Australian Passive House Association: zero-energy home not as challenging as you might think, with the right toolkit

Australian Passive House Association

Certified Passive House Victoria Australia

The Passive House standard is a proven methodology for achieving homes that have minimal operational energy requirements and provide a high standard of occupant wellbeing.

The Australian Passive House Association brings together practitioners and consultants working in the Passive House space. Members include architects, builders, engineering experts, building physics consultants, designers and sustainability specialists.

It is also driving greater awareness of Passive House principles and their relevance to the Australian built environment through workshops, case studies, communications activities and an annual conference that brings global experts to Australia to showcase trends, success stories and technical innovations.

APHA founder and past director Clare Parry says two of the current hot topics for the movement are energy efficiency and wellbeing.

the result is buildings that deliver wellbeing and comfort for occupants

The relevance of the Passive House approach in addressing both of these factors is increasingly evident, particularly as the number and diversity of completed projects grows.

However, there are still some people who are hesitant to go down the Passive House route

“There is a lot of misunderstanding out there in the market,” Clare says.

“A lot of people see Passive House as restrictive and quite strict. But it is broad, and it allows for freedom and architectural expression.”

The fundamental principles of the approach include:

  1. passive solar design
  2. a highly insulated and well-sealed building envelope with minimised thermal breaks
  3. high-performance glazing
  4. an emphasis on indoor environmental quality in terms of ventilation and air quality

these are simple, well-established and robust systems

When all of these principles are implemented, the result is buildings that deliver wellbeing and comfort for occupants, Clare says.

Passive House is not an approach that relies on the latest whizz-bang technology. “It is a level of simplicity,” Clare says.

“In some green buildings there is a whole heap of technology used to solve problems that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

“It is about going back to basics – using the old principles of orientation, shading and good design, then applying a refined level of technology.”

Smart design means less energy consumption and lower costs

The main technology used in many Passive House buildings is heat recovery ventilation systems. These not only provide highly cost-effective heating and cooling, they also ensure sufficient air changes per house to maintain optimum indoor air quality.

Clare says these are simple, well-established and robust systems.

can operate at net zero, or even be energy positive

Because a Passive House can be delivered as an all-electric building, with the addition of an appropriately-sized solar PV system and potentially an energy storage system, it can operate at net zero, or even be energy positive.

Clare says that while the Passive House standard is intentionally open-source and red tape is kept to a minimum, a project achieving certification means the end user, owner or occupant has a robust level of guaranteed performance.

Where a project is seeking Passive House certification, blower door testing is used to ensure the building envelope is achieving the required level of air tightness.

Passive House popularity grows

Clare says there are currently 120 projects in progress in Australia that are using Passive House. They are across a wide range of building types including commercial, mixed use, urban regeneration, education, social housing, multi-residential and detached dwellings.

“Some of the best applications are social housing, affordable housing, aged care and education buildings – any space where it is important to have great air quality and focus on health and wellbeing.”

Some recent Passive House projects making headlines include Impact Investment Group’s Younghusbands Woolstore in Kensington, Melbourne – a five-year staged redevelopment of an entire precinct into a super-sustainable urban industrial village.

A new administration building at Monash University, which provides a headquarters for the engineering team, achieved Passive House certification; and in regional Victoria, the standard is being used for a new Catholic School building. The Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship at the University of Melbourne is another star.

There is also a social housing exemplar project underway – the Passive Place development.

Another project taking shape is Pirovich Group’s mixed-use development in Abbotsford, Melbourne, which is combining CLT and Passive House principles.

In Sydney, Steele Associates is currently building an 11-apartment project, The Fern, right near Redfern station (pictured above). The project team’s credentials and the quality of the project itself were regarded as so solid that NAB backed the project without the requirement of pre-sales.

Find out more about the Passive House standard, including where to find a qualified consultant, resources, upcoming APHA workshops and more here.

Australian Passive House Association