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Principles of Passive House Design

Updated on September 7, 2017

Interest in smarter housing solutions is on the rise while at the same time people are becoming more aware of the importance of protecting the environment and finding alternative and clean sources of energy. Your house is the place where you spend many hours each day for many years and even some of the biggest monthly expenses may come from the bills you pay. It becomes obvious that your home is a fundamental issue to be resolved and it makes a big difference on the long-run if you come up with a smart solution. Your home is even more than a bunch of problems to be solved, but a style of living to be loved and enjoyed daily. It can certainly influence the way you feel on a micro level without having you make a conscious notice. So, what can we do to make everyday living a smarter, greener and more pleasant experience?!

Passive Solar Energy

Finding alternative sources of energy is more popular than ever. Tesla is one the famous companies that are doing lots of research and development on this subject. We may have all cars in the future run on electric energy instead of burning fossil fuels. Another promising project and a product that the company is working on is the Powerwall, a battery that stores solar energy during the day, which can be later used at night or even the next day. If you do some research on "passive house design" you will quickly notice that solar panels are already very popular and often used. It's a small investment in the beginning but return in time and further saves energy, so if you have or are building a house, certainly consider harnessing the passive solar energy. Some countries even have government programs that support greater use of green sources of energy and will give some extra benefits to users. The founder of Tesla, Elon Musk is doing much more than passive design, he is sending rockets to Mars and inventing alternatives to public transport, some call him "The Real Ironman" so if you have the chance, find out more about what he thinks about the future.

Work With the Seasons

One of the main expenses in the house often come from heating and cooling expenses. One way to cut on the bills is to simply plan the change of seasons ahead of starting to build and make sure you choose a correct placement of the house according to the sun. The sun angle changes during winter and summer, usually in winter if falls at a sharp angle and in summer it comes overhead more directly. You should double check though depending on your country and how it's positioned on the globe, but it's should be fairly simple to determine. People that work with solar panels usually know every detail so you can consult with them. Place and construct your house in such a way that it receives in more sun in the winter and less in the summer.

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass refers to the heat capacity properties of the materials that are the core of the house, for example, the floor and the walls. If wisely used, it can store heat trough the day and radiate it back slowly during the night. It works best in combination with good insulation and proper placement of the house.


One very important aspect of building a sustainable house is insulation. You have to be very careful about this one because it's kind of obvious and it's been around for a very long time, but a bad insulation can destroy all other features that you implement in your house. Some famous companies like Honda, for example, are making experimental 0 energy houses that are tested to have airproof insulation so you can imagine how important it is to have it done right. The roof and walls that are in contact with the outside ground and base should receive extra attention and a great insulation solution.

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Another alternative source of getting some free energy to regulate the temperature of your home is simply the earth beneath your house. At the surface, the earth is changing temperature more rapidly, but if you go deeper it's quite constant and some geothermal systems are able to use that energy to regulate your house temperature.

Cheap, Experimental, Environmental Cob Houses

Cob houses have a great charisma. For many, they are not the first choice for a permanent living space, but some people manage to give them a sophisticated spin and finish and end up with a great looking and yet modern and functional home. In some countries, law regulations may hinder the building process so make sure that you check the regulations before making any serious plans or investment. Even if you don't plan to build one yourself, they are a great example of simplicity and minimalism of natural building and are an inspiration to watch being built, you can find lots of resources on the web and youtube videos of course.

Earth-ships - Learning by Experimenting

If you do a little search on "Earth Ships" you will find some futuristic looking projects that are done by visionaries and environmentalists and are a great resource to learn from, because designing is not a simple challenge. People have learned a lot by trying to build completely sustainable houses that produce their own energy, water, and even a little food. That's crazy right?! Crazy, but awesome, you don't have to live in one, but take a little time to learn more about them.


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