Friday, December 2, 2011

Active House versus Passivhaus

1 Dec 2011: Following a lecture by Architect Julian Marsh, I recently registered with the website - this seems to be one place for pooling knowledge on the concept of the 'Active House' . Read this page on the 'Vision' to get the full definition.
Julian's house is in the Meadows, Nottingham, and is termed by him an Active House - there are abundant ecodesign ideas in the house, and it is better than Carbon Zero, but he has not straitjacketed himself with the rigid rules of the Passivhaus Institute. It has variations in shape and materials, uses hemp insulation, parallam frame, composting toilets, PV panels, polycarbonate sunspace, micro farming of fruit and vegetables, rain and grey water collection and many such ideas that are not in Passivhaus. A Passivhaus can be lived in by occupants who ignore the rules, leave windows open, take too many baths etc. Active House implies not only that the house is actively using technology to close the gap, but the occupants are living the lifestyle too, making sure that it operates efficiently.
   The Active House website has a number of case studies and invites more to join in.... so this is a target for the future. I need to read some of the existing ones to get used to the format and level of detail. Although this site seems to have been started by people who worked for VELUX windows and roof lights (whenever a Velux is mentioned, it is quoted in upper case), but there are a number of case studies not using Velux. Anyway, I have three Veluxes in this house, and had three in my last house, and had some in the house before that. Every house I have ever designed has used them. I am now wondering if they are available in triple glazed form.

Thoughts on Retrofit
The Active house idea gives hope to retrofitters, and for those who fit renewable energy technology. The classic Passivhaus is a new build to very strict standards. The Passivhausers I know are a cliquey group and have a contempt for renewable energy technology, despite the paradox of their total attachment to MVHR systems. They try to make people who fit PV feel guilty, as if we are trying to find a quick fix short cut to being more eco-friendly. (They are correct about people who do it only for the Tariff).
   Retrofit of an existing house to Passivhaus standard can be very expensive near to impossible due to architectural limitations of the existing building. So I am open to the idea that a bit of technology can be used to compensate - if you can't reduce your heating by 3,000 kWh, you can at least generate more than that amount and feed it to the grid. For the 98% who live in existing houses, there are technologies we can add to make them work better.


  1. velux do triple glazed but they are expensive..

  2. Thanks for the note. Any triple glazing is expensive, but as we want our future extension to add Zero to the heating cost of the house (i.e. the loss less than the wall that it replaces), the triple glazing is necessary.


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