Building a home, be it Passive or traditional, will come with all the bells and whistles of the construction process. At the center of it all, will be a lot of numbers. Particularly those that affect the bottom line, and nobody wants to pay more than they should.
Building a Passive House does come with a not to be sniffed at price tag compared to their more conventional counterparts. For example, building a Passive House in Germany might cost you 8% more. This can easily increase if we are talking about markets where Passive House materials are not easily available.
However, there are significant other advantages for going green the Passive House way. In the long term, savings upon savings will be made in terms of your utility bills, the house will endure better in time, your living standards will be much improved, and construction times can be halved by planning correctly and with due diligence.
This is what we are trying to do with this article. To show you what exactly means going green the Passive way and whether or not your wallet will thank you in the end.
The Construction Process, Headaches Ahead?
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Whenever we think of building sustainably, we immediately think that it will cost a lot, will be time-consuming, the materials will cost more and that the whole process will be prolonged unnecessarily. We are here to tell you that all these issues are simply not true nowadays.
A preferred method of building green is through the use of cross laminated timber (CLT). Like all dry layered construction systems, CLT can come in handy if the construction time is an issue.
They come to site ready with all the relevant outlet holes for switches, light fixtures, sanitary fixtures and so on.
All this prefabrication can certainly prove useful, but it does mean that the planning process will now be the most important point of focus of the entire construction process. If this is done correctly, then the execution phase will be a breeze and before you know it, your Passive House is built. This is how much of a difference shifting the decision-making process to the planning phase can make.
Prefabricated building components can not only reduce the construction time but implicitly also the labor costs associated with the construction. When you add the further savings you can make by not having to worry about a central heating system, a serious case is made to consider building the Passive way.
Money-Saving Passive House Principles
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It goes without saying that you cannot just build any house and claim it to be a Passive House. It must adhere to some pretty strict guidelines that can actually end up saving you money. We thought it best to jot them all down in a list:
1. High Quality Insulation
The approach here taken by the Passive House Institute is actually close to ‘super insulation’. The idea is to engulf the whole building with an ‘envelope’ of insulation without any breaks from other materials used in the building. The end objective here is to ensure that the building will hold in as much warmth as possible.
Following on this idea of separating the interior and exterior environment, we also want to make the building envelope super airtight. This way, no unwanted and uncontrolled leakages of air (and therefore heat and humidity) occur.
3. No Thermal Bridging
Essentially, no thermal bridging means to avoid losing heat through materials traditionally known for being heat conducting. The perfect example is the frame of a window.
The solution here is simple: the investment in windows of the highest quality to avoid the heat loss that can so easily occur through them. This leads to our next point:
4. Passive House Windows
Windows are the most high-tech product and usually the most expensive square meterage of the building envelope. It is crucial to design for the heat losses and solar gains specific to the climate and orientation.
5. Mechanical Ventilation
With passive houses, stale air is a thing of the past. By employing the use of what is called mechanical ventilation, the house essentially removes old air and moisture through a heat recovery ventilator.
Besides delivering fresh air, the system also extracts the heat from the outgoing air to warm the air coming inside the house. This way, you get the best of both worlds: fresh air and no heat loss from the air already inside the house.
The benefits of employing the above standards can translate in what can be called the joy of life ‘costs’:
- Lower energy bills and carbon emissions
- Snug rooms with no cold spots in the winter and ‘cool as a cucumber’ rooms in the summer
- Cleaner inside air
- Low maintenance
- Less dependency on technology equals fewer boiler emergencies and repairs
- No radiators? No problem – more wall space for pictures, chic furniture or comfy sofas
Government Supported Grants and Incentives
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The added benefit of building a sustainable house is that the government actually rewards you for it.
Take the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme whereby households all over Australia can install a renewable energy system or hot water system and have part of the cost of installation covered.
You can also take advantage of the feed-in tariff whereby you receive a credit for any unused electricity that your solar power system sends back to the grid. Although it might not prove to be much of a difference, this is normally balanced out through your electricity bills.
Energy and Utility Savings Galore
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With a Passive House, energy consumption is decreased to such a level that a household will no longer be worried about unforeseen energy price increases. The house can be practically independent of imported energy. You can achieve this by switching to a renewable electricity supplier or by implementing wood pellet heating.
The Bottom Line
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It is our hope that this article has proven conclusively that the assumption of passive housing equals steep upfront costs with little to no long term benefits is truly and utterly false.
We can go even further and put some numbers down for you. Studies have shown that, on a conservative estimate, a passive house will pay for itself in 16 to 33 years. On the other hand, if a positive economic forecast is employed, this estimate drops to 16 – 26 years.
Moreover, as Passive Houses gain in popularity, it will become easier to find the right materials at a good price and the right experts you can rely on to deliver the project on time. More importantly, this all means that the overall costs of building a Passive House will be closer if not the same as if you were to build a house the conventional way.
With all the above in mind, it is our hope that the whole cost and numbers game surrounding passive housing has been somewhat demystified. However, if you still feel overwhelmed by all of this, and you think a course in the subject matter at hand might be of help, then you can easily register for one of our courses here.