Building the Future: Passive Homes and Net Zero Houses

Home is where the heart of energy efficiency is. Passive homes and net zero houses are the future of the UK’s housing sector.

To reduce carbon emissions in the home, there is more to do than remembering to turn the light off once you leave a room or filling up the food waste bin. For poorly insulated homes and those suffering from damp or mould, residents spend money on heating the property, which is wasted. 

In 2008, the European Parliament agreed on an action plan: 

Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential. In this agreement, the members accepted that European carbon emissions needed to be cut to prevent global temperatures rising. 

Building energy efficient structures is one way to do this. The European Commission set 2020 as the deadline for all new homes being built, and must be of the highest energy efficiency standard possible. 

report by the Committee on Climate Change last year concluded that the UK has not made good progress, as energy use across the UK’s 29m homes accounted for 14% of all of the countries emissions 2016-2017. 

Additionally, it is presently unclear as to how the Coronavirus will impact this goal.

Recently, CleanTech News identified the great strides being made by Carbicrete, a Canadian startup manufacturing a non-pollutant form of cement, which is contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions. 

There are other companies which are finding innovative ways to future-proof new buildings. Two terms one will hear interchangeably around the subject of home energy efficiency are “net zero” and “passive” homes.

Net Zero Homes:

The World Green Building Council launched Advancing Net Zero in 2018, a plan to ensure that all buildings are net zero by 2050. 

net zero building is one which produces all of the energy which it uses. For example, it has enough solar panels to satisfy the energy demands of those living in the home. 

Such a house should not be confused with passive houses.  

Passive Houses:

passive home is one which is built, or adapted, to be energy efficient, one which will prevent heat from escaping the building in winter and keep it cool in the summer. 

Energy escapes from buildings with poor insulation, which leads to more energy being used to replace what is lost and thus, more carbon emissions and waste. 

A passive house is not patented and can be built by aspiring exterior designers or professionals. 

What is the difference between Passive and Net Zero Homes?

passive house and net zero energy home are not quite the same thing; in building a net zero energy home, the architect’s ambition is to create a balance between the energy used and the energy created. 

However, a passive house is primarily concerned with the temperature comfort of its inhabitants and the environmental benefits of such efficiency. 

There are some companies who are concerned with the housing sectors slow progress, and plan to capitalise on the move towards sustainable housing. 

The EcoCocon answer

A 100 m2 EcoCocon home can be built in just one day, from straw with an airtight seal over the top, which prevents draughts of hot or cold air. 

However, an EcoCocon house is not automatically a passive one: this depends on variables such as the windows and roof insulation chosen by the buyer. 

An Iconic move forward

Icon, a startup based in Austin, USA, recognises that home-building is “inefficient and wasteful” and lacks sustainability. 

By using an almost science-fiction form of 3D printing, Icon can create tiny homes at a fraction of the environmental cost and for a lower price. 

Their mission is to support the millions of people living in unsafe housing around the world.

Helen Adams

Helen Adams is an Editor and Senior Writer for CleanTech News. A keen journalist, Helen developed an appreciation for the need for change in the battle against climate change after travelling and is passionate to communicate this through her work at CleanTech News. Now studying for her NCTJ Journalism MA, Helen wants to champion clean developments using her writing. Presently, Helen is developing her data journalism, video-making and podcasting skills which she is looking forward to incorporating into her role as Editor.