A Passive House in the Netherlands Embodies 5 Tips to Consider When Planning Your Own

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By Sheri Koones / Published by Dwell
This 2,500-square-foot Passive House was built using a panelized system—meaning the parts of the house were delivered from the factory and assembled on-site. Architect Pieter Weijnen of FARO Architecten built it for his own use.

The house is unique, thanks to its sustainable, Cradle to Cradle, and energy efficiency features—along with new and innovative products that were used in the construction. Two of these new products include a phase-changing material (PCM) for accumulating heat on the exterior of the home, and aerogel insulation—a space-age, highly efficient insulation. Along with building the house with efficient insulation and triple-pane windows, the house has a wind turbine, solar hot water panels, and a groundwater heat exchanger. This house also includes adjustable screens, a pellet stove biomass heater, radiant heating, and much more. When a municipal tree had to be removed by one of the canals, Weijnen saved it and used it across the house to hold up the living room balcony. The Energy Neutral Residence was the first Passive House certified in Amsterdam, but since this house was first built, others have also been certified. Continue reading to learn the necessary tips you need to know when considering building your own Passive House.

A Passive House in the Netherlands Embodies 5 Tips to Consider When Planning Your Own - Photo 1 of 5 -  A pergola is located at the rear of the house. The structure provides shade in the summer and lets sun into the house during the winter.

 A pergola is located at the rear of the house. The structure provides shade in the summer and lets sun into the house during the winter.

Passive House (or Passivhaus) certification is one of the fastest growing standards around the world. It focuses on reducing energy consumption for heating and cooling by about 90 percent. Below are the main design principals you need to know about these self-sufficient structures: 

1. There must be continuous insulation throughout the entire envelope of the house without any thermal bridging. 

This is accomplished by using an insulated foundation, highly efficient insulation in the walls, a well-designed roof, and extremely efficient windows. 

A Passive House in the Netherlands Embodies 5 Tips to Consider When Planning Your Own - Photo 2 of 5 - The pellet stove in the living room area serves multiple purposes including providing heat for the shower and the rooms on cold days.

The pellet stove in the living room area serves multiple purposes including providing heat for the shower and the rooms on cold days.


2. The building envelope must be airtight—not allowing any infiltration of exterior air or loss of the conditioned air from the interior of the house. 

Builders can now use advanced framing techniques that leave no room for air to get through. Insulation is also carefully placed so there are no gaps where air can infiltrate. A blower door test shows where air is coming in, and the builder can then fill those gaps.  

A Passive House in the Netherlands Embodies 5 Tips to Consider When Planning Your Own - Photo 3 of 5 - The living room is located on the split-level second floor balcony, and is held up by the tree trunk and secure poles. The kitchen can be seen below.

The living room is located on the split-level second floor balcony, and is held up by the tree trunk and secure poles. The kitchen can be seen below.


3. Windows and doors must be high-performance. 

Most Passive Houses now use triple-pane windows that are more effective in containing heat and cool air. 

A Passive House in the Netherlands Embodies 5 Tips to Consider When Planning Your Own - Photo 4 of 5 - The dining and kitchen area are located on the first floor. The ceramic tile is from a local source, which is Cradle to Cradle certified.

The dining and kitchen area are located on the first floor. The ceramic tile is from a local source, which is Cradle to Cradle certified.

4. Heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation is required, along with minimal space conditioning. 

Because the Passive Houses are so tight, there's limited fresh air in the house. ERVs and HRVs exchange the interior stale air for fresh air from the outside, while maintaining the heat and cool air that has been created in the interior. 

A Passive House in the Netherlands Embodies 5 Tips to Consider When Planning Your Own - Photo 5 of 5 - A technique was used for the wood front of the house called shou-sugi-ban, a traditional Japanese technique that burns cypress wood in order to make it more sustainable. The wood is layered with bright orange planks. Solar collectors, which consist of double-glass tubes that minimize heat loss, form a cornice on the front facade of the house. A wind turbine is on the roof. 

A technique was used for the wood front of the house called shou-sugi-ban, a traditional Japanese technique that burns cypress wood in order to make it more sustainable. The wood is layered with bright orange planks. Solar collectors, which consist of double-glass tubes that minimize heat loss, form a cornice on the front facade of the house. A wind turbine is on the roof. 


5. The sun's energy is maximized to take advantage of solar gain in the colder seasons, and minimize it in the warmer seasons.  

This is accomplished by placing the house so that it maximizes solar energy. Other techniques that can be used to accomplish this is by placing the social areas of the home on the south side of the house. Closets and bathrooms can be on the north side, where rooms are less used. 

Windows should also be more plentiful on the south side to take advantage of solar gain. Smaller and fewer windows should be placed on the north side to avoid heat loss. Large overhangs also block the sun in the summer when solar heat should be avoided, and allows sun in during the winter when it's lower in the sky. All of these design features add minimally to the construction, but help to limit the amount of heating and cooling required, even in cold climates. 

For further information about Passive House standards, take a look through their website