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Passive house construction provides healthier, higher performance buildings

Aurecon and Monash University hosted the Passive House ‘Under Construction’ Workshop, where industry experts shared how passive house construction can have a significant impact on the quality of buildings and comfort for occupants.

23 April 2018 – Improved building outcomes, such as greater levels of thermal comfort, a healthier work environment, lower energy costs and increased building structure longevity can all be achieved as a result of compliance with the Passive House Building Standard.

According to industry experts who presented at a workshop hosted by engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon and Monash University recently, passive house construction can have a significant impact on the quality of buildings and comfort for occupants, when successfully implemented.

Johanna Trickett, ESD Consultant at Aurecon, said that passive house construction provided high comfort and quality of life without sacrificing energy efficiency or increasing costs.

“Australia and New Zealand are at the start of this journey and due to initial obstacles and challenges, such as a knowledge gap in industry as well as availability of products and materials, the Passive House Building Standard will likely incur greater costs than will be the case once this standard becomes normalised. However, the passive house benefits of user comfort and energy efficiency outweigh the costs,” added Trickett.

“The Passive House Building Standard is applicable to any construction and provides a quality benchmark for health, comfort and performance.”

Jesse Clarke, Building Science Manager, Pro Clima Australia, said that the emerging issues that minimal compliance buildings were faced with included moisture and mould in cooler climate locations, and exacerbated summer cooling issues in warmer climate locations.

“The Passive House Building Standard has solved both of these issues by delivering comfort through control over thermal fluxes over the building envelope, combined with adequate thermal bridging. This provides stability of indoor conditions,” Clarke added.

“Through air tightness considerations and implementation of the building standard, we see a balance in the moisture flows with the heat within the building envelope which results in a healthy, dry, high performing building.”

Susanne Hundert, Associate at Aurecon, explained that passive house construction required very high levels of building fabric air tightness to provide the thermal comfort and low operating costs expected.

She states that the key areas to consider when delivering a successful passive house building is the building envelope and the building services. Both the envelope and services must be carefully considered at the same time during the design process.

“The responsibility of delivering a successful passive house sits with every project team member involved. It is crucial for all to be open, transparent, communicative, and to effectively work as a team,” Hundert added.

Joel Seagren, Intelligent Ventilation Solutions Engineer, Fantech, said that improved health was achieved from factors such as enhanced indoor air quality (low CO2, volatile organic chemicals and other contaminant levels) and the greatly reduced requirement for supplementary heating and cooling.

“This reduces the risk of allergy and dehumidification effects that can be associated with HVAC air delivery systems,” he said.

“While ventilation requirements are well prescribed for some building classes (but not all), the importance of correct ventilation is increased as there can be no reliance on fresh air infiltration via the building fabric. While this is not explicitly included in the design, it can have a meaningful impact in terms of indoor air quality, condensation removal, and potentially mould growth,” Seagren added.

“Direct ventilation, mechanical or natural, increases the required capacity of heating and cooling equipment when outdoor air temperatures, or humidity levels, are outside comfort bands, which is typically most of summer and winter depending on the climate zone.”

Seagren explained that, with efficiencies stated to be between 80-90% for high quality heat recovery units, this could allow for a significant reduction in heating and cooling plant capacity, energy consumption, and therefore operational costs.

An overview of the Passive House Building Standard, high performance building envelopes, airtightness, mechanical ventilation, and construction sequencing were among some of the thought provoking topics discussed and presented by select industry experts at a Passive House ‘Under Construction’ Workshop hosted by Aurecon and Monash University, and supported by the Australian Passive House Association, in Melbourne in April.

Speakers were:

  • Johanna Trickett, ESD Consultant, Aurecon
  • Susanne Hundert, Associate, Aurecon
  • Dr. Rob Brimblecombe, Monash University
  • Jesse Clarke, Building Science Manager, Pro Clima Australia
  • Dr Andreas Luzzi, CEO, Laros Technologies
  • Sean Maxwell, Technical Manager, Pro Clima Australia
  • John Konstantakopoulos, Managing Director Efficiency Matrix
  • Joel Seagren, Intelligent Ventilation Solutions Engineer, Fantech
  • Marcus Strang, Sustainability Engineer, Australian Passive House Association

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