Posted: 30 Aug 2013 07:55 AM PDT
Understanding the Passivhaus
When we think of something which is airtight, a modern, comfortable living space is not usually the first thing which springs to mind. However the future of sustainable building would beg to differ. And with the introduction of the Passivhaus, this dream became something more of a reality. Since then architects and looking for ways in which the Passivhaus can be both replicated and improved. But what is the Passivhaus? How can we understand it? And what benefits does it bring to both the environment, and to the people who dwell within?
The History of Passive Houses
The concept of the passive house has been around for quite some time, and not just within the realms of science fiction. Low energy requirements have been a legal directive in Sweden and Denmark since the mid-1980s, and it was out of this climate that the first passive houses were born. Nicknamed 'Passivehaus', the passive house model has since seen replicas popping up all over the world.
How a Passive House Works
The simple definition of a passive house is one which consumes an extremely low amount of energy, thanks to internal heat sources and the minimisation of incoming air. One such building, which was constructed in 2012 near Milton Keynes, was believed to be the most airtight building in the world, with an air circulation measurement of just 0.065. Modern houses typically have an air leakage percentage of between 25 and 40%, so the low number for the Milton Keynes property is, indeed, considerable.
How is Airtightness Achieved?
Airtightness is achieved in passive houses through a complex mixture of building and interior design. Not only that, but passive houses are intended to be so from day one of construction, so sustainable materials tend to be favoured. However airtightness can be achieved retroactively as well, which means good news for homeowners who are looking to improve the efficiency of their own property. If you fall into this category, companies such as the Mark Group, can provide you with a thorough assessment of your home's energy wastage and advise you on solutions to reduce leakage. Insulation is, of course, one of the top priorities, which is why so many passive houses have been built into the landscape. But without this option available, existing homeowners would do well to improve their loft, cavity wall and underfloor insulation, as this has been proven to have a significant effect on sustainability.
Posted: 30 Aug 2013 07:49 AM PDT
Nature inspired interior design doesn't have to be all about the color of your walls. While sand colored paints and forest green accents have their place, to really make a design statement you should embrace bold and artistic; don't just nod to nature – really bring the outside inside.
Natural Surroundings – Every space benefits from natural light, but windows are not just about letting light in. If your living space benefits from awesome views, make the most of it. Frameless glass windows can be engineered in wall-sized panes. If your bedroom aspect doesn't afford a panoramic view, consider putting a glass wall into a downstairs space and drawing your garden into the living room or kitchen. Use colors that complement the natural spectrum of your garden – this doesn't have to be simply greens and browns; a fuchsia bush on the patio can be brought inside with fusicia pink cushions or perhaps mirrored on a wall canvas – places like Canvas Republic print any photo onto canvas and it couldn't be easier to snap a photo of a garden focal point and replicate it in your living room.
Natural Materials – Wooden furniture and surfaces should be unfinished or simply waxed wherever possible. Slate or stone flooring in kitchens and bathrooms coupled with unpainted woods such as natural oak and pine give an authentically natural feel. Alternatively, opt for bamboo flooring for an eco-friendly option. Bamboo is a rapid replenishment wood as well as being hard wearing and beautiful. Accessories with polished pebbles, beeswax candles and, if you have a creative bent, consider driftwood for DIY projects such as frames, lamps and coffee tables.
Natural Shapes and Images – Nature inspired motifs are easy to work into any room. Floral prints on curtains and soft furnishings can be kept modern and fresh by choosing large prints and keeping to only two or three colors. Wall stickers – vinyl self-adhesive images that can be smoothed onto any flat surfaces – come in a variety of natural patterns. Trees, birds and flowers on your walls in complementary accent colors can soften a room and add focal interest. If you want a bolder statement, try a wallpaper mural and turn an entire wall into a forest or beach. Acting in the same way as a window wall, but without the expense or need for an impressive outside space, a wallpaper mural can totally transform a room. Keep all other décor very simple and neutral to avoid overwhelming your space.
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