Passive house: design ideas, inspiration & pictures

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When a house is built to follow strict energy efficiency standards it is called a passive construction. Today, more than 25,000 passive houses exist in different parts of Europe. 

First appearances of passive houses

Passive houses began appearing in 1990. These green buildings were constructed for certain clients in Darmstadt, Germany. Six years later Passivhaus Institut was founded in the same city to look after the process of maintaining green building standards.  

Development of passive houses since the beginning until present day

Passive houses continued proliferating in the country. In 1990s itself, this type of structures came up in Stuttgart, Hesse, Cologne and Wiesbaden. In 2003, the first passive structure in North America was built in Illinois.

Are passive houses common in Singapore?

The first passive house is yet to be built in Singapore. The city, however, is experiencing a rising popularity of eco homes. Green buildings capable of lowering the carbon footprint and bringing the energy costs down are very much in vogue now. 

Differences between countries

Not all eco homes are built following the exact same standards. Those belonging to the tropical region have very different requirements than those built in alpine climate conditions. Country specific energy guidelines also influence the construction process. For example Switzerland follows its very own green building standards. These are known as Minergie. The Austrian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia follows energy and building standards that are commensurate to the country’s regulations and appropriate for its hot and humid climate.   

How to build a passive house?

As you have already seen, building a passive construction requires a diligent adherence to the building and energy efficiency guidelines without sacrificing the comfort of the inhabitants. The rules are slightly different for a solar house.

Standards

A passive building must not consume more than 15 kWh of energy per square metre. The total amount of renewable energy consumed per square metre area must not exceed 60 kWh. This includes energy requirements for heating or cooling the interiors, water heating, treatment etc.  

Heating and Ventilation

A passive structure saves 90% energy for heating or cooling down the interior atmosphere. The ventilation system keeps the flow of fresh air unobstructed and maintains the quality of the interior air. A lot depends on the quality of the thermal insulation. Materials like reinforced concrete, solid and perforated brick, softwood, straw, silica etc are used to achieve optimal insulation.

Design

Eco homes tend to have a compact nature. They can be designed according to a range of architectural concepts. Prefabricated eco homes also come in a range of shapes and sizes. You can invest in a house like this for your primary dwelling or a holiday getaway. The windows are specially designed for this purpose and prevent any kind of air leakage. To gain optimal exposure to sun, passive solar house plans follow a specific orientation. This largely depends on the location of the house. 

Lighting

Due to their energy efficient nature, LED lamps tend to be the most preferred lighting option. Solar or alternative energy powered lighting are preferred for the exterior of the house. To further optimise the energy consumption, home appliances with “energy star” or ecolabel certifications are opted for. 

Legal issues that may arise when building a passive house

Passive house is a new concept in Singapore. The city is committed to adopt green energy regulations for obvious reasons. So far. no specific rules guide passive house constructions other than those already applicable for any other residential dwellings like villas or bungalows. Select a piece of land that is suited to your purpose. You may seek help from the property agents of Singapore. Start planning your first eco building once you complete the purchase of the plot. Get your design approved by the local building authorities. Start working on your project.  

Pros & cons

By opting for a green dwelling, you can save a great deal of costs on your utility bills. But that is not the only benefit you derive in the process. Owing to the rigorous building norms, eco structures tend to be more comfortable to live in. They are sustainable and cost effective in the long run. Most importantly, your initiative ensures a greener environment and better living conditions for everyone. You also motivate others to do the same.  

It may be difficult for you to procure certain raw materials needed for building an eco home. The initial investment is higher than building an ordinary single family dwelling. You need competent architects and builders with in depth knowledge of passive solar house plans.  

Maintenance & constructions costs

The maintenance cost of passive houses tends to be in line with other types of family homes. While in some areas, like utility bills, you would benefit from saving massively, the costs may rise in some other areas. Periodic maintenance of ventilation and insulation system will need a certain budget. On the whole, the cost of maintaining the structure and the interiors are going to remain unchanged. In Singapore, you may manage this within SGD 1000 per year if you own a two bedroom passive structure of moderate size.

Which professionals are able to help you to build one or to buy one

Consult with an architect experienced in building eco houses. Discuss the requirements of the interiors with an interior stylist. Seek opinion of a landscape architect to decorate that beautiful backyard of yours.