Questions & Answers
Building a Passive House is quite different than regular home construction. One of the most important factors of building a Passive House is eliminating thermal bridges, and using a very specific type of triple-glazed Passive-certified windows. Currently (as of 2019), there are no passive certified windows in Ontario, so they must be shipped from Europe.
Many builders will wrap their Passive Houses with special membranes. These membranes will control moisture - similar to a Gore-tex jacket - while still allowing the house to breathe. A popular choice among builders is insulated wall panels, which are put together with a crane at the building site. Others use a type of concrete called ICF - Insulating Concrete Forms - within the walls (learn more about ICF Passive Houses here), or even straw bales (click here to watch a video about an Australian Passive House using straw).
Special consideration must also be taken to train “the trades” correctly. From drywallers to electricians, every construction worker must be taught the importance of maintaining the integrity of the thermal barrier. For example, cutting drywall too deep can tear the special membrane that coats the wall panels, allowing heat to escape. If the membrane is cut, the house will likely not achieve Passive House certification.
To be certified as a Passive House, you can build your home in countless ways, as long as you meet the International Passive House standards.
In a Passive House one of the primary objectives is to eliminate thermal bridges. A thermal bridge is a pathway that allows energy (heat) to move from one area to another. The more thermal bridges your house has, the more it leaks your internal heat outside, which then causes you to have to heat more to maintain a comfortable internal temperature. In a traditional home things like wood frames can act as thermal bridges since they are the link between the warm internal temperature and the outside.
Click here for a video that further explains thermal bridging.
There are many benefits of building a Passive House. The first major consideration is Passive Houses are great for the environment, as most use 90% less energy to heat and cool compared to regular home construction. According to our research, with a few simple modifications, a Passive House can quite easily become “off the grid.” Further benefits include low maintenance costs and high comfort factors. Although written in 2011, Beth Brindle writes a great article explaining 10 benefits of living in a Passive House.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that proves living in a Passive House will reduce arthritic symptoms. However, there have been occasional anecdotal instances of “feeling better” as a whole. Is it the filtered air you breathe? Is it the consistent air temperature in the home? Is it the lack of condensation and mildew in a Passive House? Further studies are needed to link reduction of arthritic symptoms to living in a Passive House.
There are no cold spots in a Passive House due its strategic build, the home is heavily insulated and there is constant air flow through every part of the structure. Every Passive House is equipped with an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation) system, which is designed to supply consistent air temperature to the whole home. Part of the certification by the Passive House Institute in Germany is a requirement that the temperature on the inside of a window is the same as the rest of the home.
To find out more about the requirements for a certified Passive House click here.
Passive Houses are quiet and peaceful because there is excellent insulation in the house blocking any outside noise. Another factor is the lack of a furnace, which is usually quite noisy. The HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) system is practically silent.
Robert and Koko Saar started CedarValley Passive Homes to educate the public and make your life easier. Once you decide you want to build a Passive House, their goal is to simplify the process and make construction stress-free. Sign up for our updates, e-newsletter and/or blog here.
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A Passive House is more expensive to build, but cheaper to maintain. Passive Houses cost an estimated 5-10% more to build than a traditional home. However, your higher building budget will be recouped over time due to lower maintenance costs, including heating and cooling.
Building a Passive House can be much faster than building a traditional home, especially when it comes to the exterior phase of building. In many cases, special wall panels are built offsite and a crane assembles the walls like Lego blocks at the site. The internal construction of a Passive House is the same as a regular home, but with the added benefit that a Passive House can be built in the middle of winter. Once the walls, roof, and windows are installed, the internal temperature is mild due to the positioning towards the sun and the superior insulation - even without a furnace or HRV!
When Rob and Koko Saar toured a Passive House during the construction process in Haliburton, Ontario in February of 2017 the internal temperature of the house was +16℃ to +18℃, even though the temperature outdoors was -19℃!
When your home is a certified Passive House, you can be sure the standards of construction have far exceeded the current building codes and will meet standards of the future. Never before has a house been tested to verify it is green or sustainable. For the very first time, when you are told your house will be energy efficient, there is proof. Click here for the list of criteria for your home to become Passive House certified.
Interestingly, Europe is far ahead of North America in terms of building codes. For example, in 2010, a new development of 116 hectares in Bahnstadt (near Heidelberg), Germany, was required to be Passive House construction. In January 2015, the city of Brussels, Belgium changed the building code for any new construction to the stringent Passive House standard. You can read more about it here.