FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE - 4 TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST CERTIFIED PASSIVE HOUSE PROJECT

Whether you’re designer, consultant, tradie, or owner-builder, your first Passive House project can be daunting. The good news is there’s plenty of support to tap into. We asked certified Passive House course graduates to share their stories and advice.

Remove the ‘why’

Scott Stewart from LAB Design is a Certified Passive House Designer and trainer for the APHA Certified Passive House Tradesperson and Designer/Consultant courses. He says Passive House certification removes the ‘why’ for tradies, designers and consultants, making it easier to tackle their first project. The tradesperson course has also been helpful for owner-builders looking to build a greater understanding of the science behind Passive House principles and benefits such as minimising air leakage and preventing hidden mould and condensation.

Photo of Scott and Madonna Stewart of Lab Designs Scott and Madonna Stewart. Click to expand.

Corner Block by Lab Designs, aiming for PHI Low Energy Building certification Corner Block by Lab Designs, aiming for PHI Low Energy Building certification. Click to expand.

 

“The course makes people smarter on site. You don’t have to work out why things have to be done, you can just apply them,” Scott says.

While Passive House materials and design processes are tailored to the local climate, the mechanics and principles behind them are similar in any part of the world. Scott has put this principle into practice during his career. After completing his Passive House certification course in London in 2014, he has applied it to projects including a studio apartment in Portugal, the Corner Block commercial project on the Gold Coast, and his own home on the NSW North Coast. “You can work on projects worldwide without recertifying,” he says.

Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House
Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House
Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House
Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House
Kearneys Spring Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Use detailed plans

Stuart Lee is the owner of Melbourne-based building firm Enerhaus and has been a Certified Passive House Tradesperson since 2015. Stuart landed his first certified Passive House project (the Sunstone Passive House in Melbourne) after contacting certified Passive House Designer David Halford through the APHA member directory. Stuart’s first project was a “trial by fire”, but he had a lot of support from his Passive House course instructor and the building designer. Since then, he’s honed his craft on several residential Passive House projects. One of these projects, the Owl Woods Passive House in regional Victoria, was a finalist in the 2019 Sustainable Building Awards. Stuart says that detailed plans which show where membranes are located and window details can help builders working on their first Passive House project. The current certified Passive House Tradesperson course also has an increased focus on hands-on experience. “There are training days to bring course participants up to speed on where membranes go and how to go about taping and sealing,” Stuart says.

Sunstone Certified Passive House
Sunstone Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Riddell's Creek Passive House in progress
Riddell's Creek Passive House in progress. Click to expand.

 

Kyneton EnerPHit Passive House
Kyneton EnerPHit Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Owl Woods Certified Passive House
Owl Woods Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Work with experienced professionals

Bohemia Hookham from DesignInc is an architect and Certified Passive House Designer. She completed her certification course in 2018, while working at small residential firm EME Design. “I did the course so I could understand what I was doing in Passive House projects and why, and sell the benefits to clients,” she says, adding that some clients need to be eased in through simple advantages such as improved ventilation. Bohemia’s first certified Passive House project was The Strait House – part of Cape Patterson’s sustainable residential development project (The Cape).

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Bohemia joined DesignInc to work on the Glenroy Community Hub – Australia’s first Passive House certified public building. Bohemia’s advice for people working on their first Passive House project is to work with an experienced Passive House designer or consultant. “Try to be actively involved and use the design tools to check calculations,” she says. Bohemia says there are other things you can do to improve your Passive House skills and promote the benefits to create change. “You can model your own home with the Passive House software, and work out where you can improve it,” she says. If you’re working on commercial jobs in a junior role, it can be challenging to talk about ideas for improving building performance. But Bohemia says the more you speak out, the more impact you can make. She adds that people in more senior roles have an even greater opportunity to drive change.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House
Glenroy Community Centre Certified Passive House Certified Passive House. Click to expand.

 

Seek out support

Scott says that early in his Passive House career, he spent far too long trying to work things out himself. “When I asked, there were lots of people willing to help,” says Scott. One great quality of the Passive House community is that people are willing to share their experiences to help others learn. An important (and refreshing) aspect is being open about where things went wrong. “We all want people to succeed, it’s a fantastic community,” Bohemia says. Stuart says he’s seen growing momentum around Passive House and high performance homes. According to Scott, there’s more work than current certified tradespeople can cope with, and there’s a need to triple or even quadruple the number of Certified Passive House Tradesperson course graduates. “The building code is not adequate. People want higher-performing homes and to pay less for bills,” Stuart says.

Bohemia, Scott and Stuart are passionate about supporting the Passive House community, and shared more of their knowledge with Passive House certification course graduates in the first of APHA’s mentoring sessions this month. APHA has launched more flexible and accessible Passive House certification training to help bridge the gap between the course and your first project. Learn more about upcoming mentoring and masterclass sessions here.

 

* Glenroy Community Hub photography by Dianna Snape and Owl Woods Photography by Tatjana Plitt.


Further Reading: