Passive House Design Techniques for Alternative Dwellings
Passive House Design out of Germany is a building technique that focuses on the science of how buildings function in regards to efficiency. The quantifiable approach to building specifically addresses the ecological footprint when designing the electrical, heating/cooling, ventilation, wall system design, window placement etc., so that the building can perform passively with less-consistent utility input. As a result these buildings are extremely high-performing, requiring less energy than with conventional building, and are very comfortable to be or live in.
Passive House Design is a way to combat climate change with each building that’s built. In the hopes that the inhabitants will also notice a difference in their health and quality of life, and therefore more people will begin to understand the importance of this building science and how each choice we make can have a further reaching positive impact.
Passive House Designed homes compared to conventionally built homes may be likened to conventional food vs. organic food. They may be cheaper initially, but throughout the lifespan of the house or your life you will end up paying more in other ways to maintain your optimal level of health. Additionally, the difference in the ecological footprint is significant. Conventionally built homes are not only often built with toxic and low performing materials, but the house or building as a system doesn’t work symbiotically. Meaning (and to name a few) the wall systems don’t address thermal bridging (the least resistant path of heat transfer), or allow moisture (i.e. condensation) to escape, the ventilation systems don’t necessarily bring in constant fresh air, and the walls are not built air tight in a way that reduces outside noise. There are many other positive affects of building with Passive House Design techniques beyond the few noted above. However, let’s address how this building style can be adapted to alternative living and small dwellings that may or may not be on wheels.
These high-performance building materials offer a new way to restore a building, to convert a van or bus into a home, build a container home, convert a garage into an accessory dwelling unit, or to build a highly efficient tiny house from the trailer up. Since, Passive House Design addresses the issues of thermal bridging and efficiency it is a practical pairing for homes with large steel trailers or exterior shells. If thermal bridging and air flow is not addressed than issues of the building “moisture loading” can lead to mold, rot, or rust down the road. Which, can greatly reduce the performance and lifespan of the home.
So, it is imperative to consider the building science of your dwelling during your research stage. It’s not the most fun or glamorous part of the build and it’s definitely not talked about much, but focusing on the unseen parts initially of your home will enable you to take the lifespan of your house, your health, and your ecological footprint into consideration.
The first 5 things to consider when researching your building design:
- What is your exterior? – A steel shell like on a bus, van or container? A completely new constructed wall system?
- Where are the points that thermal bridging can occur? – Trailer frame, steel framing (wood too), exterior shell, poorly insulated/reclaimed windows and doors?
- What climate are you in? Will your home move? What if it ends up in the opposite climate it was built in? How will it function?
- What size is your home and therefore what kind of Heat/Energy Recovery Ventilation unit do you need to consistently be bringing in fresh air, since your home is built tight.
- How can you create a wall system that breaths allowing moisture to escape through the one-way vapor membranes? What type of insulation will work best? How to best mitigate issues of thermal bridging?
These are all serious questions that must be addressed, and you are at the right place! A Tiny Good Thing offers consulting and the materials needed to build green and healthy.
Happy New Year,
and remember that you can make a positive ecological impact by going Tiny, but a further impact by building wisely!