To achieve sustainability in an urban-centred world, we must primarily look towards our cities. Todays cities morph and evolve at astonishing speed. It is the responsibility of government, business and individuals alike to ensure that the overall shift is towards a lower carbon, sustainable urban future.
At the core of a green city, must be sustainable buildings with low energy demands. Buildings have not always been inefficient and unsustainable. Before the easy and seemingly infinite access to artificial sources of energy, buildings had to be synergistic with their surrounding environment. They made use of air-flows and natural lighting. With all the luxuries that modern energy presents, working with nature is almost a redundant concept and certainly not a priority.
As we become increasingly concerned with both climate change and dwindling energy resources, the need to reintroduce these basic principles of natural airflows and light are all the more important. Enter the German Passivhaus standard!
What is the Passivhaus standard?
Passivhaus, the fastest growing energy performance standard, is trying to regain this knowledge by working with natural airflows. Literally translating as ‘passive house‘, the standard was developed in Germany in the 1990’s. The concept is simple: airtight, insulated houses built in accordance with natural airflows create an ‘envelope’ that traps both heat and cold. The result is highly efficient buildings that require very little heating or cooling and have extremely low energy costs.
Founder of Passivhaus, Dr. Wolfgang Feist, explains that:
‘The heat losses of the building are reduced so much that it hardly needs any heating at all. Passive heat sources like the sun, human occupants, household appliances and the heat from the extract air cover a large part of the heating demand.’
Costs and energy reductions of the Passivhaus standard
Building to the Passivhaus standard is not astronomically expensive, it can be economically competitive with traditional methods. Whilst the initial capital boost may exceed regular building cash inputs, this is soon leveled out by savings from energy reductions. Passivhaus homes are able to cut energy use by 75% and in some cases even up to 90%. As expensive furnaces and central air systems are not necessary, there are further savings to be made through avoided purchasing.
A useful business tool
As governments around the world continue to prioritise carbon reductions throughout industry, the Passivhaus standard is a very useful method for businesses to enlist. At its core it does have lofty sustainable ideals, but it is also a manageable and realistic tool that can be utilised here and now.
To find out more on the Passivhaus standard see the Passivhaus Trust website
The Passivhaus Handbook is an essential guide for everyone wanting to realise a supremely comfortable, healthy and durable home with exceptionally low energy costs. Whether you are building an extension, retrofitting your house or starting from scratch; are new to low-energy design or already have some experience, this book will help you navigate around the potential pitfalls and misconceptions. The Passivhaus Handbook: A practical guide to constructing and retrofitting buildings for ultra-low energy performance
Acacia Smith is a New Zealander now based in London. She holds a bachelor degree and postgraduate diploma from Victoria University of Wellington. She has worked for the Council for International Development (CID) and more recently in Bolivia for CIWY, a network of private parks for the rehabilitation and conservation of Amazonian fauna. Acacia is passionate about sustainability and the role businesses can play in promoting a better, more sustainable future.