passive house

What’s so wrong with new homes today?

Looks modern  - but homes like this are really no different than brick homes from 100 years ago.

Looks modern - but homes like this are really no different than brick homes from 100 years ago.

You wouldn’t think of going to the car yard and buying a brand new version of gas guzzling car from the 1950’s… Well unfortunately most new homes today are the equivalent of a 1950’s car; inefficient, archaic design, materials and construction technology, and generally unhealthy to live in.

Home construction has not improved much in the last century. Double brick construction was originally introduced to WA because raw clay material was plentiful, and the labour force from England was familiar with brick laying. It was easy, fast and cheap. Bricks were solid and provided occupants with something of a thermal buffer from moderately hot and cold climates.

Fast forward to modern day and bricks are now hollowed out to save clay. Unfortunately this takes away the key benefit of using bricks - thermal mass. In real terms this means that a typical brick home today is worse than a home built 100 years ago. If it wasn’t for reverse cycle air conditioning, most new homes wouldn’t meet a minimum standard for comfort.

Fast Wall Brick

Fast Wall Brick

Even new homes built to the building code perform quite poorly in comparison to what is available in other developed nations.  The Australian NatHERS energy rating system currently in use is deeply flawed, easily ‘gamed’ by builders and assessors and doesn’t ensure your building will perform as expected, or be healthy and comfortable to live in. source

The pursuit of a high star rating will not necessarily result in a high performance home, as is evidenced in a number of projects.

The NatHERS calculation is open to significant error. The calculation is undertaken at design-stage and is rarely verified following construction. It is common for projects designed as 6 Star or above to be realised as 1-2 Star in reality; the result is thermally under-performing buildings, high energy costs, increased carbon emissions, and, ultimately, unhappy consumers.

In other words, as a new home buyer it is generally impossible to know if you are getting what you pay for.

At its core, the designer, builder and energy assessor are using flawed building analysis tools and archaic construction techniques in the hope that they design and build a home that is comfortable. You cant exactly get a refund on a new home if it fails to perform, so it is little wonder air conditioning and underfloor heating gets installed…just in case. But why spend the money on add-ons when you could just design and build the house right in the first place?

The way forward

To deliver a sustainable and comfortable home that does what is expected, a more sophisticated, scientific based approach to design, analysis and construction is required.

After years of practise and research, we found that the Passive House standard from Germany provides a proven scientific method for achieving healthy and comfortable homes for the WA climate. 

Previously only available to knowledgable clients with large budgets, we have developed the ideal construction method for WA's warm temperate climate. Timber Framing is superior to brick in many ways. Fast, robust, cost effective and materially efficient, Leanhaus sets the standard for health, comfort and efficiency in WA.

Ever since the creation of the world's first Passive House (or Passive Haus) in Darmstadt-Kranichstein, Germany 30 years ago, Passive House has been the leading standard for energy efficient, healthy, comfortable, economic and environmentally friendly buildings worldwide. 

It has become an increasingly recognised benchmark due to its ability to verify the quality of construction, ensure indoor comfort, and reduce operational energy consumption for heating and cooling by around 90% in comparison with an equivalent legally prescribed building standard.

Passive House relies on careful design and the integration of special construction systems to deliver a superior standard of building with higher quality construction, reduced energy costs, better occupant comfort and improved indoor air quality.

Leanhaus’ building methods have been specifically designed to incorporate Passive House requirements and includes a highly insulated building envelope with a ventilated facade. It also includes specialist air tightness barriers, which control air loss and vapour infiltration, as well as minimised thermal bridging through timber framed construction.

Leanhaus offers an integrated approach to design and construction, with consideration to the Passive House standard from the earliest stage. Careful consideration of siting and orientation, together with local climatic conditions, are used to identify optimum energy efficient solutions.

For a more scientific description of Passive House, continue reading here.