The term passive house is used to describe those dwellings that are not as much an addition to the landscape, but rather a mirror of the house. Passive houses are, by nature, as green as they can get and there are few or no impacts on the environment. These dwellings are in essence living rooms with the doors closed, although the contents of the room are open, such as the windows and doors.
An important aspect of a passive house is the way in which the house is constructed. It is important that all joints are sealed, all windows and doors are shut tightly, and that the flooring has a high density and is a recycled product.
In recent years, there has been a massive influx of high quality new houses being built in New Zealand. One of the most popular new designs is the Passive House, and is therefore of prime importance to New Zealand builders, and their manufacturers, as they seek to meet the international standards.
To ensure that a Passive House meets international requirements, it needs to be structurally sound. Every inch of a Passive House should be covered by proper insulation, and this insulation should be regularly updated. In addition, passive houses should be built according to the Environmental Design Method (EDM) and National Green Building Council (NGBC) standards.
Also, a house should be designed to be energy efficient and to use minimal energy. If the dwelling uses natural materials, it should be designed to minimize its impact on the environment, and should be as friendly as possible. The house should also be protected from fire and should be engineered to minimise infiltration of moisture.
Passive houses are increasingly popular, partly because of the perceived advantages that they enjoy. People in the world today have become more aware of how their actions and those of the environment may be affecting the planet, and they want to take positive steps to do their bit to protect the planet.
A typical Passive House is likely to be built in a New Zealand suburb, although there are exceptions, for example the Dunedin Passive House, designed by a Californian architect. The Dunedin Passive House is made up of recycled materials and consists of all-weather, fire resistant paneling and window frames.
An eco-friendly design is one of the key criteria for Passive House architecture, and its appearance is an important aspect of the design. All New Zealand Passive House sites are required to be planned to be of moderate or low-maintenance size, and they are required to be built using sustainable construction techniques and design principles.
A popular Passive House design is the standard Horizontal Box design, which places the water in the box and maximises the passive solar gain. This design is a perfect example of the application of Passive House construction techniques, and the high performance and sustainable characteristics of the building material.
Using recycled content such as timber is a key design element in the Passive House, and the use of insulation on the home’s exterior is another feature. It is common practice for Passive House designers to use both high performance roofing materials and finishes and sustainable insulation materials.
More New Zealand builders are incorporating Passive House and Eco-Design elements into their designs, and the trends are moving in the direction of bigger homes with multiple levels of rooms and efficient heating and cooling. With greater home building interest, there is a need for building materials that are more environmentally friendly and more sustainable, and the Passive House solution is helping to solve that problem.
Passive House construction in New Zealand is clearly growing in popularity and is well accepted as the standard for green building code. If you are looking for new accommodation for your family, you may wish to consider a New Zealand Passive House for your own peace of mind and health.