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Why you need to live in an architect designed Passivhaus – Part 2: Comfort

When you’re designing a home for your family, it’s important to think about what you need out of your space. But, it’s just as important to think about the other fundamental elements you’ll need to create a comfortable and healthy family home.

At HEM Architects, when we talk about designing sustainable homes, we’re talking about buildings which are cost effective, comfortable and healthy to live in. And we’ve found the best way we can achieve this is by adopting a fabric first approach to the building’s construction using the Passivhaus methodology.

In this post, we explore how the fabric first approach will make your new home more comfortable:

Forget about draughts:

There’s more to creating a Passivhaus than just adding more insulation. This alone won’t guarantee you stay warm & comfortable all year round.

The Passivhaus standard demands, and we always specify, excellent air-tightness.

As a comparison of the difference, a house built to the building regulations is likely to be leaking air from the equivalent of a hole the size of 20 pence piece in each 1m2 of its walls, floors and roof. Whereas a Passivhaus will have a hole no bigger than a 5 pence piece in each 5m2 of construction.

An older property is likely to be much worse: leaking air, and valuable heat, from holes equivalent to a 20 pence piece in every 0.5m2 of construction!

To achieve excellent air-tightness, your builder will use airtight tape, sealant or paint on membrane to close any gaps between different bits of building. This keeps heat loss through air-leakage to an absolute minimum. It also stops the draughts and air-movement which cause discomfort in a traditional home.

Photo credit: Building Research Establishment

Surface temperature is just as important as air-temperature:

In a normal home, even when the thermostat is saying it’s warm it doesn’t always feel it.

This could be because of draughts but it can also caused by your external surfaces, especially your walls, being cold. They’ll be radiating this cold towards your body, making you feel much less comfortable.

In contrast, every internal surface in a Passivhaus must be designed so its surface temperature doesn’t fall below 17oC – even when it’s minus temperatures outside.

This eliminates that cold feeling you can get in a traditional house when you sit close to the walls.

Peace & Quiet:

Entering one of our architect designed, low energy homes was recently described as “like shutting the door on an expensive car”. You immediately leave the noise of the world outside. 

All the key ingredients of a Passivhaus work together to create a peaceful, quiet home even if a storm is raging outside. Your only problem might be sleeping elsewhere when you’re so used to the peace and quiet.

The key ingredients of a Passivhaus:

  • Thickly insulated walls, roof and floor,
  • triple glazed windows,
  • excellent air-tightness
  • and mechanical ventilation

Ditch the slippers:

With draughts a thing of the past and your floors at a toasty 17oC+ you can get forget about cold feet. And this is even without underfloor heating fitted.

It’s hard to describe how relaxing it feels to live in a Passivhaus or low-energy home in the winter.

You don’t have to worry about having cold toes or wrapping up warm while you’re working at home. And returning home to a cold house will be a thing of the past.

An architect designed Passivhaus will just work quietly in the background keeping you warm and comfortable 24/7, without it costing you a fortune.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the depth of winter and minus five outside or summer and it’s 30 degrees outside, the quality of the air and the warmth of the property are constant all year round.

Stewart, client

Reduced summer overheating:

A Passivhaus doesn’t just keep you warm and comfortable in winter. A well insulated home also helps to keep you cool in summer.

The Passivhaus standard also requires summer overheating to be limited. In principal, the internal temperature of a Passivhaus should not be warmer than 25oC for more than 5% of the year. However, in reality, we find this will still cause you to be uncomfortably hot for too much of the year. We recommend you aim for 0% overheating to maximise your comfort in summer.

Again, you don’t need to be aiming for the Passivhaus standard for this to be beneficial. An Architect using the Passivhaus design software will be able to predict how much overheating your home will experience in summer. And they can design appropriate mitigation measures to bring this down to 0%. This might include:

  • Internal or external blinds
  • Optimising the size of your windows, doors and rooflights.
  • External solar shading
  • Well thought out ventilation
  • Deep window reveals

Does your home suffer from overheating?

Our blog covers the key things to keep your home cool an those hot summer days

Do you need to get your home Passivhaus certified to gain these benefits?

As well as being a performance & comfort standard, Passivhaus certification can also be seen as a quality assurance standard.

Only buildings constructed to the highest tolerances, with the evidence to back this up, will achieve certification. This means, that if you do achieve the standard, you can be certain your build has been completed to an exceptional standard.

However, in our experience, you can gain many of the benefits of living in a Passivhaus by using using the methodology on your self-build, even if you don’t achieve full certification.

We’ve worked with numerous clients, using the Passivhaus methodology, who’ve been amazing by the warmth, comfort and minimal running costs of their new or refurbished home, even if we’ve not quite met the rigorous Passivhaus requirements.

Passivhaus Architects in Yorkshire

Are you looking for a Passivhaus architect who can help you create a sustainable, energy efficient home? Our team of architects and designers at HEM Architects specialise in Passivhaus in Yorkshire.

We can ensure that your home is energy efficient, comfortable and has a low environmental impact. Our team of architects in Sheffield will work with you every step of the way to create a home that not only meets your unique needs and preferences but also exceeds energy efficiency standards.

To enquire about our Passivhaus building design, please contact us today. You can reach us by phone on +44 (0) 114 4420 123 to speak with a member of our team.