Compass Architecture
Compass Architecture

Why we need more Passive House buildings

The quiet beauty of a Passive House

As the climate changes and becomes more threatening to our health and wellbeing, we need to design homes and buildings ready to cope with the challenges of an uncertain future.

In Australia, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. Many of us suffer from respiratory health issues linked to dust, pollen, volatile organic compounds in building materials, and mould. Heating and cooling account for 40 percent of a typical household’s energy use.

Compass Architecture’s founder and principal, Nathalie Curtet, has become a Certified Passive House Designer, accredited by the Passive House Institute in Germany. Her practice was already focussed on creating sustainable and passive solar designed homes and buildings.

“I realised, after the Black Summer bushfires of 2019, with climate change, floods, fast erosion of our coastal landscape and the advent of COVID-19, that the environment is becoming more hostile and controlling its impact on how we live is becoming more important.

“Becoming a Passive House Designer was the next logical step. It’s all about health, comfort, energy efficiency, and future-proofing buildings against the more extreme climate events of the future,” Nathalie says.

“Passive House is a design standard developed in Germany in the 1980s and is highly suitable for Australian climates. Passive House standards require solar passive design principles with rigorous performance calculations and certification.”

The five design principles of a certified Passive House are: 

  • High levels of thermal insulation
  • High performance windows and glazed doors
  • Thermal bridge-free design of the building envelope 
  • Airtightness
  • Heat recovery mechanical ventilation to filter and regulate indoor and outdoor air quality and temperature.

Passive House buildings are healthy, quiet, temperate, affordable, highly sustainable and extraordinarily energy efficient. 

A Passive House building is healthier because of the intelligent ventilation system that delivers a continuous fresh, filtered air supply, while removing CO2, allergens, smoke and pollution particles and moisture. 

It is quieter because of the thicker thermal insulation and tightly sealing high-performance windows.

People find Passive House buildings are extremely comfortable because they are designed to maintain an indoor temperature between 20-25 degree Celsius, with 30-60 percent relative humidity all year round. They also use up to 90 percent less energy, greatly reducing heating and cooling costs. 

Because Passive House is a voluntary, science-based standard, it can be applied to all buildings, not just houses. The name comes from the German term, Passivhaus. There are now more than 70,000 Certified Passive House buildings around the world.

Passive House Certification can be applied to new buildings, or older structures that have been retrofitted to meet the standard. A building can only be certified as an authentic Passive House if it is created by a Certified Passive House Designer.

“A Passive House Certified building is long lasting, comfortable, sustainable, reliable and affordable. It makes sense to invest for the future,” Nathalie says.


If you’re interested in a Passive House designed home, or retrofitting an existing building, reach out to us here.