projects. Even Habitat for Humanity, the U.S. affordable-hous-ing not-for-profit, has begun dabbling in this design style.
In fact, passive building is the fastest-growing energy-performance standard in the world, with 30,000 buildings now
adhering to the standard, according to the Building Research
Establishment Group Ltd.
“There is a lot of interest in passive design, because it can
cost significantly less than mechanically assisted solutions,”
says Andrew Chadwick, an architect at Chadwick International,
London, England. “The key is to let the building physics guide
the architect’s hand.”
When IT company Xchanging hired Mr. Chadwick to design
a new office building in Shimoga, India, the cost of air condition-
ing was front and center on the project team’s mind. The tropical
climate means temperatures regularly reach 40 degrees Celsius
(104 Fahrenheit). Yet the INR290 million building, which opened
earlier this year and accommodates 1,000 workers, doesn’t
require high cooling bills to fight the oppressive heat.
Instead, the building’s hyper-efficient envelope and insulation mean cool air stays in longer—while its footprint and
façade reduce the sun’s exposure.
“We were aware of potential climatic problems with monsoons and the like—and the build-quality issues they can present—from the outset,” says Daniel Knott, London-based senior
building physics engineer for Buro Happold, the engineering consultants on the project. His
company estimates that for every 1. 4 million new office workers in India, the country would
need a 1-gigawatt power station to power the air conditioners alone.
Xchanging’s office in
“Passive building can be a really hard thing for people in construction to understand,” says Adam
Cohen, co-owner of design firm Structures Design/Build, Roanoke, Virginia, USA. “This building
style looks at everything as a system, with an incredible attention to airtightness.”
In March, a 40,000-square-foot ( 3,716-square-meter) college dormitory on which the
company consulted, opened its doors. Passive design allowed the project to achieve 60 per-
cent lower energy costs than comparable buildings.
Having one cohesive team manage the entire design and construction process is impera-
tive to this type of project, says Mr. Cohen. “Being completely integrated—as architects,
builders, engineers—means we can holistically analyze the building and make sure the sys-
tem is seamless.”
One obstacle to increased adoption is the higher price tag that comes with passive con-
struction. Though future energy savings may spark initial interest, projects sponsors can be
hesitant to make the investment.
“Everything you need to build a passive house can be found,” Peter Schneider, a senior
project manager at the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, told The New York Times.
But he pointed to higher material standards and a less mature supply chain as two factors
that can boost costs on passive projects.
Still, Mike Knezovich, communications manager at Passive House Institute US, Urbana,
Illinois, USA, believes the number of passive projects in the United States and Canada will
1. 4 million new
office workers in
India, the country
would need a
to power the
Source: Buro Happold