final thoughts

Passive design is the new standard in ensuring that you have a comfortable house all year long and can help you save money in the long run. If you want a passive house but don’t know where to start, then Superdraft can help you. Superdraft features designers who can help you have a fantastic looking house that utilises passive design. Superdraft will match you with an expert designer to ensure that your house design will reflect your ideas of what your house should look like.

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