Our news feeds are inundated with stories of damp and unhealthy homes. As such, we are increasingly aware that homes need to be warm, dry, well-ventilated and energy efficient in order for us to stay off the doctor’s waiting list. A Certified Passive House ticks all of these boxes with ease.
“The Passive House Standard is the benchmark for exceptional comfort, unsurpassed energy efficiency and reliable quality assurance,” Ethos Homes marketing manager, Amanda Bielski says.
Ethos Homes is a specialist building company based in Christchurch, known for embracing the latest innovative techniques to ensure optimum efficiency.
The passive house standard has become its specialty. Though passive houses have been built and enjoyed for many years in Europe, they’re a relatively new concept in New Zealand; the first certified passive house was built in 2012, now there are 22 nationwide: four in Christchurch, two of which were built by Ethos Homes.
Ethos Homes was recently involved in hosting passive house open days – two of its clients kindly opened their homes up to the public for others to experience the comfort of a passive house firsthand.
The open homes saw 98 separate parties walk through the doors, a sure sign that word is spreading and a welcomed insight into people’s perceptions of a passive house. “It made us realise there are a lot of myths surrounding the passive house standard,” Amanda says.
MYTH 1: A ‘passive’ house and a ‘passive solar’ house are the same thing
Not true, Amanda says. “Passive solar homes, whilst a step in the right direction, are designed to primarily utilize solar gain by positioning the home’s doors and windows to the north to capture and store the sun’s warmth,” she says.
A certified passive house takes a ‘fabric first’ approach to building design.
“It requires the use of Passive House Planning Package software to model the house and energy use. This reliably and accurately predicts how much energy will be needed to keep a house comfortable.
“As part of the certification process, an independent Passive House Institute certifier checks and verifies the homes’ construction and performance.”
MYTH 2: A passive house is too expensive
“We spend a lot of time in our homes, so there needs to be a shift away from looking at cost and more towards value,” Amanda says.
Yes, a passive house will cost slightly more per square meter than an equivalent building code-built house, because it is built better with more insulation, thicker walls, thermally broken joinery, an airtight membrane, a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system (MVHR), and a thermally broken insulated pad – thermally broken refers to any material with a built in thermal barrier, optimising energy saving by preventing heat loss.
“There is a noticeable trend towards building with a reduced floor area to achieve a compact home with a superior, high performance construction. And so, by reducing the square metres, overall the home may cost the same as a standard build, but the value has increased,” says Guy Gillespie, Director of Ethos Homes.
Once built, passive homes require minimal to no heating or cooling as there are no thermal bridges, the house and your health will benefit; it’s worth the investment. “We all deserve to live in homes that contribute to our wellbeing.”
MYTH 3: Passive homes all the look the same
It’s important to remember that a passive house isn’t a specific building style, it’s a building standard.
“Passive homes don’t all have to look the same,” Amanda explains. “The key principles of passivity can be tailored to fit very different styles of homes, from a traditional home to a modern home. The same applies to windows, cladding and floors, as long as they meet the requirements, the choice is yours.”
MYTH 4: But it’s airtight – don’t homes have to breathe?
The MVHR is the ‘heart and lungs’ of the home – it does all the ‘breathing’ the house requires.
“Passive homes are designed to enable you to have control over your living environment. If you are holding a party, you can set the MVHR to boost and it will maintain the temperature and increase the flow of fresh air.
“There is no need to open a window if its cold or noisy outside; warm, fresh, pollutant and allergen-free air is constantly entering the home – but it’s your home, open all the windows if you want, let the house ‘breathe’, live however you want to”.
Talk to the team
If building energy-efficient is important to you, talk to the team with a proven track record and experience spanning several decades.
“At Ethos Homes we pride ourselves on building with integrity. We provide you with variable solutions to achieving an energy efficient home. Our continuum begins with our standard Ethos build (which is built well beyond NZ’s build requirements) and advances through to the internationally-recognised Certified Passive House.”
The level of energy efficiency you wish to achieve is entirely up to you.