Passive House (passivhaus™)

Passive House | Certified PassivhausTM Design Builders

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H4 Passive Homes, The Science Of Building A Better Home.
Proven – Tested – Measured

Average Upgrade Cost Difference

*Estimates are approximately only and are based on a 350m2 Custom Home with building costs$2.350m2

All the life changing benefits from our H4 High Performing Homes, plus more.

Every H4 PassivHaus Home is designed and built using the international PHI software. Performance is Measured, Proven and Tested.

The world needs affordable living and working environments with ultra-low energy consumption and minimum CO2 emissions.

What is a “PassivHaus” Passive Home?

Passivhaus is a concept developed in Germany that is being adopted and proven worldwide. Passive homes have a goal of increasing a building’s energy efficiency and reducing its ecological footprint. Buildings constructed to “PassivHaus” standard are ultra-low energy buildings: they use very little energy for heating or cooling and are extremely comfortable and healthy to live in.

A passive certified home, uses The International Passive House Standard, homes must meet a set of verifiable criteria set by the PassivHaus Institute (PHI).

passive house image

How is this achieved?

5 KEY ELEMENTS that have been identified regardless of home design / budget / climate zone, in order to produce the world’s best building & living standard.

  • Quality Glazing

  • Thermal Efficiency

  • Air Tightness

  • Continuous Insulation

  • Ventilation

H4 then uses Design-Building software and testing procedures before and during construction, ensuring our clients peace of mind that their homes will perform as designed.

Explore Why you should consider a H4 PassivHaus (PassiveHome).

Click on each point to learn more

  • Can be achieved with any Design Style or Building Budget.
  • There are absolutely no restrictions on size or architectural styles, this is due to the fact that our building standard concentrates on a few key building elements from proven and tested building science technology.

  • Future Proofed – Significantly Lower Carbon Emissions
  • Passive Homes produce significantly less energy than conventional homes, resulting in radically reduced CO2 emissions, making this is the most sustainable building standard in the world (no green wash). You save on energy and improve your life-style whilst reducing carbon emissions. This is the positive change the world needs to reduce global warming.

  • Heathier Home – Less Dust, Pollens & Allergens
  • Due to air tightness, energy recovery ventilation systems, controlled temperatures & humidity plus filtered fresh, you will be living and breathing a perfectly healthy environment, minimising levels of dust, mold and pollens. The health benefits have been documented in several articles from people around the world living in PassivHaus homes; reduced illnesses, better sleeping patterns, less asthma and allergies have all been reported.

  • A Quiet Haven – Highly Reduced Noise Levels
  • By default, the higher quality of external materials insulates the outside noise, making your home noticeably quieter.

  • Unreal Comfort – Set Temperatures & Humidity all year Round.
  • You may have lived and experienced houses overheating in summer and freezing in winter, two level homes with upper level temperatures 15 degrees higher than the bottom level, the list goes on in Australia… Now imagine temperatures 20-25 degrees regardless of outside weather in both summer & winter, using minimal energy consumption.YES, it’s possible with a H4 High Performance Passive Home.

  • Lifetime Energy Savings – Ultra Low Energy Consumption
  • By creating a sealed thermal envelope, minimal heating and cooling is required, therefore dramatically reducing your energy bills comparatively to standard building codes.This reduction in energy has nothing to do with solar panels, solar is considered a bonus! This innovative technology results in much lower monthly energy bills, providing families a lifetime of savings.

  • Indoor Air Quality – Filtered Fresh Air (No Cold or Hot Draughts)
  • The importance of indoor air quality that affects human health can not be underestimated. Concentration of pollutants indoors are 4 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, and people now spend 90% more time indoors. With A H4 High Performance PassiveHaus, the risk of pollutants is reduced drastically due to our recovery ventilation systems.

  • Proven Tested Measured – 80,000 + PassivHaus Projects Worldwide ✔
  • Would over 65,000 passivehaus TM projects built and tested worldwide be enough to convince you it’s the best building standard in the world? A holistic approach from design to construction is required, there are very clear definitions and requirements set by the PassivHaus institute, and this has continually been proven from concept to completion.

PassivHaus certification’s main benefit is the rigorous quality assurance and performance tests the home is required to meet. From design details, all the way through to airtightness, tests are conducted both during and after construction.
PassivHaus certification is achieved by a third-party verification to keep Designers and Builders accountable. Here at H4 we hope that Australia will make this building standard compulsory.
H4 Living encourages PassivHaus certification, the additional cost is your guarantee that you have the best building standard in the world.

Help Reduce CO2 Emissions Through Eco-Friendly Design.

There Is No Better Eco-Building Standard In The World Than Passivhaus

“Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate change.”
“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

David Attenborough

representing the people of Earth as holder of the “people’s seat”
at COP24 Climate Change Summit 2018 Poland.

Frequently Asked Questions

Three words…minimum building code! More specifically, insufficient insulation detailing, vapour barriers that are inevitably punctured, uncontrolled thermal bridging, poor quality windows (80% of the market is single glazed!) and dated construction techniques. To summarise, poor building envelopes! To make up for these subpar practices, air-conditioners and heaters are required to make up for all of that energy loss which ends up costing homeowners each and every year.
The technology employed in Passive Housing is tried, tested and completely user friendly. In conventional building, most have separate heating and cooling systems that require programming. At its foundation, Passive Housing is a simpler technology that regulates ventilation and air-circulation rather than the production of heat and cold through more artificial means.
Yes. In order to achieve the Passive House standard, it is vital that the building design is tested and verified using the specialist PHPP software. At present there are now over 90 Certified Passive House Designers and Tradespersons providing dedicated full Passive House services in Australia.
While a trip to Bunnings is likely to lead to disappointment, materials are now available locally and are growing by the day. There are a number of certified suppliers based in Australia who work specifically with Passive House Designers and Builders.
The calculations around Thermal Bridges are rather complicated and intricate, but essentially, thermal bridges are the points at which conventional housing design lose energy. They are often unaccounted weak points in the building fabric resulting in high local discomfort, moisture and mould while providing a highway for energy loss. Passive House design specifically addresses thermal bridges in order to maximise energy efficiency unlike any other standard.
Absolutely. But it is essential that your project has been properly designed in PHPP, supported by a Certified Passive House Designer or Certifier and then well-executed on-site by Certified Passive House Tradespersons. There are over 80,000 Passive Houses of all building types throughout the world, providing very high levels of comfort in various climates. The ‘Lucky Country’ of Australia is easy by comparison!
There is a certification process for Tradespeople available through the Australian Passive House Association or one of its partners. Individuals who complete the Passive House Exam must demonstrate a sound knowledge and application of the fundamentals of Passive House Construction. They are also expected to further their knowledge and development in Passive House.
Great, Fantastic! A Passive House construction ensures a long, durable building life, that requires light-filled spaces and high levels of comfort. Combined with extraordinary low heating/cooling bills and excellent indoor air quality, Passive House buildings also provide a major opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. It is very quiet too, due to the well-sealed building envelope.
Extremely comfortable, so comfortable that Passive Homes are often designed without a heat source even in Canada and cooling in warmer climates. Typically, the heat from residents combined with internal equipment and passive solar heat entering the building are enough to markedly improve comfort. Due to the well-sealed building envelope, all that is required is a relatively basic ventilation system which supplies fresh air making for superior air quality without causing any unpleasant draughts. Summer or winter, you can be assured that your Passive House Building will provide a maximum level of comfort with reasonable construction costs – something that is repeatedly confirmed by Passive House residents.
Similar to normal houses, all mechanical systems will cease to work. However, because Passive House Buildings are so well insulated, they will maintain a higher level of comfort for much longer than would a normal house in the event of a power failure. If the power cut lasts for a prolonged period (say, more than 12 hours), then the windows can be opened to provide fresh air if required. Carbon monoxide alarms can be fitted in the house to detect reduced air quality.
Don’t believe the hype! Passive House buildings are extremely comfortable in all seasons, with windows being a major comfort component. While it is true that Passive House Buildings are designed so there are no drafts, temperature variance is extremely narrow (even near doors and windows), and active, balanced ventilation makes for superb indoor air quality, this does not mean we cannot open windows on a beautiful day or when it gets stuffy! Simply put, while your often don’t need to open them because Passive House Buildings are designed around the occupants comfort, a user will know best!
It is probably truer to say it is more unhealthy living in a draftee space typical of Australian buildings. One of the main benefits of Passive House buildings are the high air quality as a direct result of air-tight design that allows the controlled provision of lots of fresh air via a balanced ventilation system. In normal buildings, fresh air enters the building through a series of vents and through infiltration or drafts. However, such means of ventilation is uncontrolled and you cannot be sure that all spaces at all times are being properly or sufficiently supplied with the correct amount of fresh air. Indeed, as the entire volume of air in a typical Passive House is changed on average between 8 to 12 times per day (depending on the setting of the system) ensuring very high air quality throughout, plant growth is known to flourish, a sure sign that things the space is healthy!
Passive buildings do require an extremely airtight building envelope, perhaps 25 times tighter than a conventional building in Australia. Does this lead to moisture and mould? Well, without adequate ventilation, insulation and an airtight barrier it would but of course, this is exactly how Passive House Buildings must be designed. With constant, low-level ventilation a major preventative of moisture problems in addition to maintaining excellent air quality, Passive House professionals are highly aware of designing out moisture and mould and can often undertake detailed modelling (if required) to identify and address potential moisture issues with a variety of techniques during the design.
The ventilation system itself is housed in a very well insulated and airtight cabinet which is normally positioned in a utility room. The noise from the fans is no greater than that from a modern fridge. The ducting is fitted with what are referred to as ‘attenuators’ and combined with acoustic insulation, which reduce the sound of air passing through the system. In bedrooms, if designed correctly and properly fitted, air passing through the system should be barely audible at normal flow rates.
Installing conventional central heating shouldn’t be necessary when building to the Passive House Standard. In fact, the heating peak usage must be limited to 10 watts per square metre for a Certified Passive House. This relatively tiny heat load can be supplied through an integrated radiant heater in the MVHR, a small towel heater or even candles. However, if an indoor wood heater is more your thing, this is still possible in a Passive House.
The answer from an Australian perspective is very likely to be no. Having an open fireplace would introduce too much heat into the space and may dramatically reduce the efficiency of the mechanical heat recovery ventilation system (due to lack of airtightness). However, there are other really clever means of having a real flame effect in your Passive House, including bio-ethanol fires as well as wood burning boilers or stoves with glass fronts. By the way, if you have young children in the house, please reassure them that Santa Claus knows Passive House Buildings very well and he uses the ventilation system and some magic dust to bring the gifts for Christmas morning.
Passive Houses are designed to be incredibly energy efficient, up to 90% more efficient than a typical Australian home (cooling + heating). With a high level of insulation and an airtight building envelope, the key to the design is to minimise heat loss/gain and control annual solar heat gain. By designing building envelopes that incorporate “thermal bridge free design”, energy loss is significantly reduced around windows, exterior doors, mechanical openings, corners of the building and junction points in between the roof and the walls. Using high quality windows (minimum triple glazed) and insulated exterior doors are an absolute must in a Passive House.
In many ways Passive House buildings can look similar to typical, local buildings. As the industry grows, so do its professional and material suppliers that will continue this trend where you cannot distinguish between a non-Passive House and Passive House Building. However, underneath their skin they distinguish themselves with a few key features. They often use larger quantities of thermal insulation to create a deeper but more thermally resistant envelope. Junctions in the envelope are carefully designed to avoid thermal bridging, air-leakage, and drafts. They have state-of-the-art windows, usually high-spec thermally broken units which typically have triple glazed, gas filled glazing to keep a tight control on heat loss/gain. Ventilation is achieved with the help of a Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR). This removes heat from exhaust air, and uses it to heat incoming air to maintain a stable indoor temperature.
A Passive House takes advantage of the largest free source of energy on the planet, the sun. By orienting the main windows in the building to face north, there is a significant amount of energy gain within the space. Along with the heat given off from the occupants and appliances, this is often all that is required to keep the home comfortable year round. A ventilation system is still required to provide fresh air throughout the home. The ventilation system transfers fresh air into the home from the exterior while a heat exchanger extracts the wasted heat from the air that is exhausted to the exterior. The excess heat is then recycled within the heat exchanger unit to heat the fresh air coming into the home. Cooling a Passive House Building relies on its super insulated shell and the airtight building envelope which prevent the sun from heating up the space. Designing the roof to have large overhangs, operable shutters on the windows and even light cladding colours are all basic strategies that when coupled with effective natural ventilation ensure that a Passive House Building is cool throughout the hot summer months.
The thermal performance or the efficiency of a building, and the energy source or technology used supply heat or electricity, are two different things. Renewable energy systems do not affect the thermal efficiency of the house itself. In a Passive House building the primary goal is to achieve a superbly well-insulated and tightly sealed building envelope, then introduce fresh air via a very high-efficiency heat recovery ventilation system. Renewable energy technologies can be used on Passive House buildings that want to go the extra mile and go beyond Passive House Classic certification.
When you continue adding insulation to a building beyond what seems economic, there is a definable level of efficiency where a full-sized furnace is no longer required because sufficient heat can be delivered to the building by other means. This allows capital cost savings to be realised on the heating and cooling system. Savings that can be put towards extra insulation and higher efficiency windows. This “definable point” is how the Passive House Standard is measured and achieved.
A lot of energy is required to heat air, or cool it during summer, yet very little energy is needed to move air around via an efficient fan. Therefore in order to achieve low energy use in a building, air leakage has to be minimised or the heating energy you pay for just ends up leaking outdoors. All Passive Houses must achieve a stringent airtightness requirement. Certified Passive House ventilation units have exceptional energy efficiency and are highly recommended.
A lot of energy is required to heat air, or cool it during summer, yet very little energy is needed to move air around via an efficient fan. Therefore in order to achieve low energy use in a building, air leakage has to be minimised or the heating energy you pay for just ends up leaking outdoors. All Passive Houses must achieve a stringent airtightness requirement. Certified Passive House ventilation units have exceptional energy efficiency and are highly recommended.
No, generally not. Of course, it is ideal to be able to design the building to face north, and to avoid over-shadowing by coniferous trees or local buildings. However, if these conditions do not exist on your site, then don’t worry. Allowances can be made, and tested in the PHPP software, for any shortfall in terms of ideal orientation leading to reduced solar gain.
There are no strict rules in this regard. The critical issue is to achieve the U-values (thermal performance) required as identified by the PHPP. Thereafter, you can use whichever insulation type you prefer or can afford, whether polystyrene, cellulose, polyisocyuranate, strawbale, sheep wool and so forth. Some insulation types are better performing than others, requiring thinner walls, whereas other are less efficient and will require thicker walls.
Generally, yes. A Passive House Building needs more insulation than a typical building, and this is generally achieved by having significantly thicker walls. The thickness of walls depends on the U-values required which in turn is greatly dependant on the performance of the insulation, the type of construction (whether concrete, timber frame, etc), overall design, orientation, compactness and so forth. You generally won’t notice the thick walls from the outside of the house, however, as the windows are placed in the insulation layer which is best placed towards the exterior of the building shell.
It really depends on your location and thus the climate. All Passive House’s must be designed and tested using the specialist software PHPP and you might find, on occasion, that it is possible to use very high performance double glazing in some instances. If you do use double glazing, however, be aware that you will probably experience some thermal discomfort on very cold winter nights in mountainous regions whilst sitting close to such windows due to the temperature difference that will inevitably arise between the internal surface of the glass and the surrounding living space.
Not necessarily. Sure enough, it is ideal to have north facing windows to harvest the free energy provided by the sun. However, it is also possible to achieve the Passive House standard if your site does not lend itself to maximising solar gain (but you will probably have to compensate for this with additional insulation). All designs have to be tested and verified in the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) software. If you have a wonderful view from the southern side of your house, you needn’t deny yourself of this. The Passive House is not as rigid as many people think, particularly in the Australia’s moderate warm to temperate climate.
With the right team in charge, passive design does not dictate aesthetics. A Passive House can be traditional or contemporary but the key to a Passive House is the simplicity in its plan. It is best (most efficient and cheapest to construct) to create a compact shape (two storey is more efficient than a bungalow) with optimal solar gain, but the Certified Passive House Designer should otherwise be free to create any bespoke design according to the Client’s needs. It is important that the Passive House concept can be adapted to local cultures, styles and building traditions.
Yes, any type of building can be built to the Passive House standard, including skyscrapers. In Europe there are Passive House schools, office buildings, supermarkets, retail centres, gymnasiums, health clubs, and thousands of Passive House apartment units. The largest current development is the 26 story Cornell University Campus in New York, which will house 520 people, built and certified to the Passive House Standard.
Absolutely, with a 90% reduction in annual heating/cooling fuel consumption the energy savings will cancel out much of the increased up-front investment cost of increased insulation, better-quality windows and ventilation systems. Building a significantly better quality, smart home is a hedge against rising energy prices in the future. Above and beyond the cost savings, a Passive House owner also enjoys better indoor air quality and overall comfort…a factor difficult to include in the good investment equation!
In Australia, building energy standards are lower than in many parts of Europe, and it is relatively difficult to source some high quality components here. The extra cost will depend greatly upon design, size of project, quality of finishes and so forth, but typically a range of 10 – 20% should be prepared, assuming the builder has some experience and training in this type of construction. However, recent local social housing projects are suggesting very small additional costs. The more large-scale window and door manufacturers bring high-performance products to the Australian market, economies of scale will drive down costs. The cost is usually offset by the massive reduction in energy bills, and the elimination of heavy mechanical heating and cooling units. With increasing energy prices, the question to ask yourself is ‘Can I afford not to build a Passive House’!

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Can I retrofit my existing house to the Passivhaus standard?

Yes you can, with any major renovation you can retrofit to Passive House standard, but special consideration needs to be taken with the existing structure.

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H4 Passive Homes – Future Proof your Home and Why?

SHOCKING ….
When you build a new home in Australia
You would expect state of the art technology, comfortable internal temperatures and energy efficiency.

BE AWARE …
You might be getting the opposite.

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“When we came across the H4 system it ticked all of the boxes, they were very knowledgeable and the quality of workmanship exceeded all our expectations.”
Trevor Cunningham

What customers say

“After looking at dozens of display homes, we come across H4 Living, the concept design they come up with was exactly what we wanted and designed for our land. We than decided to upgrade to a Passive Home. Living in our home for the past few months, experiencing a summer and a winter, having owned and lived in other homes, the experience of living in a passive home is beyond words, consistent internal temperatures, filtered fresh air, these guys now their stuff, highly recommended, happy to show our home to anyone interested thanks H4.”

Paul & Regan Gerard

H4Living

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