How to Cut Energy Consumption Up to 90% with Passive House Design

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Is it possible to cut a commercial building’s energy consumption by 80 to 90 percent by design alone? Those familiar with Passive House construction know the answer: Absolutely.

Passive House design has been practiced for decades but has become particularly relevant as engineers look for ways to improve energy efficiency. It is considered the leading standard for building energy-efficient structures, outpacing even the highest LEED standards.

Many are misled by the name, assuming that the standard is intended solely for residential applications. However, both commercial and residential structures can achieve optimal efficiency and performance using Passive House design. 

What Is Passive House Design?

Passive House is a standard that aims to move the industry toward low-energy, high-performance design. Using airtight construction in the structure’s walls, windows, and roof, Passive House structures can cut energy consumption without compromising indoor comfort.

Additionally, Passive House standards can eliminate the need for heating and air conditioning solutions in some instances. Typically, energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) and heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) are used instead to efficiently ventilate the structure while also improving indoor air quality.

Passive House design can be achieved with five core elements:

Proper insulation

To temper the indoor environment

No air-leakages

To prevent hot air from coming in or out

No thermal bridges

To allow for heat to travel through the walls and outside

Proper windows with triple-pane glass

When oriented in the right direction, the sun can provide heat in the winter and shade in the summer

A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)

To provide fresh air into the structure without letting the heat out

Timeline of Passive House Programs since the 1970s

The Passive House movement first began in the 1970s and was formally introduced as the Passivhaus (PHI) standard in the 1990s. Over time, the U.S. Passive House movement split from the German entity due to differences in approach. The United States gradually shifted from the traditional requirements in an attempt to localize standards to varying climates and markets. 

See What Passive House Certified Looks Like

2nd and Delaware project in downtown Kansas City

To see what goes into a commercial Passive House structure, take a look at the 2nd and Delaware project in downtown Kansas City. The multifamily apartment building ranks as the world’s largest Passive House certified structure. Once the project is complete, it is projected to consume 90 percent less energy than comparable buildings.

Systemair’s Topvex FR ERV installation at the 2nd and Delaware Passive House-certified structure

To achieve the strict insulation standards for Passive House, the structure features 16-inch concrete walls with an innovative foam insulation technique. It also features Systemair’s Topvex series of false ceiling ventilators and vertical ERVs to minimize heating and cooling demands. 

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