Never has society been more conscious of overall health and wellness. We consider and scrutinise the foods we consume and the activities we undertake. But how about the homes we live in? Can the quality of your home contribute to your overall wellness?
The world is full of cleverly designed, beautiful homes. Although globally, we are becoming increasingly aware of our excessive carbon footprints. Meaning, the way we approach design and architecture is beginning to shift dramatically. The world is moving towards a goal centred around preserving what we have and consuming far less.
Over the years, around the world, there has been a spectrum of guidelines and standards produced to ensure housing is built in the most sustainable, and healthy way. However, none of these are as clear or as strong as the Passivhaus standard. Passivhaus believes in creating a futureproofed, healthy, and comfortable home.
Passivhaus encompasses a holistic approach. Shifting focus away from wind turbines and solar panels, and onto creating air-tight homes that require less energy to run from the offset. A home filled with healthy air, creating a comfortable and wholesome living environment. The guidelines lay out five key pillars that each need to be achieved for the home to be Passivhaus certified.
The five Passivhaus Pillars
Highly insulating envelope
One of the most important features of a sustainable, environmentally friendly home, is that it is well insulated. A Passivhaus envelope works like a coat wrapped around the building. Minimising the risk of air escaping and therefore drastically reducing the amount of energy the home will consume.
This insulating envelope is so much more than regular insulation. The emphasis is taken away from coating buildings in super thick, low-quality products. Not only are these products terrible for the environment, but they are also not the most effective at the job in hand. Instead, the Passivhaus standard focuses on high quality, effective materials used to create an airtight barrier around the home.
An insulating envelope not only leads to a more environmentally friendly home, but it also creates a much more comfortable one. An effective insulating envelope will leave no cold spots around the home and reduce the risk of condensation occurring. The property will regulate a steady, warm, comfortable temperature with limited heat fluctuations.
For a house to be energy efficient, it must be airtight. Having an airtight home means it will be protected from the elements, and any extreme weather, regardless of where in the world you find yourself.
Simply put, an airtight home means a home that is free of any tears, holes, or gaps where air can escape from the building or make its way into the building. Whilst this may seem like common sense, the standard to which Passivhaus expect is extremely high.
Thermal bridge free construction
For a successful, efficient, insulating envelope, the construction must be free of thermal bridges. A thermal bridge is an area within the insulating envelope which has a reduced amount of insulation. These gaps in the insulation will allow hot air to either enter or escape the building, reducing the comfort of the property.
Common examples of places likely to have thermal bridges around the home are around windows and doors, and gaps that have been left around insulation boards.
Ultimately, thermal bridges can lead to reduced comfort, more seriously, to a possible health risk. Where draughts occur, this could lead to condensation. Condensation has the potential to lead to mould in the home. Prolonged exposure to this low-quality air will inevitably lead to long term health issues.
Windows and solar gains
The windows are the eyes of the property. It is important to consider when deciding on window design and structure for a Passivhaus certified home, that the balance of beauty and efficiency is a difficult one. Of course, the Passivhaus standard would never downplay the significance of energy efficiency. As mentioned, Passivhaus focuses on conserving energy, rather than creating it. This is why there is a huge focus on utilizing the energy of the sun.
Large windows placed at the sides of the property which receive the most sunlight will help naturally raise the temperature of the home. This organic and natural way of heating the home is central in the Passivhaus principles.
Ventilation with heat recovery
The first four pillars have focused on trapping and maintaining the air in the building to its full potential. But, for an all-encompassing healthy home, ventilation must also be considered. Although it was once believed that the uppermost ventilation was the best; it is now understood that finding an equilibrium that allows ventilation without drying out the air is a perfect balance. An effective heat recovery system will dehumidify the air, leading to a healthy home environment, integral for rounded wellbeing.
So, can the structure of your home lead to a healthy life?
There is an intrinsic link between a healthy home and a healthy body, and the five pillars of the Passivhaus standard encompass this. Passivhaus creates a benchmark for developers and home builders to aspire to align with. We all lust after a beautiful looking home and the sustainability of our properties is fast becoming even more important over the past decade. The Passivhaus standard helps close the gap between stunning architecture and energy-efficient homes.
Tackling the climate crisis is a shared responsibility. And it is imperative that every person does their fair share, with a clear focus on home builders. The Passivhaus pillars show the clear direction all construction should be moving towards. Shifting the spotlight away from building more, albeit renewable sources of energy, and onto preserving the resources we already have and limiting the need for excessiveness.
Passivhaus quashes any doubts regarding the link between a well-built home and overall human wellbeing. The standard amplifies the significance of a healthy home leading to a healthy life.