Passive house debate heats up with Ice Box Challenge 

The Passive House Standard for low-energy buildings is being put through its paces in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market. 

The Ice Box Challenge involves putting two identical 720-kilogram blocks of ice under two separate structures – one built to the Australian Building Code, and the other to the Passive House Standard.

The boxes will then be left for 12 days to see how the ice fares. The experiment started last Friday (21 February) and will wrap up on Sunday 3 March. 

On the first temperate afternoon in Melbourne (23°C), there was already a 9°C temperature difference in the interiors of the two boxes – the Code box 18°C and the Passive House box a cool 9°C.

The public science experiment, which aims to tangibly reveal the benefits of passive house design and construction, is being run by the Australian Passive House Association with the support of the City of Melbourne, Queen Victoria Markets and members of the local construction and design industry. 

Passive house is an international building standard for low energy buildings. The buildings can use up to 90 per cent less energy for heating and cooling than other buildings do, while maintaining good indoor ventilation and air quality.

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  1. I live in Brisbane as well, have a well shaded home lots of large windows and doors to provide good cross ventilation, insulation etc but when its 38c outside with all the windows open it’s not very comfortable inside.

  2. I’m with Mark. Delicious beverages may prefer the claustrophobia of the esky, but where I live people would prefer to be sitting in the shade, in the breeze and preferably in the garden. In Brisbane we’ve only shut our extensive windows and doors a couple of times since Christmas and that was because of rain, not heat. Needless to say we spend 100% less on air-conditioning because we applied sub-tropical bio-climatic passive design principles, not North European Passivhaus dogma.

  3. Hi Mark. The point is that if you were in the box you would experience the same benefits in temperature as the case of beer. But of course, you would not be as cold as the beer because you would not have been initially been shut in the fridge to cool down. The experiment is not exactly as in a house but it is a good demonstration of the advantages of passive housing.

  4. Hi Kim
    There are downloadable details of each box on the info sheet may tab at the bottom of the page may answer your question in more detail.
    When you say there are many ways to meet the NCC requirements, yes it is true for a minimum requirement. Passive house exceeds these requirements, plus there are opportunities to take it even further with sustainable materials to reduce embodied energy and low VOC. Even go off grid and near net zero with the right design team.