A Passive House office in Frankfurt, Germany

The revolutionary Passive House system could be about to transform the commercial buildings market following a new partnership struck between the Green Building Council of Australia, the Passive House Institute and the Australian Passive House Association.

The agreement, that will encourage a new level of low energy building performance, will work towards integrating the Passive House Standard into Green Star rating tools, as well as develop guidelines and co-hosting professional development opportunities such as site tours and workshops.

“The Green Building Council of Australia recognises that the Passive House approach delivers an integrated approach to thermally comfortable, super-efficient buildings,” GBCA head of market transformation Jorge Chapa said.

He said as the industry worked towards a zero carbon future, Passive House buildings played an important role, and that the GBCA wanted more buildings to meet Passive House benchmarks.

“Passive House demonstrates that we can deliver high levels of comfort and efficiency without significant increases to costs,” Mr Chapa said.

The goal is to recognise Passive House certified buildings within Green Star and develop guidance on how Green Star credits can be achieved.

The GBCA has proposed an update to the Green Star – Design & As Built rating tool, which would recognise a new Passive House pathway to achieve Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Thermal Comfort credits.

A shift to commercial on the cards?

APHA chairman Darren O’Dea said the new partnership signalled “exciting times” ahead.

“Up until recently, Passive House buildings have been the focus of passionate residential building owners looking for great designs that address both comfort and costs,” Mr O’Dea said.

“As a result, we have more than 80,000 Passive House buildings around the world – and they are found everywhere from the cold climates of Canada to the scorching heat of Dubai.”

In Australia, the majority of projects have been low rise, detached residential.

The first commercial office space project was achieved by Monash University for its Building and Property office. At the University of Melbourne, the Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship and a multi-storey student accommodation project have also both taken the Passive House approach.

Now what is believed to be the first mixed-use multi-storey commercial project targeting the standard is planned for Abbotsford in Melbourne by family-owned development and construction company Pirovich.

Do we need a new name?

One of the reasons commercial uptake has been slow to take off could be the word “house” in the name, president of the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Association Sean Maxwell told The Fifth Estate.

He hopes the partnership will result in more commercial uptake, and also influence the direction of Green Star itself.

“The main thing is that Passive House has building science at its absolute core,” Mr Maxwell said, using it to address energy efficiency and occupant health – the key elements of sustainability.

He said Green Star had the tendency to be like a “green stamp”, but it “doesn’t necessarily mean the building is genuinely green, sustainable or healthy”.

“Passive House has really thought about its evaluation of the building and its design. It is not just a name; there’s a lot of validation involved,” Mr Maxwell said.

The commercial property sector having exposure to the concepts was a positive thing, he said, and the partnership with GBCA should increase the visibility of Passive House to the sector.

“I would like to see some serious direction. Passive House is the most serious [sustainability] game in town.”

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  1. Passive House is certainly a great standard to achieve for any client who is interested in the long term performance of their building, the occupant comfort it provides and its quality of construction. We experience clients that are not only interested in Passive House for new buildings but also for retrofitting their existing building stock. We look forward to seeing this well established and rigorous standard set a new benchmark in the Australian market.

  2. It makes so much sense – there are even bigger gains and benefits to be had from Passive House commercial buildings and the increase in scale makes it easier on the budget. In the last decade, the majority of Passive House projects I worked on in the UK were commercial (schools, offices, public buildings, community facilities) and large scale housing (predominantly apartment buildings). I’m back in NZ now and Passive House is only in the private housing market so far. Hopefully, I can help change that! 🙂

  3. Fantastic news! Great to see the local expert with a strong pulse on the Australian market partner with the international heavyweight to achieve common sustainability outcomes. Two heads are better than one.

    Best of luck.