Understanding the Passivhaus Standard and How It Can Be Used in the U.S.

PassivHaus Standards

Today, homeowners across the U.S. seem to be focusing more on their level of energy use and conservation due to rising energy costs, decreasing natural resources and other environmental concerns. 

While it’s true that daily household energy use has been on the decline in recent years due to new home building techniques and improvements, there is still room to further reduce energy consumption. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average residential electricity consumption was 10.399 kilowatthours (kWh) a year (an average of 867 kWh a month). Out of that amount, more than half of a household’s annual energy consumption is for heating and air conditioning. Also, the average household living in a single-family residence consumes nearly three times more energy than a family living in a multifamily residence with five or more apartments. 

Passivhaus is an internationally popular energy performance standard that requires as little as 10% of the energy used in today’s standard homes. That means homeowners see an energy savings of up to 90%! While very popular in the United Kingdom and other European countries, the Passivhaus standard is only now starting to garner attention in the U.S. 

To understand what it means to build a “passive house”, let’s look more closely at the Passivhaus standard, its benefits, and the insulation materials needed to help incorporate this popular design standard into U.S.-based residential homes.

Understanding Passivhaus Standards

Understanding Passiv Haus

Passivhaus is an international energy performance standard that’s centered on using passive ways to reduce the amount of energy required for indoor heating and cooling. Ultimately, the Passivhaus standard eliminates the need for a conventional heating and cooling system. 

This is accomplished by taking a “fabric first” approach, meaning special attention is paid to the thermal envelope of a home, specifically through the selection of insulation materials, passive energy sources and airtightness

PassivHaus Construction

The passive measures listed below must be included to meet Passivhaus standards. 

  • Insulation: Insulation with very high depth levels is required. Ensure all thermal bridges are properly insulated. This reduces heat loss through the walls, roof and floors. Triple glazed windows are also recommended.  
  • Airtightness: It is essential to achieve an excellent level of airtightness, especially around doors and windows. Joints of the home should be sealed or taped, and porous surfaces should also be skimmed or parched. 
  • ​Passive solar gains and internal heat sources: Examples include using solar panels on the home and designing main windows so they’re facing toward the midday sun for solar gain to draw heat in during the winter months. Trees, vertical gardens or green roofs can help reduce heat during the summer months.
  • ​Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery: Typically, heat is extracted from the waste air and used to warm the incoming air. Conventional central heating is not required when adhering to Passivhaus standards. A single radiator is often sufficient enough to heat an entire home.

Using the methods above will help control indoor temperatures year-round without the use of conventional heating and cooling methods. It’s also important to note that indoor air quality (IAQ) should always be evaluated because of how well the home is insulated and how it uses mechanical ventilation to circulate air.  

Benefits of Building Using the Passivhaus Standard

There are several benefits to Passivhaus that make it an ideal option for all homes, regardless of the climate zone. From high-level environmental impacts to an occupant’s family budget, here are a few reasons why the Passivhaus standard is growing in popularity internationally: 
PassivHaus Benefits
  • Sustainability: As mentioned before, these homes are known to use as little as 10% of the energy average homes use today. This greatly reduces emissions and the need for non-renewable energy resources.
  • ​Affordability: Obviously, these homes save money on energy costs over the long-term, but as this design concept gains popularity, the initial price tag of homes using Passivhaus is decreasing. Depending on the location, these homes are only marginally more expensive to build, and some countries also offer financial support.
  • Comfort: A well-insulated home means cozy, constant temperatures all year long. Also, the ventilation system used in this design brings a constant supply of fresh air into the home, establishing good IAQ. 
  • Versatility: There is no specific method of construction required to achieve Passivhaus standards, so architects can design and build using their preferred methods. Also, this concept is based on physical principles, so each home should be designed and built in a way that best meets the demands of area and climate.

Choosing the Right Insulation

Front of House Image 2

When trying to achieve Passivhaus standards, so much hinges on having the right type of insulation materials. Ideally, choosing an insulation provider with a solid understanding of Passivhaus is your best option to ensure you’re getting the highest-quality, energy-efficient insulation possible that meets the right standards.

Kingspan Insulation is a leading insulation manufacturer with a strong reputation among architects and builders who design and construct homes using the Passivhaus standard. In fact, Kingspan is one of the United Kingdom’s founding members of the Passivhaus Trust, an independent, non-profit organization providing leadership and guidance about Passivhaus standards and methods.  

Kingspan offers a wide range of optimum, premium and high-performance rigid insulation products and insulated systems—with each product being among the most thermally efficient and technically advanced materials available.

Contact us today to learn more about incorporating Passivhaus standards into your future home designs.

Kingspan Insulation North America

Head Office & Sales Office – North America

Kingspan Insulation LLC

2100 Riveredge Parkway, Suite 175

Atlanta, Georgia

USA

30328

Call: +1(800) 241 4402

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