The difference between passive houses and hybrid homes

by | Oct 10, 2022 | Designs, Performance

We recently published an article about our hybrid home method, and wanted to take this momentum to dive a little bit deeper into the specific differences between a passive house and a hybrid home.

Both passive houses and hybrid homes are designed to be highly energy-efficient, so they can save homeowners money on their utility bills over time. But there are some important differences between these two approaches, too—and the right option for your home depends on your needs and budget.

WHAT ARE PASSIVE HOUSES?

The passive house movement dates back to Germany in the 1980s and describes a rigorous testing and certification method to construct highly energy efficient homes. The goal of passive homes is to reduce ongoing energy bills and the environmental impact of a building, while increasing the thermal comfort and durability of the home.

This is done by focussing predominantly on 5 aspects:

  1. appropriate levels of thermal insulation
  2. a design that reduces thermal bridges
  3. airtightness
  4. high-performance windows and doors
  5. mechanical ventilation with heat recovery

To build a certified passive house, the design of the home has to be checked in its own software called PHPP (Passive House Planning Package). On top of that, there are several checks and tests by accredited professionals at different stages of the actual construction.

You can learn more about passive houses in this article. And if you want to find out more about PHPP and how it compares to the energy rating system we have in Australia, listen to our podcast episode 8 PHPP vs NatHERS: Assessing the performance of your home.

WHAT IS A HYBRID HOME?

The hybrid home method has been developed over time by us and in close collaboration with building company Ecowise Homes. For this, we utilise the aforementioned passive house principles, but leave out some of the more time and cost extensive aspects of it.

This allows us to come up with unique home designs for our clients and fully focus on the performance and design aspects that are important to every individual as well as the individual payback period of adding those client-specific performance items.

Here’s a full article on the hybrid home method

HOW ARE THE TWO DIFFERENT?

You have probably spotted some similarities in the two approaches already, but let’s shine a bit more light on how both methods are different from each other.

1. ACCREDITATION

As we have mentioned before, there is a rigorous certification process in order to call your home a certified passive house. This starts by involving experienced passive house designers who are well-rounded in the use of PHPP to fully simulate the specific performance values the house needs to achieve.

On top of that, you can only use passive house certified materials in your build, and will have to engage a passive house certifier to get the final stamp of approval.

Hybrid homes on the other hand do not require accreditation and there is also no specific certification process they have to go through in order to be officially deemed a hybrid home. Instead, we utilise energy rating software and control layers (a water control layer, an air control layer, a vapour control layer and a thermal control layer) to completely thermally model our design and also provide extremely detailed construction documentation, including e.g. 3D visuals for window installation and corner junction details, to ensure that even builders who are not experienced in high performance building can guarantee the desired outcome.

2. BUDGET

The certification process of a passive house comes with a bigger price tag, e.g. for the additional hours of time spent to model the house in PHPP, involving specifically trained professionals, and utilising only certified materials.

The hybrid home method is usually closer to standard building cost, with only additional cost for trained professionals in high performance design and specific materials. However, you can mold your hybrid home to match your individual budget and needs – which brings us to the final point of difference between passive and hybrid homes.

3. FLEXIBILITY

A hybrid home comes with a lot more flexibility in terms of design, performance, and budget than a passive house. Given that there is not one size fits all solution and no certification process to go through, you can choose which areas of high performance you want to mainly focus on, and what others you might not want to consider.

This can mean that instead of certified triple glazing, you go for a cheaper yet still very well performing double glazed window option. Or you might want to not go as airtight as a passive house (they have to stay under 0.6 ACH when tested), but instead choose a smaller footprint to still have a high performance outcome.

HOW ARE THEY ALIKE?

Now that we have explored the differences, let’s get into some key similarities between the two types of home construction.

PERFORMANCE

Both passive houses and hybrid homes show high levels of performance. This means that, compared to traditional buildings, they use less energy for heating and cooling, and provide a more healthy, sustainable, durable, and thermally comfortable home for its occupants.

In fact, it is possible to have the exact same performance outcomes between the two. The only difference is the accreditation – and the additional money spent on that process.

TESTING

We test our hybrid homes at the same stages as a passive home, meaning that we will perform 3 blower door tests at different stages during the construction, and provide consulting services to accompany the build from start to finish.

COMFORT

Finally, both homes stand out by providing exceptional levels of comfort and a high standard of living for its occupants. This relates to comfortable indoor temperatures all year round, as well as low maintenance requirements because of the extra thought and consideration that goes into the design and construction.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, the two building design approaches are quite similar in many aspects, but differ in some key factors such as cost and flexibility. If you want to join the club of passive house owners and have the extra funds to spend on the certification, you should absolutely go for it. But if you are looking for a more flexible and affordable approach to home design while maintaining a high focus on energy efficiency, the hybrid home is probably your way to go.

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