First In Architecture, 2019
Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 12 inches | 140 pages | 80+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1916190580 | £39.99
Understanding Passivhaus is a simple guide to the Passivhaus standard. The book explains the principles behind Passivhaus thinking, and explores numerous construction methods for achieving the Passivhaus standard.
The book features over 40 construction details, in 2D and 3D. All of these details are available to download in CAD and SketchUp format!
Recently I participated in a panel discussion at NYU on sustainable architecture in and beyond New York City. At one point in the conversation the topic veered to the city’s requirement for larger existing buildings to be retrofitted to more stringent green-building standards. I had heard about the requirement upon its 2017 announcement, but I was surprised to learn in the discussion that the retrofits would target the equivalent of Passivhaus standards. This is good news from the perspective of energy usage, since buildings designed according to Passivhaus guidelines use considerably less energy than buildings with conventional construction. But for years I saw Passivhaus as too stringent for anything but the occasional townhouse, at least in NYC and other cities where people could afford the extra costs of the beefy insulation and other elements required to build an air-tight, super-insulated building. That NYC would be requiring equivalent standards in retrofits said to me that Passivhaus was entering the mainstream, becoming more achievable on a wider scale thirty years after it was first developed in Germany.
Just like LEED, which requires architects and engineers to be LEED accredited in order to submit a design for LEED certification, Passivhaus requires certification for architects designing for Passivhaus certification. If you’re an architect who doesn’t want to take the certification exam but wants to gain some understanding of Passivhaus and, more importantly, get a handle on some of the details that go into a building meeting those standards, Understanding Passivhaus is a good place to start. Published in print and digital versions by Emma Walshaw’s First In Architecture, the book has a UK leaning in terms of the climate used to inform the many details and the case studies that follow those details. The book basically has three parts: Principles of Passivhaus Design, Construction Details, and Case Studies. Most architects will be attracted to the second, which covers reinforced concrete construction, insulated concrete formwork, masonry walls, timber frames, and SIPS construction. Each type of construction is illustrated with wall, floor, window, roof, and foundation details, all of them aimed at illustrating the two continuous elements needed for achieving Passivhaus standards at the building’s exterior: thermal insulation layer and airtightness layer. Those details are generic so the case studies are helpful real-world examples, particularly with the details provided by the architects.
I’m not a Passivhaus-certified designer, so I can’t say how accurate Walshaw’s details and information are, but both the texts and the drawing are clear, which makes sense considering it’s geared to students and young professionals. A short bibliography (roughly one-third print and two-thirds digital) is provided, but this is not an academic book so those resources are not referenced back to the text, nor does the text provide sources for any information. With Passivhaus gaining a foothold in NYC and beyond, books like this should become more common, though one thing setting this one apart will be the availability of all the details as CAD and SketchUp files.
Emma Walshaw is the founder of First in Architecture, a website dedicated to providing students and professionals in the architectural field guidance, resources and advice. Emma has written five construction detailing books.