Fundamentally, Passivhaus is simple, elegant and based on principles of physics. Deep down it may seem overwhelming to those who have just been touched by this standard. It is our job to simplify aspects of the process to allow you as the architect, builder or owner to be confident about the physics of your building from an early to late stage in the process.
We have worked closely with architects, builders and building owners, some who want to achieve the standard, some who want to know more about where their building’s thermal performance weaknesses are and some who want to achieve the standard without receiving a plaque or formal certification. What is apparent in all three case types is the drive for integrity, particularly in three areas; our environmental (health and global responsibility), cost effectiveness and design intent.
Below we outline our process. This way when you engage us as a Certified Passivhaus Designer you know where we fit in with the design process and how we work with the requirements to achieve Passivhaus.
The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) is the spreadsheet which allows us to determine the performance of the building. The basics of this require a measurement of Floor Area (to Passivhaus Institute standards and differs between rating tools), Building Envelope Area, Thermal Bridge Lengths and conductivity estimation and Internal Volume estimation. At this stage, you can expect a Draft PHPP and:
- A list of Floor Areas
- A list of Building Envelope Areas, including:
- External Wall Surface Areas (from thermal envelope)
- External Roof Surface Areas
- Floor Surface Areas
- Window Surface Areas (which is then broken down into frame and glass within the PHPP)
- A list of Thermal Bridge lengths
- A list of Internal Room volumes
The PHPP is included along with a series of trialed options to achieve the Passivhaus standard and to give you some fallback options as required and/or for discussion.
Design Stage PHPP
After the initial review by the Passivhaus Certifier omissions and errors are incorporated into the PHPP. Any further iterations which may help the design process towards Passivhaus will also be done at this stage.
Thermal Bridges can make or break a Passivhaus Certification. At this stage it is usual to include calculations for all the relevant Thermal bridges for review by the Passivhaus Certifier. Thermal bridges are usually costed separately as the number of these vary from project to project.
Here is a demonstration of a Thermal Bridge caluclation done in the free software, THERM. This kind of modelling is done to add in the effect of structure at junctions of the building envelope. Images:
Isotherms (left), Infrared (middle) and U-Value call out (right)
At this stage the Passivhaus Certifier is able to perform a more detailed analysis of the building envelope in question. More particularly looking at the Thermal Bridge Calculations and if any omissions, errors and adjustments have been added to this version of the PHPP. It is typical to know whether or not your project will meet the Passivhaus standard after this stage of review.
Final Communication to Certifier
Before construction is complete, the project is deemed to meet the Passivhaus standard theoretically. To achieve this, further information about the building is required to be uploaded to the Certification Portal. This includes (though not limited to):
- Specification of Appliances, ERV and mechanical building systems
- Specification of Glass and Window Frames
- Specification of Heating/Cooling and Hot Water Systems
- Specification of Building Envelope buildup
- Calculations of Shading
- Calculations and Drawings of Floor Area
- Calculations and Drawings of the Building Envelope Area
- Calculations of the Internal Space Volume
- Details of any Renewable Energy System
We calculate shading manually as we get pretty close and find that the discrepancies made in the Australian Climate are not as great as the modification (and lack of performance) of window systems and opaque building envelope areas. Moreover, it is easier to adjust and check a manual calculation in the PHPP, rather than having to generate another percentage based digital generation and ensure the correct one is inputted.
After the submission of all documentation relevant to the theoretical passing of the Passivhaus standard, the Passivhaus Certifier can run a final check on the documents (if this is part of their process) to ensure that the only outstanding item is an airtightness (or blower door) test.
Construction and Certification
The Passivhaus Certifier needs to wait until the completion of constuction and the result of the airtightness test to be able to verify the compliance of the building to the standard.
During this time it is our job to take photos on site (or have someone else do this) and upload these to the Certification Portal for review. Our job is pretty much done here apart from photos, though we have found it a useful time to collaborate with architects, builders and clients about the construction of their building and the strategy to running an airtight membrane around the building envelope. More information about this process can be found in our Construction and Workshop Detailing offering.
Check your Passivhaus Project today!
Below is a form where you can send us some details to obtain a cost estimate from us to see if Passivhaus is feasible for your project and/or gain advice on how to improve your building’s performance. Please send any documents to email@example.com and we will follow up with a phonecall or e-mail.
We have extensive combined experience in the residential sector. Our experience also includes schools, churches and other community buildings.
Our services range from Concept Sketch to Contract Administration and you are able to pick and choose from most of these. Ideally however, for design consistency working with us throughout all stages is preferred.
The Green Dot
We have an underlying interest in sustainable design and have worked with mutiple tools to ensure buildings meet standards of energy, economic, environmental and social efficiency.
For us it is not about labelling a building. There are some things you need to do to pass building requirements and others you do just to make sure you are doing the right thing.
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Construction and Workshop Detailing
We office share in Melbourne with Global Consulting Engineers and work with them and software designed to communicate and finesse structural solutions to help you realise your project before construction commences.
With detailed workshop drawings and construction advice, you can be more certain that there are going to be less issues on site. This service is particularly helpful with Passive House consulting to mitigate poor planning of airtightness.
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Providing peer review for small and sole practices allows us to collaborate together and potentially seek additional advice on project specific queries.
Sole practitioners and small companies often find the collaboration aspect of the design process difficult to undertake. If you are in this situation and would like to talk through your solutions, feel free to get in touch.