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Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

WHAT
TO TAKE CARE OF
WHILE DESIGNING
A PASSIVE HOUSE?
4. semester elective self-study report

Bachelor of Architectural Technology and
Construction Management
Author: Łukasz Dereszyński
Consultant: Mihoko Goto Brethvad
Institution: VIA University College, Aarhus,
Denmark
Hand-in date: 4th May 2015

0

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

Title page
Architectural Technology and Construction Management

TITLE OF DISSERTATION: What to take care of while designing a passive house?
CONSULTANT: Mihoko Goto Brethvad
AUTHOR: Łukasz Dereszyński
Student number: 204585
Date / Signature: 4th May 2015
Number of copies: 1
Number of pages: 19 (2400 characters per page)
Number of characters: 21 706
Font: Calibri 12
All rights reserved – no part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior
permission of the author.
NOTE: This dissertation was completed as part of a Bachelor of Architectural
Technology and Construction Management degree course – no responsibility is taken
for any advice, instruction or conclusion given within!

1

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

Abstract
This report is a part of 4th semester elective self study (ESS) subject of the
Architectural Technology and Construction Management bachelor education.
Passive housing is an innovative approach to energy saving in modern building
industry. Its principle is to improve already existing parameters and systems rather
than implementing new solutions. However, in order to live up to passive house
standard, a building needs to be designed with a certain strategy. Aim of this report is
to find out what are the primary rules of the one.
Content of the report has been put together using combination of secondary data
(which means I used already existing knowledge) with own analytical thinking. Such a
relation is called constructivists method.
Key words: passive house, energy efficiency, sustainability, design, U-value, energy
frame, mechanical ventilation, energy-related components

2

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

Table of content
Contents
Title page ....................................................................................................................................... 1
Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... 2
Table of content ............................................................................................................................ 3
List of illustrations ......................................................................................................................... 4
1.

Introduction and problem formulation................................................................................. 5

2.

Main body ............................................................................................................................. 6
2.1 U-value ................................................................................................................................ 6
2.2 Design principles ................................................................................................................. 8
2.3 Thermal bridges................................................................................................................. 10
2.4 Airtightness ....................................................................................................................... 12
2.5 Ventilation strategies and building services ..................................................................... 14

3.

Conslusion ........................................................................................................................... 17

List of references ......................................................................................................................... 18
Illustrations references ............................................................................................................... 19

3

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

List of illustrations
Listed in order of appearance

Figure 1. Cover page logo
Figure 2. U-Value calculation………………………………………………………………………………………6
Figure 3. Comparison of thermal conductivities of insulation materials……………………..6
Figure 4. Passive house orientation…………………………………………………………………………….8
Figure 5. Relation between surface area and heat loss.………………………………………………9
Figure 6. Infrared thermography – thermal bridge through uninsulated balcony joint…………………………………………………10
Figure 7. Airtightness on the section………………………………………………………………………….12
Figure 8. Heat exchanger in mechanical ventilation…………………………………………………..14
Figure 9. Mechanical ventilation layout……………………………………………………………………..15

4

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

1. Introduction and problem formulation
The report down below is a part of 4th semester elective self study (ESS) demanded by
syllabus for the Architectural Technology and Construction Management bachelor
education program. It has been put together using secondary data (already existing
knowledge which I obtained through books associated with the topic and the Internet)
combined with own analytical thinking.
The report is a part of sustainability subject and the problem formulation can be
shortly included in the question: What to take care of while designing a passive
house?
Passive house is a term describing very particular standard a building has to live up to
in order to be called so. It refers to extremely thorough demands for energy efficiency
which eventually leads to significant reduction of human impact on the Earth’s
environment. I decided to aim my research on sustainability due to its increasing
importance in modern building industry.
Passive housing is also an innovative idea in approach to energy saving in modern
building industry. Its roots can be found back in 1990 in Darmstadt, Germany, where
first concept got executed. The building ended up using 90% less heating than it was
required at that point of time. However, principle of passive housing is to improve
already existing parameters and systems rather than implementing new solutions.
Main theme of conversation going on about passive houses is that in order to live up to
destined standard it has to be implemented by experienced, careful and thoughtful
construction crew. Hardly ever does it get mentioned that a project needs to be
designed with a certain strategy. This report will conclude with clear answer what are
the principles of one.
What does report focus on?
• U-value, air-tightness, thermal bridge
• Guidelines for compact design
• Mechanical ventilation
• Building services

All of mentioned above will be presented in relation to design process. The report will
not treat about detailed statistics, numbers, requirements and calculations. In spite of
that, some of my arguments will be exceptionally based on such data in order to
reflect the point clearly. The report does not provide full knowledge about passive
house design; the topic is very complex and therefore the report gives just a brief
answer to the problem formulation.

5

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

2. Main body
2.1 U-value
U-value is an essential term for buildings’ energy performance. It is a measure of heat
loss through one square meter of specific building component such as a roof, ground
floor deck or an external wall divided by the temperature difference on the both sides
of the given structure. Therefore its numerical value is expressed in W/m2K. It
describes how well or bad given material transfers heat. The lower U-value the better
thermal properties are. Thus it is of considerable importance in passive house to
choose appropriate insulating materials. Final U-value for a building component is
achieved by combining thermal conductivities of all the layers involved (see figure 2).

Figure 2. U-value calculation (own work)
At early design process it should be thought of.
Such an approach helps to avoid costly revisions
and possible changes. Danish building regulations
set up demands for specific components (look at
the next page). Nevertheless it is recommended to
go as much down as possible with U-value. It can
be achieved either by increasing insulation
thickness (which, however, has a number of
disadvantages) or improving insulation class (see
figure 3).

Figure 3. Thermal conductivity
comparison (http://www.brita-inpubs.eu/bit/uk/03viewer/retrofit_meas
ures/pics/env_insul_pic1.gif)

6

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

Passive house is mostly about careful designing to use significantly less energy than
regular buildings. Therefore U-value plays such an important role in achieving that.
Here are listed down some recommended exemplary values for particular building
components:
• External wall < 0,15 W/m2K
• Roofs / top-floor ceilings < 0,1 W/m2K
• Floors < 0,15 W/m2K
• Windows < 0,85 W/m2K
• External doors < 0,8 W/m2K
An excellent thermal insulation not only does keep the heat inside the building, but
also protects it from overheating. It is very important during rather hot months when
the building is constantly exposed to sun impact. If it was not insulated well enough
(meaning that temperature inside the building would increase) the cooling system
would have to work more efficiently, which would result in having higher energy
consumption. This is clearly not wanted in a passive house; therefore it is up to a
designer to get around with the possible problem.

7

Łukasz Dereszyński
What to take care of while designing a passive house?

2.2 Design principles
Passive house and its desired functional idea can only work entirely correct if
appropriate coordination between energy-related structures applies. It is a crucial rule
in order to achieve the energy balance. This paragraph mainly concerns pure
architectural approach.
Firstly, a plot where a building in passive house standard is going to be built is of
extreme importance. It must be noticed that not all of building plots are appropriate
for this type of housing; since solar gain contributes vastly (as I will explain more
further in) it is essential that no major shading covers the hypothetical location of a
passive house.

Figure 4. Passive house orientation
(www.yourhome.gov.au/sites/prod.yourhome.gov.au/files/images/heating-climateorientation_fmt.png)

Therefore it is rather complicated to erect such a building in a downtown area of big
metropolis due to vicinity of high office buildings etc.; on the other side, suburbs areas
and similar are very likely to be a good base for well-functioning passive house.
Shading, though, in some cases might be beneficial. It applies in the case when a
building plot has got east or west shading, which can be a good thing to reduce the risk
of overheating during hot months. Before any sketches of the house get drown a
thorough assessment of the plot must be performed. By doing so the designer makes
sure that a client will get the most out of it, which eventually will lead to maintenance
costs reduction (see figure 4).
Second of all, a building must have an efficient shape. It is based on the rule that
amount of heat loss from any building envelope is proportional to its surface area.
There is a proper term for it widely known as the shape factor, which as a matter of
fact is the ratio of the building’s surface area (A) divided by its volume (V). The shape
factor for a standard single-family house should be around 0,8 – 1,0m2/m3, however
some sources claim 0,5 m2/m3 for being the most suitable. Therefore buildings with
compact design, simple geometry and little number of structural joints are very likely
to experience low heat losses. Shape factor is often used as a preliminary tool to
establish heating demands for the building.

8


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