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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentAuthorEmily
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2007 edited
    Hi all,

    (4th time lucky - I will get the hang of this sometime!)

    I'm a final yr student in Nottingham, and for a small research papr (5000 words) I've decided to look at the Passivhaus standard - whether people think it could meet high levels of the CSH without additional cost, as suggested by the BRE, and if this is the case, why the uptake of design measures to achieve the standard have been so slow in the UK.

    I read a few threads on here a while back but I've got a few specific questions, and I'd really appreciate it if anyone has chance to give a few yes / no answers. If you have any other comments or opinions about the standard, I'd also really appreciate them.

    1. Are the requirements of the Passivhaus standard clear?

    2. Are the values set at the right levels? If not, too high, to low?

    3. Would the standard work as it is in the UK?

    4. Would you be happy to live in a house with continuous mechanical ventilation?

    5. Do you feel that designing homes to the standard would achieve high levels of the CSH without additional cost?

    6. Super insulation, air tightness and attention to solar gain / shading, or.. on site renewable energy generation?


    Oh, if you answer the questions and you don't mind, an industry, or area which you work in would be very handy, but if not I totally understand.


    1. Are the requirements of the Passivhaus standard clear?
    The general impression is that they require further translation. Not every aspect of the design criteria entirely agree with UK requirements and understandings (primary power vs CO2, DHW provision....German consuptin figures not UK one etc.)

    2. Are the values set at the right levels? If not, too high, to low?
    Arguably the PassivHaus standards could withstand some reappraisal, it is 15 years old after all. The AECB have refined/updated the PassivHaus standard for use in the UK (the AECB Gold standard) complete with CO2 performance targets. (Check out the AECB website for a downloadable copy of the standards.)

    3. Would the PassivHaus standard work as it is in the UK?
    In principle, yes, though the occupant may have to make certain lifestyle changes. Certain refinements to the standard may be required in order to ensure greater acceptability in the UK, seeitem 1 above. (The greatest challenge is ensuring that the technical and construction challenge is ensuring that the airtightness standards are met.)

    4. Would you be happy to live in a house with continuous mechanical ventilation?
    Sweden and Canada have being using MVHR for 25+ years. The step change is a psychological one only.

    5. Do you feel that designing homes to the standard would achieve high levels of the CSH without additional cost?
    No. In terms of capital cost PassivHaus standard projects tend to cost 10-15% more, though this additional cost is more than recouped within the life time of the property (Try to think in terms of cost/kWh-saved rather than strict payback periods. This allows for easier comparison to mains gas or electricity which is purchased in cost/kWh)

    6. Super insulation, air tightness and attention to solar gain / shading, or.. on site renewable energy generation?
    PH standard looks at the first three and then bolts on on-site renewables. Why? This is the most cost effective approach (cost/kWh-saved for renewables is not as good as super insulation, air tightness and attention to solar gain (and other energy efficiency measures).

    Vocation: Architect
    • CommentAuthorGuest
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2007
    4. We've had mechanical ventilation for years (bathrooms, kitchens etc) whats the diff? During the summer MV doesn't need to run as you have natural ventilation on tap, its just in the winter when its cold and its not a good idea to open the windows that it become benefitial.
    Do trickle vents provide adequate ventilation? What happens when its not very windy?....to little ventilation. What happens when its windoy?.......to much ventialtion (and a was of energy)
    • CommentAuthorEmily
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2007
    Thanks both.

    Mark, I'd heard of the AECB standards but had no idea they were an updated version of the passivhaus standard. Thanks very much for all your info.

    • CommentAuthorGuest
    • CommentTimeMay 3rd 2007
    emily you may find the following link useful - it is for the blog of mark brinkley a recognised self builder/ writer. Hecomments on his experience of passiv haus design in germany whilst on an organised tour.

    p.s whats the title of the course? - and good luck!

    Why don't you check out your own University? Specifically, Prof Brian Ford at the School of the Built Environment is working on a paper on whether Passivhaus standard works as well in warm climates, due for publication in the next few months and for presentation at an event in September.
    • CommentAuthorEmily
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2007
    Thanks for all the help guys.

    Mark, I went to meet with Rosa from the University of Nottingham last week, she was really helpful. Gavin Hodgson at the BRE put me in touch. I'd already seen your comments on the blog from the tour, but Rosa also referred me to your recent comments since your meeting with her. I think the idea of achieving the standard with natural ventilation is great. I sent out a questionnaire to construction management, architecture and architectural technologist students, and 75% said they would not be happy to live in a house with mechanical ventilation. Maybe this would change with time and experience, however if it can be done naturally, then why not!

    Thanks for the good luck. The paper is finished, (phew!) and due in for 2.30 today. The course is Design Development and Regeneration, at Nottingham Trent Uni.

    Thanks again.
    I got the wrong Nottingham Uni, but never mind, it sounds like you are talking to all the right people. I think the natural ventilation v MVHR debate is set to run for a while yet.

    Best wishes
      CommentAuthorKeith Hall
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2007
    Emily/Mark, as far as I am aware and for the sake of clarity, the AECB standards are not an 'updated' version of Passivhaus just an adaptation to suit UK conditions. However Passivhaus will still be marketed in the UK as a standard.
    The reason for me stating earlier that AECB Gold is a refinement/update of the PassivHaus standard is due to the fact that 1) The AECB Gold standard sets a specific CO2 threshold rather than a Primary Energy requirement, and in doing so also establishes a more rigorous and demanding refinement of the PassivHaus standard; this is a globally relevant update, and 2) where the PassivHaus standard permits electric resistance heating, the AECB standard does not (this is perhaps more UK specific, though not necessarily).

    Does AECB Gold establish lower energy consumption target kWh for kWh, not to my knowledge. But the Emily’s earlier question was about "values" not energy. The question "Are the values set at the right levels? If not, too high, to low?" is open ended, it is not specific to energy (which is one interpretation). The AECB’s initiative to introduce a new value, that of CO2, into this context is relevant. By only seeking to consider Primary Energy the PH standard can be responsible for greater CO2 emissions than need be the case, so when one asks “are the values set at the right levels?” though the answer is not entirely straight forward the answer is no.

    Update or refinement? Any refinement is by virtue an update. We can all be fairly certain that CO2 targets are likely to play an increasing role in the future, not only within the UK but globally. In the USA the Architecture2030 campaign has been considering developing CO2 targets (the stumbling block is that such CO2 emissions data for electricity in the US is not currently available in all the States as a consequence they have been unable to implement this strategy.)

    So are the PassivHaus standard and AECB Gold to considered the same standard? My answer to that is no, not to my mind at least. AECB Gold is an refinement and update of a 15 year old standard. (Whether is this is the official line of the AECB I can not say.)

    I take your point, Keith. But every standard has to take a view on MVHR - you either have it or you don't — and AECB standard is little different to PassivHaus in this respect. The Nottingham Uni work is proposing a low energy standard based on natural ventilation which they think is more applicable in Mediterranean climates. The question is which climate is more applicable to the UK in the future - Malmo or Nice? The fact that Canada and Sweden have used MVHR successfully for many years doesn't mean that's it's right for the UK climate where people routinely sleep with their windows open, even in the depths of winter.
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