A Seminar Report on
PASSIVE HOUSES FOR
For The Subject of ‘Elements of Civil Engineering’
3. DESIGN &CONSTRUCTION
4. CHARACTERISTICS & TRAITS
5. ADVANTAGES OVER CONVENTIONAL HOMES
In many countries located close to the equator, such as India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand,
Malaysia, Indonesia, and countries in parts of Africa and South America, certain regions can
be considered tropical uplands.
Tropics of the world highlighted
In such regions, the cold discomfort that occurs during the night and warm discomfort that
occurs during the daytime could become a problem unless houses are planned with careful
This led architects and designers to come up with an ingenious idea of house-planning.
These types of houses are called ‘Passive’ houses.
What is a ‘passive’ house?
A passive house is a building in which a comfortable interior climate can be maintained
without active heating and cooling systems. Essentially, the house heats and cools itself,
The combined energy consumption of a passive house is less than the average new European
home requires for household electricity and hot water alone.
The combined end energy consumed by a passive house is therefore less than a quarter of the
energy consumed by the average new construction that complies with applicable national
How does it work?
There are four key areas that comprise the Passive Home system:
1. Very high levels of insulation with minimal thermal bridges (glossary)
2. Intelligent use of solar and internal gains
3. Excellent level of airtightness
4. Good indoor air quality provided by a mechanical ventilation system
With these features in place, a Passive House does not need a traditional heating system or
active cooling to be comfortable to live in.
The term passive house, Passivhausin German means ‘Energy efficiency in a Building’.
The Passivhaus standard originated from a conversation in May 1988 between Professors Bo
Adamson of Lund University, Sweden, and Wolfgang Feist of the Institute for Housing and
the Environment, Germany. Their concept was developed through a number of research
projects, aided by financial assistance from the German state of Hessen.
The first Passivhaus residences were built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990, and occupied by
the clients of the professors’ firm.
PRESENT DAY SENARIO
Current day estimate is that there are around20,000 passive houses around the world.
Based on research and study of the existing passivhauses, designers have arrived at a
standard for all technicalities and construction specifications and have termed it as
'Passivhaus Planning Package' (PHPP).
The standard is not confined to residential properties; several office buildings, schools,
kindergartens and a supermarket have also been constructed to the standard.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
To achieve the standards of PHPP, a number of techniques and technologies are used in
1) Passive solar design and landscape
Passive solar building design and energy-efficient landscaping support the Passive house energy
conservation and can integrate them into a neighborhood and environment. Following passive solar
building techniques, where possible buildings are compact in shape to reduce their surface area, with
principle windows oriented towards the equator - south in the northern hemisphere and north in the
southern hemisphere - to maximize passive solar gain. However, the use of solar gain, especially in
temperate climate regions, is secondary to minimizing the overall house energy requirements. In
climates and regions needing to reduce excessive summer passive solar heat gain, whether from the
direct or reflected sources, can be done with trees attached with vines; vertical gardens, green roofs
and other techniques.
Passivhaus buildings employ superinsulation to significantly reduce the heat transfer through the
walls, roof and floor compared to conventional buildings. A wide range of thermal insulation
materials can be used to provide the required high R-values (typically in the range of 0.10 to 0.15
Building envelopes under the Passivhaus standard are required to be extremely airtight compared to
conventional construction. Air barriers, careful sealing of every construction joint in the building
envelope, and sealing of all service penetrations through it are all used to achieve this.
Airtightness minimizes the amount of warm - or cool- air that can pass through the structure,
enabling the mechanical ventilation system to recover the heat before discharging the air externally.
4) Window Technology
To meet the requirements of the Passivhaus standard, windows are manufactured with exceptionally
high R-values (typically 0.85 to 0.70 W/(m².K) for the entire window including the frame). These
normally combine triple-pane insulated glazing (with a good solar heat-gain coefficient, low-
emissivity coatings, sealed argon or krypton gas filled inter-pane voids, and 'warm edge' insulating
glass spacers) with air-seals and specially developed thermally broken window frames.
Passive methods of natural ventilation by singular or cross ventilation; by a simple opening or
enhanced by the stack effect from smaller ingress - larger egress windows and/or clerestory-open
able skylight use; is obvious when the exterior temperature is acceptable.
6) Dehumidification: In tropical climatic conditions, it is imperative to remove excess moisture
from within the house. Hence, dehumidifiers working on solar power are adopted in some cases.
Even solar air-conditioning exists which have a cooling capacity equivalent to 1ton.
7) Lighting and electrical appliances
To minimize the total primary energy consumption, the many passive and active daylight techniques
are the first daytime solution to employ. For low light level days, non-day lighted spaces, and
nighttime; the use of creative-sustainable lighting design using low-energy sources such as 'standard
voltage' compact fluorescent lamps and LED/OLED/PLEDlamps; and 'low voltage' Incandescent
bulbs, and compact Halogen lamps, can be used.
Solar powered exterior circulation, security, and landscape lighting - with photovoltaic cells on each
fixture or connecting to a central Solar panel system, are available for gardens and outdoor
needs.Timers, motion detection and natural light operation sensors reduce energy consumption.
Consumer appliances must meet the certified energy star agency’s norms. The appliances should
have a certificate of power rating on them.
Due to their design, passive houses usually have the following traits:
The air is fresh, and very clean. Note that for the parameters tested, and provided the filters
(minimum F6) are maintained, HEPA quality air is provided. 3 air changes per hour (ACH)
are recommended, otherwise the air can become "stale" (excess CO2, flushing of indoor air
pollutants) and any greater, excessively dry (less than 40% humidity). This implies careful
selection of interior finishes and furnishings, to minimize indoor air pollution from VOC's
(e.g., formaldehyde). The use of a mechanical venting system also implies higher positive ion
values. This can be counteracted somewhat by opening a window for a very brief time, by
plants, and by indoor fountains. However, failure to exchange air with the outside during
occupied periods is not advisable.
Because of the high resistance to heat flow (high R-value insulation), there are no "outside
walls" which are colder than other walls.
Inside temperature is homogeneous; it is impossible to have single rooms (e.g. the sleeping
rooms) at a different temperature from the rest of the house. Note that the relatively high
temperature of the sleeping areas is physiologically not considered desirable by some
building scientists. Bedroom windows can be cracked open slightly to alleviate this when
The temperature changes only very slowly - with ventilation and heating systems switched
off, a passive house typically loses less than 0.5 °C (1 °F) per day (in winter), stabilizing at
around 15 °C (59 °F) in the central European climate.
Opening windows or doors for a short time has only a very limited effect; after the windows
are closed, the air very quickly returns to the "normal" temperature.
ADVANTAGES OVER CONVENTONAL
Sustainability: A Passive House requires as little as 10 percent of the energy used by typical
central European buildings. Vast have also been demonstrated in warm climates where buildings
typically require active cooling throughout the summer. As energy savings equals emissions
reductions, the Passive House is a sustainable alternative to conventional construction.
Affordability: Passive Houses not only save money over the long term, especially in light of
rising energy costs, but are surprisingly affordable to begin with. The investment in higher quality
building components required by the Passive House standard is mitigated by the elimination of
expensive heating and cooling systems. The financial support increasingly available in many
countries makes building a Passive House all the more feasible.
Even so, Passive Houses do cost more upfront than their conventional counterparts. On average,
someone building a Passive House might expect to spend more, and this cost differential is likely
more in countries where Passive House components are not yet readily available. As the number of
Passive House suitable components on the market increases, however, prices in these countries will
drop. Financial support for Passive Houses, as currently available in a number of countries, further
reduces their cost. In this light then, building a Passive House may even be more affordable over the
long term than building a conventional home.
Comfort:Passive Houses may be known for their drastically lower energy use and associated
energy costs, but it is the level of comfort they offer that their residents appreciate most. An
extremely well insulated building envelope as well as triple glazed windows and insulated frames
keep the desired warmth or lack thereof inside. This means that the floor and all interior walls stay at
the same pleasant temperature. Along with comfort, aesthetics may also be given a lot of importance.
The houses look modern and hi-tech!
Versatile:The Passive House Standard, being a quality standard, dictates no particular methods of
construction. Whether solid construction, wood or composite- architects can design Passive Houses
according to their own preferences. This gives the builder and owner a lot of flexibility for design and choice
of materials. As the Passive House concept is based on physical principles, each building can and should be
adapted to a particular climate.
The information presented in the report was referenced from various websites.
International Passive House Association - http://www.passivehouse-
The images were gathered through ‘Google Images’.