SustainABILITY in Design CPD – The Role of Passive Design

In 2019 the UK Government committed to reducing the UK’s total carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. This followed the 2017 industrial strategy which included the Clean Growth Challenge and led to the mission to at least halve the energy use of all new buildings by 2030. The implementation of Passive Design will help meet these goals.

Existing & Proposed Designs

Address the challenges

To meet these ambitious targets, it will require significant changes to the way we plan, design, construct and maintain our buildings, such as:

  • Supporting ‘long life, loose fit and low energy’ ideas;
  • Choosing sustainable, locally sourced materials;
  • Recycling more and re-using waste materials;
  • Building and retrofitting better-insulated homes and offices;
  • Implementing passive methods of heating and ventilation where possible;
  • Implementing passive methods of heating and ventilation where possible;
  • Applying these principles to cities as well as individual buildings.

Eight steps to passive design

Our online CIAT certified CPD, SustainABILITY in Design, provides Architectural Technologists with an insight into the role of passive principles when designing more sustainable buildings. Below are some of the core elements delivered in the CPD.

Passive Design - MEP

Passive design is central to creating more sustainable, energy efficient buildings. The following aspects all affect thermal comfort and therefore the building’s sustainability.

  1. Context, culture and climate. Consider the position of the sun throughout the year; potential over-shadowing from nearby buildings; and weather patterns such as rainfall, humidity and wind strength.
  2. Building orientation. A building should be positioned to make the best use of the sun as it moves throughout the day, to benefit from the sun’s natural warmth and light while also avoiding overheating.
  3. Natural ventilation. Natural ventilation provides fresh air without relying on mechanical strategies such as fans and extractors. While some mechanical systems will likely be needed as well, prioritising natural ventilation will reduce the energy requirements.
  4. Shading systems. Shading systems such as louvers, balconies and overhangs impact the thermal comfort of the building.
  5. Integration of vegetation. Adding plants and vegetation both inside and out improve the air quality in a building. Outside vegetation can act as a buffer zone by breaking the wind and can also help to prevent over-heating.
  6. Water collection. Rainwater should be collected, purified and re-used as grey water in the building. Systems can be a combination of passive design solutions (pitched roofs, etc.) and mechanical solutions for harvesting the water and pumping it back into the building.
  7. Façade design and smart materials. Recyclable, energy efficient materials available at low cost should be the first choice.
  8. Thermal mass. Consider both the thermal mass and the carbon footprint of the material. For more information, the BRE website includes a comprehensive guide to sustainable products and materials.

Sustainable tools

There is quite a selection of software available which allow the designer to employ passive design techniques into their work, and also to understand the thermal characteristics of a building.

Passive Design - 3D Zones

Looking into potential software can be a challenge. Keep in mind the following questions for an informed decision:

  • How easy is the software to use?
  • How well does it integrate, or can it collaborate with other software?
  • Can it render high quality images?
  • Can it render in real time?
  • Can it do native thermal simulations?
  • Does it include daylight analysis?

For example, GRAPHISOFT’s Archicad Solo and Teamwork versions include energy evaluation, which offer most of the above functionality. For a full analysis, the EcoDesigner STAR extension is available to perpetual licence users at an additional cost.

There is no doubt that the ambition to create more sustainable buildings and to reduce energy usage throughout the built environment is challenging. However, by starting with the strategies outlined above, we can work towards designing buildings that are both environmentally friendly and comfortable.

For the latest on our SustainABILITY in Design and VR for Architecture CPD courses, please visit our events page.