Paul Wall APHA CEO
Paul Wall

The Australian Passive House Association’s first chief executive appointment is a signal that this particular way of building highly sustainable houses is about to move to a wider patch, beyond residential.

The association has recently appointed Paul Wall who hails from Dexus where he’s been head of group sustainability and energy for several years and is firmly entrenched in the commercial side of the property industry.

Just as interesting is that the association’s chair is Chris Nunn who is equally part of the commercial world after several years as head of sustainability real estate with AMP Capital and previously with JLL and NDY.

Nunn quietly took the lead role last year after joining as a board member in 2017.

So what are two stalwarts of commercial property sustainability doing in the housing side of business?

According to Wall, it’s a no brainer. He’s built a passive house for his family in a town near Ulladulla on the NSW South Coast and so has pretty much become one of the Passive House fans that increasingly pepper the sustainable housing world.

Besides he’s a licensed builder and this move, for just two days a week, will enable him to pursue a new business as a consultant in his more traditional field of expertise in engineering, operations and capital works.

“One of the reasons I took the job is that I continue to be disappointed in the way we build residential properties in this country and if I can promote something that is enormously compelling and has broader impacts not just on energy efficiency but on people’s health and has far more benefits, I want to give it a go.

“Having all the learnings from commercial and all the contacts through the various advocacy I’ve done and also the experience with boards will help.”

Taking over Wall’s management functions at Dexus will be Rob Sims who’s moving into to a senior manager role after being with the company for five years and David Yates, executive general manager investor relations, communications and sustainability.

Taking passive house to wider applications

Nunn thinks there are much bigger areas of engagement for passive house than residential – areas such as schools, retirement homes and student accommodation for instance. But in Australia it’s also starting to make a play in major office buildings and there is no reason why Australia should be any different, he says.

It’s no surprise that this interest in passive house is coming from the commercial side, either, Nunn says.

“Most of us working in the commercial property sector are genuinely motivated to make sustainable environments as a whole. All of us would like to see progress in the resi sector.”

Like Wall, Nunn is building a passive house for his family on Sydney’s northern suburbs.

After 20 years in the industry he believes the method pretty much guarantees high performance, high comfort and can operate on very low energy consumption.

The key is the high quality fabric and construction methods.

While it’s true that a poor quality building can be powered by clean energy this will generally require closed doors and windows, therefore raising the levels of CO2. Passive house can dramatically lower the level of energy needed so that maybe only a small solar array is needed and it can filter air with a low tech filtration system that creates a clean indoor environment.

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  1. Hi Clare,You are spot on. PassivHaus is being applied to public/local government projects here in Victoria. Overseas, it has been applied to various project types.

  2. One big clarification here – Passivhaus isn’t just for homes! Look around the industry and the action is in other sectors, like education and commercial. There is far more opportunity to be had in these types of buildings.

    1. HI Clare, yes indeed! And thanks for pointing this out. This expansion outside of housing was too far down the article and I’ve now amended the headline to note this.