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Exploring the Role of Ventilation in Passivhaus Living: Comfort and Health Benefits

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Mar 06, 2024

The need to address global warming is urgent due to its impact on society and the environment.

Buildings play a major role in the emission of greenhouse gases as they account for 35% of total global energy consumption. By implementing sustainable building practices in terms of efficient ventilation, both residential and commercial buildings can help mitigate climate change in several ways.

Sustainable Passivhaus ventilation systems are able to meet the requirements and demand for energy-efficient buildings.

What is Passivhaus ventilation?

The Passivhaus standard  concerns both user comfort and high energy efficiency of dwellings using appropriate heating, ventilation and materials to ensure that emissions are kept to a minimum.    The use of MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery)  involves the extraction of humid and stale air from wet rooms through a heat cell which is able to retain some of the heat lost. Fresh, filtered air is then supplied into the habitable rooms in the dwelling which passes through the heat cell, ensuring  that a significant portion of the heat energy within the building is retained, reducing the overall energy demand.

Passivhaus ventilation works on 3 key principles:

  1. Continuous ventilation - fresh air is constantly supplied to the indoor spaces, and stale air is continuously extracted. This helps maintain high indoor air quality and prevents the build-up of pollutants and moisture.
  1. MVHR - mechanical ventilation with heat recovery systems that recover heat from the outgoing stale air before it is expelled from the building. The recovered heat is then transferred to the incoming fresh air, which helps preheat the air during colder months and cool it in the summer. 
  1. High efficiency - Passivhaus ventilation systems are designed to be highly efficient, with low energy consumption compared to traditional ventilation systems. The use of MVHR units ensures that a significant portion of the heat energy within the building is retained

Good to know

England and Wales  plan to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 with Scotland even earlier at 2045. These  are major global initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. It means that any greenhouse gas emissions emitted must be equal to those removed from the atmosphere e.g. if 1 kilogram of carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere only 1 kilogram of carbon dioxide can be removed – meaning there is no increase in CO2.

Meeting indoor air quality regulations

Passivhaus ventilation systems are designed to meet or exceed indoor air quality standards and regulations and guidelines in both Europe and the UK. The Passivhaus Standard originates from Germany and was initially designed to meet housing requirements in Northern Europe and Scandinavian Countries, but can be used further afield. By delivering continuous ventilation, effective pollutant removal, and energy efficiency, Passivhaus ventilation creates healthy, comfortable, and sustainable indoor environments that comply with Passivhaus certification requirements.

The health and comfort benefits of Passivhaus ventilation

Passivhaus ventilation’s objective is to improve air quality and comfort for a building’s inhabitants through efficiency. This controlled ventilation also helps regulate indoor humidity levels, which is essential for maintaining a healthy and comfortable indoor environment.

This has the following advantages:

  • Improved indoor air quality which helps prevent the build-up of indoor pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens and particulate matter. 
  • Reduced allergens and irritants such as pollen, dust, and mould spores. This filtration process helps create a healthier indoor environment, especially for people with allergies or respiratory issues.
  • Controlled humidity levels by removing excess moisture from the air. This is crucial for preventing mould and mildew growth, which can contribute to health problems.
  • Even temperature distribution - Passivhaus buildings are designed to be airtight and have high levels of insulation, which helps maintain consistent indoor temperatures. Combined with efficient ventilation systems this results in even temperature distribution and eliminates cold spots or drafts, enhancing the occupants’ comfort.
  • Quiet operation - Passivhaus ventilation systems are designed to operate quietly, minimising noise disturbance within the building. The use of high-quality components and soundproofing ensures that occupants can enjoy a peaceful indoor environment.
  • Enhanced seasonal comfort by minimising heat loss during colder months and reducing overheating during warmer months. The combination of high-performance insulation, airtight construction, and efficient ventilation systems helps maintain a comfortable indoor temperature year-round, without the need for traditional heating or cooling systems.

Investing in residential indoor air quality is a distinct benefit over heating and cooling systems in traditional buildings, which lose heat and contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions which are destroying the planet.

Good to know

EnviroVent’s energiSava® 300 and 400 MVHR units, as well as the Sabik 350 and 500, and Slimline 150 and 300 are certified by the Passive House Institute for use in Passivhaus developments although some models require optional extras to be passive house compliant.

To create a safer world, building owners and developers need to be aware of their responsibilities. This means taking appropriate action to maintain healthy indoor environments, in particular through the use of Passivhaus ventilation.

Are you working on a Passivhaus project?