The Passive house standard is a performance standard
Not an aesthetic or style standard.

But people are vitally interested in the visual design aspect of their home!

Three things in particular have become apparent to me as I consider passive house design.
  1. Often passive house architects opt for a minimalistic design approach ( above all the house must be compact ) which may exceed the real needs of the location.
  2. The quality of the lives of people is influenced to a considerable degree by the visual beauty of the design of their house,
  3. There are striking regional / national design trends for passive houses throughout the world which New Zealand could benefit from examining and / or using.
  4. It's early days yet !
Let's look at some of these.

But first of all, let's look at a site which showcases six exceptional passive house designs from around the world. This site uses Flash for the pictures. What you should see there are:

And the site is 6 Uber Cool Passivhaus Designs From Around the World! This site has suddenly been mirrored all around the world.
The top part of the site has text explaining something about all but one (the New Mexico house) of the houses.
However, dig deeper and you will find a lot of explanation. Fascinating and much to think about.
These are exceptional designs! Back to reality!

New Zealand designs.
First, from Glenn Murdoch with permission, this sketch of a design for a Central Otago house.

I don't know, as at the time of writing this ( 9 January 2012 ) how this building has progressed.

This design is intended for a locality with winter temperatures down to minus 15 deg, Celcius and maximum temperatures of up to about 35 deg. Celcius. Atmospheric humidities are never great, and wind strengths can exceed 140 kph. Rainfall is probably about 500mm per annum with some of that falling as snow.

Second, from Uwe Rieger of Auckland, an academic architect, this design for a housing complex on an Auckland waterfront site, from his file "Uwe Rieger.pdf", "The First Passive House Settlement in New Zealand; A Residential Project for Auckland", prepared for the Auckland City Council in November 2010.
This is his pdf file

This is a sub-tropical site where winter temperatures seldom fall below 10 deg. Celcius or rise above 28 deg Celcius in summer. Rainfall is approximately 1500 mm p.a. and wind speeds could reach 120 kph on occasions.
From my limited experience of Auckland, what people need most of from what passive houses have to offer is control of summer humidity and heat, and insects ( mosquitos ). I wonder about the design of those units which would gather far more light and heat for the interior than people would be comfortable with, and the monotonous uniformity of style for all those units ( see the pdf file for images ). Does anybody trust flat or near-flat roofs in a high rainfall area?

It seems to me that there is scope for greater flexibilty in New Zealand visual design performance - but it's early days yet.

Yes, passive houses should be as compact as possible.
But I think that the trade-off between cubic design on the one hand, and more shape flexibilty plus increased insulation and joinery costs on the other hand, should be explored in public some more. I understand that the push to keep costs down is also part of the equation that determines building shape.

Would you like to see a passive house in New Zealand now?

You can follow the blog of the first build at. New Zealand's first Passive house blog-spot
Glenn Murdoch at Wanaka, is a major designer of passive houses.

AS of May 2012, Glenn has an office in Christchurch, so is readily available to create sustainable, healthy, warm and economic houses to replace homes for earthquake victims.

Passive-house links for New Zealand.
Passive House Organisation, NZ <- Click here
the PHNZ list of PH architects <- Click here

See also The Passive House Institute of New Zealand <- Click here
which also has useful suggestions and ideas.

United States of North America.

Here's one very new site from the USA.

American Passive House network

The "American Passive House Network" is not the only USA passive house site, but it does show some very interesting designs which illustrate what thinking outside the square can contrive. The thumb-nail images below were on the front page of their site in January 2012.

Note the snow!
It may well not be easy to achieve such designs in New Zealand, and / or the cost might well be quite high, but who knows?

To come: other countries ...

Great Britain

Passive house architects.
Glenn Murdoch at Wanaka, a major designer of passive houses.

Forced air ventilation equipment, suppliers, available information, apparent performance, and so on. seems to have a reasonable reputation.

Windows and doors available in New Zealand.
This site intuswindows, based in the USA with factories in Lithuania, sources high quality components from around the world, and in the past 18 years claims to have exported more than 600,000 manufactured windows and doors all over the world.

229 Kaikorai Valley Road in Dunedin
Phone: 03 453 03 40
E-mail     Website Eurotech-WinDoorsŪ


Design and construction.

Links to pages about the seven precepts of Passive House design.


Very efficient Insulation

No thermal bridges

Air-tight construction

Great ventilation

Passive heating

High-efficiency windows

Passive solar gain

Prices / costs

Important considerations

Early perceptions

Design standards