Monash University's Woodside Building for Technology and Design. Image supplied by APHA.

Contrary to popular opinion, a Passive House certified home doesn’t need to be a windowless box.

That much is clear from the Australian Passive House Association’s new book full of Passive House projects in Australia and abroad, which was launched at the South Pacific Passive House Conference a few weeks ago by APHA Board Member and Strategy Working Group Leader Andy Marlow, who is a director at Envirotecture.

A key takeaway from the book featuring 22 Australian buildings is the sheer diversity of Passive House projects underway in terms of shape, size and use.

On the larger side, Monash University’s Gillies Hall has had the title as the southern hemisphere’s largest certified Passive House building overthrown by another building at the university, the Woodside Building for Technology and Design.

The five-storey, smart-technology enabled building manages to meet the stringent energy reduction requirements while still providing plenty of natural light for students. Unlike Gillies Hall, which is made from engineered timber, the technology building is predominantly steel.  

Other interesting projects that showcase the versatility of the building technique include Heathmont in Victoria, which has a saw-toothed roof and lofty ceilings to capture views and natural light.

The building was made using the prefabricated Panellite system for the roof and walls, which reduced the complexity of the build and made construction quicker and less wasteful.

In his presentation, Andy Marlow also pointed to the Owl Woods in the regional Victorian town of Trentham for another example of a Passive house certified home with an unusual shape. It’s also in a spot with climatic extremes – snow in winter to summer temperatures of 40°C.

Owl Woods in Trentham. Image supplied by APHA.
Owl Woods in Trentham. Image supplied by APHA.

The separate wings and integrated courtyards certainly posed a challenge as it meant more wall area was exposed to the prevailing weather but it was possible to meet energy efficiency requirements by increasing insulation values and using triple-glazed high-performance windows.

Another noteworthy project detailed in the book, intended to inspire “friends, family, clients and even politicians” who may not be that familiar with the building technique, was Sapphire in NSW. With the site in a BAL-FZ (Flame Zone), Marlow says the building had the unique Australian challenge of building a bushfire resilient home to Passive House standard.

Sapphire in NSW. Image supplied by APHA.

Another trailblazer is the Torrens Early Learning Centre, a day care and kindergarten facility and the only privately-owned Passivhaus educational facility in the world.

“If you were going to build something with great indoor air quality you would want it to be the buildings where our kids learn for 40 hours a week.”

Torrens Early Learning Centre. Image supplied by APHA.

The book also includes International examples and most notably, a section for honourable attempts ­– those buildings that went for certification but fell short.

Marlow says that it’s important to show that a narrow miss helps show what is possible, and still results in an ultra-energy efficient, comfortable building.

This section includes a retrofit, which Marlow says is much harder but arguably more important given the number of poor performing buildings already in existence. 

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