Low-carbon homes and the Passivhaus Standard

Passivhaus (Passive House) refers to a design method for ultra-low energy buildings that are extremely comfortable and economical to operate. Passivhaus evolved from Swedish super-insulated homes and passive solar energy to minimise space heating and the heat that escapes (leaks) from a building structure and through the different building elements (i.e., walls, doors, windows), also known as thermal transmittance or U-values. In 1998, Professor Wolfgang Feist from the Institute for Housing and Environment in Germany and Professor Bo Adamson from Lund University in Sweden developed the Passivhaus method and built the first Passivhaus dwelling in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990. These developments led to the founding of the Passive House Institute in 1996, which continues today as the leading global centre of research and development for the advancement and adoption of the Passivhaus performance standard. Over time, Passivhaus evolved from a method for cold climates to warmer or temperate climates where cooling is also of primary concern in addition to heating.

The Passive House Institute (PHI) defines Passivhaus as “[…] a building, for which thermal comfort (ISO 7730) can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air”. The Passivhaus design has five (5) essential principles including the following: (1) super-insulation, (2) thermal bridge free construction, (3) airtight building envelope, (4) adequate ventilation strategy and (5) high-performance doors and windows.

Accordingly to the Passive House Database, up to March 2021, there are only 2 Passivhaus certified homes. The Passivhaus dwelling in Mexico City (in the illustration above) was the first residential project awarded with the certification in Latin America.

Image credit INHAB. First home to receive the Passivhaus Certification in Latin America.