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Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI)

Sustainable Energy Ireland was established as Ireland’s national energy agency under the Sustainable Energy Act 2002. SEI’s
mission is to promote and assist the development of sustainable energy. This encompasses environmentally and economi-
cally sustainable production, supply and use of energy, in support of Government policy, across all sectors of the economy
including public bodies, the business sector, local communities and individual consumers. Its remit relates mainly to improv-
ing energy efficiency, advancing the development and competitive deployment of renewable sources of energy and
combined heat and power, and reducing the environmental impact of energy production and use, particularly in respect of
greenhouse gas emissions.

SEI is charged with implementing significant aspects of government policy on sustainable energy and the climate change
abatement, including:
• Assisting deployment of superior energy technologies in each sector as required;
• Raising awareness and providing information, advice and publicity on best practice;
• Stimulating research, development and demonstration;
• Stimulating preparation of necessary standards and codes;
• Publishing statistics and projections on sustainable energy and achievement of targets.

It is funded by the Government through the National Development Plan with programmes part financed by the European

© Sustainable Energy Ireland, 2009. All rights reserved.

No part of this material may be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without permission. The
material contained in this publication is presented in good faith, but its application must be considered in the light of
individual projects. Sustainable Energy Ireland can not be held responsible for any effect, loss or expense resulting from
the use of material presented in this publication.

Prepared by SEI Renewable Energy Information Office and MosArt Architecture.

Cover images courtesy of Cooney Architects.
Table of Contents


Upgrading of Typical Construction Types
The ‘Passive House’ Walls 29
Random rubble and hollow block wall 29
Passive House and the Passivhaus Standard 1 Cavity walls 29
Definition of the Passivhaus Standard 1 Timber frame 35
Technical definition of the Passivhaus Standard for Ireland 2 Floor slab 37
Applications of the Passivhaus Standard in the EU and Ireland 3 Roof 42
Evolution of retrofitting dwellings to the Passivhaus Cold Roof / insulated at ceiling level 42
Standard in Europe 3 Sloped roof 43
Application of the Passivhaus Standard in Ireland 3
Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure 3
Building Energy Rating 4 SECTION SIX:
PHPP and DEAP 4 Case Study Retrofit Building - Theoretical

Dwelling description 49
SECTION TWO: Current heating and DHW system 50
Review of Building Stock in Ireland Use of PHPP and DEAP to prepare retrofitting strategy 52
Preparing a retrofitting strategy 52
Energy efficiency and dwelling age 7 Measures in detail 53
Fuel poverty source: Healy and Clinch (2002) 8 Thermal insulation 53
Windows and doors 53
Thermal bridges 53
SECTION THREE: Airtightness 53
Ventilation heating system 54
Principles of Passive Houses Cost of retrofitting 54
Passive house verification 57
Passivhaus Planning Package 2007 - An essential design tool 11
Passive house certification 12
Building envelope insulation 12 SECTION SEVEN:
Optimising passive solar gain 12
Thermal bridging 13 Case Study of Completed Retrofitted Project
Structural airtightness and draught proofing 13
Internal heat gains 13 Case study of completed retrofitted project 61
Passive House building systems 13
What happens in the event of a power failure? 13
Back-up heating system 14
Domestic hot water production 14

Typical Phases of Retrofitting

Survey 17
Initial PHPP calculation 17
Changes in layout/design 18
Upgrade thermal envelope 18
Insulation 18
Internal insulation 19
External insulation 20
Insulating the roof space 20
Wall cavity insulation 20
Windows and doors 21
Airtightness 21
Thermal bridges 22
Upgrade ventilation and heating system 22
Ventilation system 22
Recommended ventilation rate 22
Mechanical heat recovery ventilation (MHRV) system 23
Insulation and positioning of duct work and vents 23
Heating system 23
Water to air heat exchanger 23
Compact unit with electrical heat pump 23
Wood pellet / Wood pellet stove / Wood log boiler 24
Integrated controls for heating in a Passive House 24
Individual room temperature control 24
Site supervision 24

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEI, operates
programmes and activities to advance the Government’s ambition for
Ireland to become a world leader in sustainable energy as part of our
transition to a low carbon economy. Thus, we seek to accelerate the
development and deployment of cost effective low carbon
technologies. Following the implementation of the EU Energy
Performance of Buildings Directive, recent substantial improvements
in Building Regulations energy standards and requirements for the
use of renewable energy systems, we have seen substantial
improvement in the energy performance required of new buildings.

For several reasons, attention must retrofitted PassivHaus projects in

focus now on our existing buildings. continental Europe in the past three to
The recent extension of the Building five years and it is expected that this
Energy Rating to all buildings being trend will carry over to Ireland.
sold or rented coupled with the
introduction of a national residential These guidelines provide sound and
energy efficiency programme, and the practical advice on how the
knowledge that cost-effective retrofitting of older buildings could
opportunities to reduce greenhouse potentially achieve a standard which
gas emissions are most readily found will greatly increase comfort, cut
in buildings are all combining to energy costs dramatically, and offer a
provide an extraordinary impetus to home which is far more “future
home energy saving. proofed”. There are over 1.5 million
homes in Ireland that could each
The PassivHaus standard is benefit from implementing even
recognized in Europe as a progressive some of the measures contained in
and advanced benchmark for this document.
building energy performance. In 2008
SEI published ‘Guidelines for the
Design and Construction of Passive
House Dwellings in Ireland‘ which
have been very well received, with
some 5,000 copies now in circulation.
These companion guidelines
‘Retrofitted Passive Homes - Professor J Owen Lewis
Guidelines for Upgrading Existing CEO, Sustainable Energy Ireland
Dwellings in Ireland to the PassivHaus
Standard’ extend the available
support and information for the
upgrading of existing dwellings to
achieve the ambitious PassivHaus

There has been a noticeable increase

in the number of successfully

The ‘Passive House’
The ‘Passive House’

1.1 Passive House and the 1.1.1 Definition of the Passivhaus

Passivhaus Standard Standard

A passive house1 is an energy-efficient The Passivhaus Standard is a specific

building with all year-round comfort and construction standard for buildings
good indoor environmental conditions which results in good comfort condi-
without the use of significant active space tions during winter and summer,
heating or cooling systems. The space without traditional space heating
heat requirement is reduced by means of systems and without active cooling.
passive measures to the point at which
The primary focus in building to the MosArt Architecture
there is no longer any need for a conven-
Passivhaus Standard is directed towards
tional space heating system; the air
creating a thermally efficient envelope
supply system essentially suffices to
which makes the optimum use of free
distribute the remaining space heat
heat gains in order to minimise space
requirement. A passive house provides a
heating requirement. Structural air-
very high level of thermal comfort and
tightness (reduction of air infiltration)
whole-house even temperature. The
and minimal thermal bridging are essen-
concept is based on minimising heat
tial. A whole-house mechanical heat
losses and maximising heat gains, thus
recovery ventilation system (MHRV) is
enabling the use of simple building
used to supply controlled amounts of
fresh air to the house. The incoming
MosArt Architecture
The Passivhaus Standard is a construc- fresh air is pre-heated, via a heat
tion standard developed by the exchanger, by the outgoing warm stale
Passivhaus Institut in Germany air. If additional heat is required, a small
(http://www.passiv.de). The standard can efficient back-up system (using a renew-
be met using a variety of design strate- able energy source, for example) can be
gies, construction methods and used to boost the temperature of the
technologies and is applicable to any fresh air supplied to the house.
building type. Renewable energy sources are used as
much as possible to meet the resulting
This publication outlines the require- energy demand (PEP, 2006), including
ments in applying that standard to retro- that required for the provision of domes-
fitting dwellings in Ireland and in all tic hot water (DHW).
cases when referring to a passive house MosArt Architecture

is describing a house upgraded to the The energy requirement of a house

requirements of the Passivhaus retrofitted to the Passivhaus Standard is:
Standard. These guidelines should be
■ Annual space heating requirement
read in conjunction with the Guidelines
of 15 kWh/(m2a) treated floor area;
for the Design and Construction of
Passive House Dwellings in Ireland ■ The upper limit for total primary
published by SEI in July 2008 energy demand for space and water
(www.sei.ie/phguidelines). heating, ventilation, electricity for
fans and pumps, household appli-
ances, and lighting not exceeding
120 kWh/(m2a), regardless of energy
source; and

page 1
■ Additionally, the air-leakage test Measure/Solution Retrofit Passivhaus Standard for the Case Study
results must not exceed 0.6 air Semi-Detached House in the Irish Climate
changes per hour (ac/hr) using 50
1. Super Insulation
Pascal over-pressurisation and Insulation Walls U ≤ 0.10 W/(m2K)
under-pressurisation testing. Insulation Roof U ≤ 0.09 W/(m2K)
Insulation Floor U ≤ 0.10 W/(m2K)
U ≤ 0.8 W/(m2K)
In order to maintain high comfort levels
Window Frames, Doors
in any building, heat losses must be Window Glazing U ≤ 0.6 W/(m2K)
replaced by heat gains. Heat losses Thermal Bridges Thermal bridges with a linear heat coefficient Ψ ≥
occur through the building fabric due 0.01 W/mK will be very common in most retrofit
projects and will require calculating
n50 ≤ 0.6 ac/hr @ 50 Pascal
to transmission through poorly
Structural Airtightness
insulated walls, floor, ceiling and
glazing as well as from uncontrolled 2. Heat Recovery/ Air Quality
cold air infiltration through leaky Ventilation counter flow Heat recovery efficiency ≥ 85%
air to air heat exchanger
construction and poorly fitted windows
Minimal Space Heating Post heating ventilation air/ Low temperature
and doors. In a passive house, the heat heating
losses are reduced dramatically Efficient small capacity heating system Biomass compact unit, gas etc.
(through better insulation and airtight Air quality through ventilation rate Min 0.37 ac/hr or 30m3 /person/hr
detailing) so that internal gains and Ventilation Supply Ducts Insulated Where applicable
DHW Pipes Insulated Where applicable
passive solar gain contribute a
relatively high proportion of the total 3. Passive Solar Gain
need. As a result of this, a smaller space Window Glazing Solar energy transmittance g ≥ 50%
heating system is therefore required Solar Orientation Minimal glazing to north where possible
compared to that needed in a conven- Thermal Mass within Envelope Recommended
tional poorly performing dwelling. 4. Electric Efficiency
A semi-detached, two storey Irish house Energy Labelled Household Appliances A-Rated appliances
Hot water connection to Recommended
built in the mid 1970’s before the intro- washing machines/dishwashers
duction of thermal insulation standards Compact Fluorescent or LED Lighting Recommended
would be expected to have a space Regular maintenance ventilation filters Recommended
heating requirement of over 200 Energy Efficient Fans/ Motors Recommended
kWh/(m2a) and to have a total primary
5. On-site Renewables
energy demand of over 400 kWh/(m2a) DHW Solar Heating Area to be dictated by house size and occupancy
for all applications. The equivalent Biomass system Recommended
house built to the requirements of TGD Photovoltaics Application in a case by case basis
Part L 2007 would be liable to use 40-50 Wind Turbine Application in a case by case basis
kWh/(m2a) delivered (useful) energy for Other including geothermal Application in a case by case basis
space heating and 90-95 kWh/(m2a) Table 1. Technical Definition of the Passivhaus Standard for the Case Study Project Presented in Section 6
primary energy. The Passivhaus Source: MosArt Architecture
Standard requirement for space heating
is 15 kWh/(m2a). When compared to a
1.1.2 Technical Definition of the values for retrofit projects will often be
house built in the mid-1970’s, with little
Passivhaus Standard for far lower than for buildings that were,
or no insulation and poor performing
Ireland from the very outset, designed in strict
glazing, a house retrofitted to the
accordance with the Passivhaus
Passivhaus Standard thus represents a In Table 1 a range of U-values is specified
Standard. The U-values included in
saving of more than 90% on the space in order to meet the Passivhaus
Table 1 have been tested for the case
heating demand. Standard of annual space heating
study house presented later in Section 6.
requirement of 15 kWh/(m2a) for the
One of the key benefits of a passive This case study house is a terraced two
Irish climate. Specifying U-values is
house is that it becomes affordable to storey house of compact form and with
dependent upon many variables and the
provide thermal comfort conditions optimal (rear) façade orientation of
effect on energy performance can only
around the clock at much reduced directly south. A detached bungalow
be verified through testing the perform-
energy consumption. This is a very house of sprawling form would likely
ance of the dwelling design in the
positive aspect of passive houses that is require even lower (better performance)
Passive House Planning Package (PHPP)
often forgotten. The energy consump- U-values than those specified in the
software. In a typical retrofit situation,
tion for heating an existing house table above in order to meet the
Passivhaus principles such as orienta-
around the clock would be significantly Passivhaus Standard. Readers familiar
tion, position of glazing, thermal bridg-
higher and much less affordable. with the SEI (new-build) Passive Homes
ing and compactness will generally not
Guidelines will recognise that the U-
have been considered in the original
values listed in the table above are
design. For that reason, the required U-
considerably lower (better performance)

page 2
than those specified for the prototype tion of these savings (32%) coming from Rating certificate. This requirement,
house in those guidelines. The reason for the built environment. perhaps above all other initiatives, is
this is that there are often numerous likely to result in a rapid and dramatic
In 2006, the residential sector accounted
thermal bridges that have to be appreciation by homeowners of the
for 25% of primary energy consumption
compensated for in retrofitting an older importance of energy efficiency in older
and used 2,990 ktoe of final energy
dwelling compared to new-build. The dwellings.
representing 23% of Ireland's Total Final
case study dwelling is also partly shaded
Consumption. With regard to CO2 The EU Parliment has proposed a
which reduces passive solar gain, requir-
emissions, the average dwelling was binding requirement that all new build-
ing a better insulated envelope.
responsible for emitting approximately ings needing to be heated or cooled be
8.1 tonnes of CO2. A total of 4.8 tonnes constructed to a ‘passive house’ or equiv-
1.2 Applications of the
CO2 (59%) was from direct fuel use, the ilant standard from 2011 onwards (refer-
Passivhaus Standard in
remainder being the result of upstream ence European Parliament resolution of
the EU and Ireland
emissions from electricity usage. 31 January 2008 on an Action Plan for
Energy Efficiency: A6-0003/2008). As the
1.2.1 Evolution of Retrofitting Examining CO2 emissions per dwelling,
energy efficiency of new-build dwellings
Dwellings to the Passivhaus the average Irish dwelling in 2005
steadily improves, there may well be
Standard in Europe emitted 47% more CO2 than the average
increasing pressure to reduce the energy
dwelling in the UK. Emissions were 92%
The Passivhaus Institut consumption of older homes in order
higher than the average for the EU-15,
(http://www.passiv.de) was founded in that they can compete for buyers atten-
104% more than the EU-27.
Darmstadt, Germany in 1996 by Dr. tion on the open market.
Wolfgang Feist as an independent Following the Government’s White
Minister Gormley announced in July
research institute. Since then, it has been Paper ‘Delivering a Sustainable Energy
2008 his ambition that all new domestic
at the forefront of the Passive House Future for Ireland’ (DCMNR, 2007), and
buildings be constructed to a ‘carbon
movement in Germany and has been the subsequent Programme for
neutral’ standard by 2012 or 2013. Such
instrumental in disseminating the Government, the Building Regulations
a move will likely result in a significant
standard throughout Europe and Part L in respect of new dwellings have
increase in the market penetration of
overseas. The Institute developed the been strengthened to bring a 40%
renewable electricity generating
"Passivhaus Projektierungs Paket" (PHPP reduction relative to previous standards
technologies which will, inevitably, spill
- Passive House Planning Package), an in respect of primary energy consump-
over in terms of application to the
Excel worksheet used to determine the tion and associated CO2 emissions
second-hand housing sector.
energy supply / demand balance for arising from space heating, water
passive buildings (available in Ireland heating, ventilation, associated pumps Lastly, there are several grant schemes
from SEI Renewable Energy Information and fans, and lighting energy usage. available through Sustainable Energy
Office (www.sei.ie/resourcecentre). These provisions apply to dwellings Ireland at present which are focused
where planning permission was submit- towards building energy efficient
Since completion of the first certified
ted after July 2008. This policy has dwellings and the deployment of renew-
new-build passive houses in Darmstadt
committed to a further review in 2010 able energy technologies including the
in 1991, there has been an emerging
with the aim of extending that improve- Greener Homes Scheme and the Low
trend in recent years of retrofitting build-
ment to 60%. Carbon Homes Scheme. In addition the
ings to the Passivhaus Standard.
Warmer Homes Scheme tackles the issue
It is clear that the performance of both
of energy efficiency in low income, older
1.2.2 Application of Passivhaus new build and existing housing stock
dwellings and is of potential relevance to
Standard in Ireland must be addressed if we are to achieve
these Guidelines. In 2003, SEI estimated
the objectives set out both at European
The Kyoto Protocol came into force in that approximately 220,000 households
and national level. The energy require-
2005 and the proposed targets of reduc- in Ireland live in either persistent or inter-
ment of a house retrofitted to the
ing greenhouse gas (principally CO2) mittent fuel poverty.
Passivhaus Standard is even lower than
emissions by 8% compared to 1990
the 40% improvement that applies to all
levels by the period 2008-2012 became 1.3 Dwelling Energy
new dwellings in Ireland from July 2008.
legally binding for EU Member States Assessment Procedure
As inefficient existing dwellings repre-
(UNFCCC, 1997). Within the EU burden
sent the majority of the building stock,
sharing agreement in this regard, 1.3.1 Dwelling Energy Assessment
the retrofitting of existing stock to the
Ireland's target limit of 13% above 1990 Procedure
Passivhaus Standard represents a great
levels had been reached in 1997, and it is
potential for reducing energy consump- The Dwelling Energy Assessment
likely that the limit will be overshot by
tion. Procedure (DEAP) is the Irish official
up to 37% by 2010. The EC Green Paper
procedure for calculating and assessing
on Energy Efficiency (EU, 2005) states From January 1st 2009, all existing
the energy performance of dwellings.
that it is possible for the EU-25 Member dwellings which are offered for sale or
The procedure takes account of the
States to achieve energy savings of 20% rent must undergo a building energy
energy required for space heating,
by 2010, and sees the greatest propor- assessment and have a Building Energy

page 3
ventilation, water heating, associated 1.3.3 PHPP and DEAP
pumps and fans, and lighting, and also References
Whereas DEAP is the mandatory method
takes into account savings from energy 1
A passive house is a building, for which
for both producing a BER and for
generation technologies. The DEAP thermal comfort (ISO 7730) can be
demonstrating compliance with certain
calculations are based on standardised achieved solely by post-heating or post-
aspects of the Irish Building Regulations,
occupancy and the procedure deter- cooling of the fresh air mass, which is
the Passivhaus Standard and the associ- required to fulfill sufficient indoor air
mines annual values for delivered
ated PHPP is a voluntary design standard quality conditions (DIN 1946) - without a
energy consumption, primary energy
for achieving low levels of total energy need for recirculated air. Source:
consumption, CO2 emissions and costs.
consumption within a dwelling. http://www.passivhaustagung.de/Passive_
These values are expressed both in
terms of annual totals and per square While it is to be expected that a dwelling
metre of total floor area of the dwelling. conforming to the Passivhaus Standard
will comply with Irish Building
As the national methodology, DEAP
Regulations Part L, a separate calculation
serves two primary functions. The first is
using DEAP will be required to demon-
to demonstrate compliance with certain
strate both this and to determine its BER.
provisions in the Building Regulations Additional Reading
and the second is to produce a Building The Passivhaus Standard can be met
Energy Rating (BER) for a dwelling. using a variety of design strategies,
construction methods and technologies. European Commission (EC), 2005.
“Green Paper on Energy Efficiency”.
1.3.2 Building Energy Rating In general, the low energy consumption
[Internet] EC. Available at:
required to meet the standard will result http://ec.europa.eu/energy/efficiency/i
A BER is an objective scale of compari-
in a dwelling achieving a favorable BER, ndex_en.html
son for the energy performance of a
provided that attention is paid to the
building ranging from A1 to G (see European Commission (EC), 2006. “
advice outlined in later sections of these Promotion of European Passive Houses
sample label below). Essentially a BER is
guidelines. (PEP)”. [Internet] PEP. Available at:
an asset rating, based on a standardised
occupancy and usage pattern, and is
calculated for a dwelling using DEAP.
The rating is the annual primary energy Government of Ireland, Department of
Communications, Energy and Natural
consumption of the dwelling expressed
Resources (DCMNR), 2007. Government
in terms of kWh per m2 of floor area. The “White Paper Delivering a Sustainable
CO2 emissions associated with this Energy Future for Ireland”. [Internet]
energy consumption are also reported DCERN. Available at:
on the BER certificate and expressed in http://www.dcmnr.gov.ie/Energy/Energ
terms of kg of CO2 per m2 of floor area. y+Planning+Division/Energy+White+P
O’Leary, F., Howley, M., and
O’Gallachóir, B., 2006. “Energy in
Ireland 1990-2004, Trends, issues,
forecast and indicators”. Dublin.
Sustainable Energy Ireland.
O’Leary, F., Howley, M., and
O’Gallachóir, B., 2008, “Energy in the
Residential Sector: 2008 Report”.
Dublin. Sustainable Energy Ireland.
United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 1997.
The Kyoto Protocol. [Internet]. UNFCCC.
Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/
Guidebook on Energy Intelligent
Retrofitting, Published by Intelligent
Energy Europe Agency, February 2008.

Building Energy Rating Label.

Source: Sustainable Energy Ireland.

page 4
Review of Building Stock in Ireland
page 6
Review of Building Stock in Ireland

An overview of the current building was €1,767, an increase of 4% on 2005

stock in Ireland is provided below in and 70% on 1990 (3.4% per annum on In terms of real numbers, it is
estimated that 930,000 houses in
order to gain some impression of the average) – this increased to approxi-
Ireland were built before the first ever
potential application of these guide- mately €2,000 in 2008.
building regulations in 1991, with
lines. approximately 1 million homes built
In 2006 the residential sector accounted
There were an estimated 1.46 million for just under a quarter of all energy before the 1996 Building Regulations.
permanently occupied dwellings in the used in Ireland and after transport it was 350,000 houses in Ireland have no
wall insulation, 200,000 houses have
State at the end of 2006. The most the second largest energy using sector.
no roof insulation and 350,000 houses
common house type in Ireland in 2006 The sector was responsible for 25%
have single glazed windows.
was the detached house which (11,896 kt CO2) of energy related CO2
accounted for 42.8% of the total, emissions. In 2006 the 'average' dwelling (DoEHLG). At the time of the survey, 57%
followed by semi-detached houses at consumed a total of 25,304 kWh of of all dwellings had been built before
27.2% and terraced houses at 17.6%2. energy based on climate corrected data. the introduction of the first Irish Building
Regulations which came into force in
Stock of Private Households in Permanent Housing Units - Types of Accommodation
1991. Approximately 750,000 homes
DWELLING TYPE 2006 number 2006 % of Total were built prior to any thermal insula-
tion requirements (introduced 1979) but
Detached House 625,988 42.8
Semi-Detached House 398,360 27.2
the survey indicates a degree of energy
Terraced House 257,522 17.6 improvement across the older housing
Flat / Apartment[1] 139,872 9.6 stock. Nevertheless, in 2001 24% of all
Bed-sit 8,751 0.6 households surveyed had no insulated
Not Stated 31,803 2.2
Total 1,462,296 100.0
walls (equating to 63% of pre-1940 built
houses), 18% had no insulated roof (40%
Source: SEI of pre-1940 built houses) and 31% had
no double glazing (49% of pre-1940
In 2006, the majority of dwellings (75%) This comprised 19,713 kWh (78%) in the built houses).
were either owned outright or were in form of direct fossil fuels and the remain-
the process of being purchased der as electricity. The percentage of dwellings with central
(mortgaged) representing a slight heating had increased from 52% in 1987
Putting Irish dwellings into an interna- to 91% in 2005.
decrease on the 1991 proportion of 79%.
tional context. Examining CO2 emissions
There have been historically high levels per dwelling, the average Irish dwelling Energy efficiency and dwelling
of ownership in Ireland compared to in 2005 emitted 47% more CO2 than the age
other European countries. For example average dwelling in the UK. Emissions
in Austria the proportion of owner were 92% higher than the average for Pre-1940 dwellings were mainly solid-
occupied dwellings was 51% in 2004 the EU-15, 104% more than the EU-27. wall construction, while during the
and for the UK it was 69%. 1940s through to the 1970s, cavity-wall
Focusing on the quality of the building construction was implemented. During
Dwellings in Ireland are gradually stock in Ireland, The Economic and the 1980s, improved U-values for both
increasing in size. For example, the Social Research Institute (ESRI) walls and attics were introduced in
average floor area of new houses completed a study in 2002 titled ‘Irish various building regulations, increasing
granted planning permission grew from National Survey of Housing Quality 2001 the thermal efficiency of dwellings, and
130m2 in 1990 to 161m2 in 2007 (an – 2002 (NSHQ)’ on behalf of the these U-values have since been further
increase of 24%). In 2006 the average Department of the Environment, enhanced with the introduction of more
annual spend on energy by households Heritage and Local Government stringent building regulations.

page 7
The graph across highlights the trend
from 1972 to 2010 in terms of energy
Energy rating of Irish housing:
efficiency of dwellings in Ireland. The Indicative Trends over 4 decades
most significant improvement in this 400
period was post 1979, when the first
Building Regulations were introduced. It
would appear from this data, therefore, 300
that dwellings built pre-1979 would Primary
benefit most from retrofitting to the 2
kWh/(m a) 200
Passivhaus Standard (amounting to
approximately 750,000 dwellings). 150

Fuel Poverty SOURCE: 50
The study by Healy and Clinch highlights 1972 1979 1982 1992 2002 2008 Regs 2010
that older dwellings are more likely to be Construction standard/year
occupied by those experiencing fuel
poverty than newer dwellings, with the prior upgrading are most suited to retro-
highest absolute numbers found in fitting to a significantly higher energy References
homes built in the 1940s-70s, where performance standard (such as 2
Energy in the Residential Sector, 2008
some 111,000 households are affected. Passivhaus Standard) given their
Report, by Fergal O’Leary, Martin Howley
As might be expected, those in newer completion prior to introduction of
and Dr. Brian Ó Gallachóir
homes experience a lower level of fuel thermal insulation standards in the late
poverty. Retrofitting older dwellings to 1970’s. Further, due to the age of these
the Passivhaus Standard would there- dwellings, they may well require signifi-
fore assist in addressing the issue of fuel cant upgrading of the building fabric
poverty in Ireland. which often provides a stimulus to
upgrade energy performance.
Summary In short, the older the building the more
It is likely that dwellings which are older effective would be retrofitting to the
than 30 years and have had little or no Passivhaus Standard.

Source:MosArt Architecture

page 8
Principles of Passive Houses
page 10
Principles of Passive Houses

The principles of passive houses will be of the PHPP software can be purchased and the proportion of insulation
outlined below in brief. More detailed from SEI’s Renewable Energy occupied by structural elements.
information is provided in Chapter 2 of Information Office (www.sei.ie/resource-
■ Windows – the orientation and size
SEI’s Guidelines for the Design and centre). The verification requires the
of all windows are entered into this
Construction of Passive House Dwellings input of very specific and detailed data
sheet, along with the U-values of the
in Ireland (www.sei.ie/phguidelines). about the building design, materials and
glass and frames as well as other
components into the PHPP spreadsheets
The building envelope consists of all technical specifications.
and is then related to the climate data
elements of the construction which
for the region in which the house would ■ Annual Heat Requirement – this
separate the indoor climate from the
be retrofitted. The validity of the result value is calculated by determining
outdoor climate. The aim of retrofitting to
from this process is of course highly the heat losses through transmission
the Passivhaus Standard is to upgrade the
dependent upon the validity of the data and ventilation and subtracting the
building envelope in order to minimise
entered. total solar and internal heat gains.
heat loss and optimise solar and internal
The annual space heat requirement
heat gain to reduce the space heating Some of the principal datasheets
must be less than 15 kWh/(m2a).
requirement to 15 kWh/(m2a). included in the software are listed
below, along with their main functions: ■ Heat Load (W/m2) – the building’s
The following parameters are funda-
heat load is based on energy balance
mental in this process: ■ Climate data – it is possible to
calculations estimated by subtract-
choose the climate for which the
1. Well insulated building envelope ing the minimum solar gains and
passive house is being designed.
internal heat sources from the
2. High energy performing windows This has a potentially significant
maximum transmission and ventila-
and doors impact on the U-values required to
tion heat losses.
achieve the threshold annual heat
3. Minimised heat loss through thermal
requirement. The PHPP software is comprehensive
and detailed and therefore requires
■ Verification – this sheet collates the
4. Significantly reduced structural air some training prior to embarking on
results of the overall evaluation of
infiltration practical application to a real project.
the building including the Space
5. Optimal use of passive solar and However, the software is also quite user
Heating Requirement, Specific
internal heat gains friendly and the verification page
Primary Energy Requirement, Heat
enables the user to check whether or not
6. Introduce renewable energy Load and Frequency of Overheating.
such thresholds as space heating
technologies such as solar thermal The user can see at a glance on this
requirement are met. In the event that
sheet whether or not the building
the key Passivhaus Standard criteria are
can be certified as a Passive House.
not met, for example, the assessor will
■ U-value – this sheet enables the firstly have to check to see if there are
Passivhaus Planning Package
assessor to specify the construction any fundamental errors in terms of data
2007 – An Essential Design
of all the opaque (ie. does not entry. If this is not the cause of the
include windows) elements of the problem, then the retrofitting strategy
The Passivhaus Planning Package 2007 building envelope for the purposes will likely have to be modified in order to
(PHPP) is a software package based on a of calculating the U-values of those achieve the required standards. In a
series of extensive and interlinked Excel elements. The sheet requires the retrofit situation, this will typically
data sheets which collectively allow input of the thermal conductivity (λ- involve improving the U-values of the
building designs (including retrofit value) of the building materials building envelope.
strategies) to be verified against the proposed as well as their thicknesses
Passivhaus Standard. The latest version

page 11
record of adjustment of the ventilation achieved with U-values for walls, floors
system, declaration of the construction and roofs ranging from 0.09 to 0.15
supervisor and photographs of the W/(m2K) and average U-value for
complete building must also be submit- windows (including glazing and window
ted. Upon examination of received frames) in the region of 0.60 to 0.80
documentation the applicant receives W/(m2K). Typically triple glazed window
the results of the examination from the units are used in passive houses in
certifying party. If the necessary verifica- Central and Northern Europe.
tions have been found to be correct and
These U-values are far below (i.e. better
the above criteria have been met the
than) the limits set under the Irish
‘Quality Approved Passive House’ certifi-
Building Regulations.
cate is issued (PHPP 2007, pp.28).
According to the current Technical
A wider European passive house certifi-
Guidance Document Part L 2007 the
cation scheme was developed within the
required U-values are 0.27 W/(m2K) for
Intelligent Energy Europe
walls, 0.16 – 0.22 W/(m2K) for roofs, 0.25
project (2005-2007) “Promotion of
W/(m2K) for ground floor slab, 0.15
European Passive Houses, PEP”
W/(m2K) for ground floor slab with under
floor heating and 2.0 W/(m2K) for
This certification scheme is applicable to
windows, rooflights and external doors.
Passivhaus Institut Certificate example, Quality ‘an emerging market scenario’ (i.e.
Approved Passive House. countries with a small number of passive
Source: Passivhaus Institut, Germany.
house buildings), aims to ensure that the
design of a particular passive house can Optimising passive solar gain
Extracts from the PHPP software are deliver the specific energy requirements
included later in Section 6 pertaining to The optimal approach to the design of a
in accordance with the PHPP and
the retrofit case study house. passive house is to avoid an excessive
confirms the airtightness of the
area of north facing glazing and place
completed building. This certification
Passive House Certification relatively large windows facing south.
scheme involves the verification of the
This is in order to minimise heat losses
At the time of writing these Guidelines, a 'as built' design (i.e. that reflects the
through the north facing elevation,
passive house in Ireland can be certified actual construction, incorporating any
which receives no direct sunlight during
by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, modifications made during construction)
most of the heating season, while
Germany (http://www.passiv.de) or in accordance with the PHPP and confir-
maximising ‘free’ solar heat gains on the
certifying body approved by the mation of the airtightness of the
south. Achieving the optimal distribu-
Passivhaus Institut. For further informa- completed building by a fan pressurisa-
tion of glazing when dealing with exist-
tion on certification of passive houses in tion test performed in accordance with IS
ing dwellings will often be very
Ireland contact SEI’s Renewable Energy EN 13829.
challenging and in many instances it will
Information Office or the Passivhaus simply not be possible to increase
Institut directly. The evaluation criteria passive solar gain due to the aspect of
for the certification (Source: PHPP 2007, Building Envelope Insulation the dwelling. A detached house in its
pp.23) are: own grounds might provide some scope
There are several different methods and
- Specific Space Heat Demand for alteration and provision of south-
materials available to upgrade the
max. 15 kWh/(m2a) facing windows, but an east-west facing
performance of the building envelope in
mid-terrace house will not have the
- Pressurisation Test Result n50 dwellings to the Passivhaus Standard
same scope. The PHPP software can be
max. 0.6 air changes per hour and the most typical scenarios likely to
used to determine whether or not the
be encountered are illustrated in the
- Entire Specific Primary Energy Passivhaus Standard can be reached
next Section. Continuous insulation of
Demand max. 120kWh/(m2a) includ- with any given aspect and it will typically
the entire thermal envelope of a build-
ing domestic electricity. be possible to compensate for lack of
ing is the most effective measure to
passive solar gain by increasing the level
The above criteria have to be verified reduce heat losses in order to meet the
of insulation of the building envelope.
with the PHPP 2007, and the required list Passivhaus Standard. Achieving this in a
of documentation for the passive house retrofit situation is more challenging Extensive areas of glass on the south
quality approval certificate, construction than for a new-build. facing façade in a well insulated and air-
drawings and technical specification tight dwelling might well lead to
Insulation of the building envelope can
with product data sheets, must be overheating on warm sunny days. The
be divided into four distinct areas: exter-
submitted to the certifying party PHPP software will alert the designer to
nal wall, floor, roof and windows/doors.
(including PHPP calculations). Also, any risk of overheating by calculating
Existing passive houses in Central and
verification of the airtight building the frequency of overheating and
Northern European countries have been
envelope according to IS EN 13829, a expressing this as a percentage of the

page 12
year in which the internal temperature in The airtight construction required any auxiliary space heating needs,
the house rises above 25 degrees C. should reduce the penetration of radon expected to be small. Typical fuel
in to the building. Radon which can still sources for the back-up system
Thermal Bridging be detected inside of the building will be include biomass, heat pump, gas,
partly contributed from outside air as and in some instances electricity (for
Thermal bridging (i.e. un-insulated joints
well as off-gassing from building materi- example ‘green electricity’ from
between walls, floors/ walls, ceilings/
als. To mitigate against effects of low renewable sources). The back-up
adjacent walls, windows/walls etc) are
radon concentrations recommended air system is also used to provide hot
weak points of thermal resistance in the
changes of 25 to 30 m3/person provided water, either throughout the year or
building envelope and cause unwanted
by a mechanical ventilation system are during winter if a solar water heating
losses of energy. A thermal bridge
sufficient3. system is used during summer.
increases heat loss through the struc-
ture, and in some extreme cases this The Radiological Protection Institute of An airtight house requires a well-
may cause surface condensation or Ireland (RPII) (www.rpii.ie) and the Irish designed mechanical ventilation system
interstitial condensation in the structure. Building Regulations provide advice to provide good indoor air quality. A
Surface mould growth or wood rot may about the treatment of radon in the built passive house is ventilated using a
be the consequences of a thermal environment. mechanical system which incorporates
bridge. Special care must be taken to air to air heat recovery (mechanical heat
ensure that retrofit measures do not recovery ventilation, or MHRV). Exhaust
increase the likelihood of creating such air is extracted from rooms that typically
Internal Heat Gains produce heat, moisture and unwanted
problems which can affect the health
and longevity of the building. A passive house is very efficient at utilis- smells such as kitchens and bathrooms.
ing ‘free’ internal heat gains from domes- Before this air is expelled to the outside
The Passivhaus Standard for linear
tic household appliances, kitchen and it passes through a heat exchanger
thermal transmittance should not
utility equipment, electronic equipment, where the heat is transferred to the
exceed 0.01 W/(mK). This requires the
artificial lighting, and occupants. Heat separate stream of incoming fresh air,
building designer to identify and locate
losses from stoves or boilers also thereby eliminating the need to
all potential thermal bridging in the
contribute towards the overall space completely heat the fresh air as it enters
construction, applying careful specifica-
heating requirement as long as they are the building.
tion and detailing of those elements
positioned within the building envelope.
providing where possible a continuing It is important that attention is paid to
Occupants of the building also
layer of insulation as well as taking care regular replacement of air-filters for both
contribute to meeting the heat load; a
to execute those elements on site as per incoming and exhaust air. Filters are
typical adult human continuously emits
design details. The impact of thermal used not only to provide clean air for the
100W of heat when stationary. A family
bridging can be tested and verified in occupants but also to ensure that the
of five persons, therefore, can emit up to
the PHPP software as the design of the heat exchanger is not clogged with dust
0.5 kW of heat. This may seem like a
retrofitting scheme is being developed. and other matter. If the filters are not
small amount but it equates to approxi-
regularly replaced (for example every six
mately two thirds of the total space heat
to twelve months) and become clogged
load for the case study passive house
with dirt the MHRV will have to work
Structural Airtightness and retrofit project presented in Section 6.
harder to provide the same volume of air
Draught Proofing to the house, thereby increasing the
Building an airtight or leak-free structure speeds of the fans and, ultimately, using
is imperative to achieving the Passivhaus Passive House Building more energy. In retrofitting a dwelling to
Standard. If there are gaps in the build- Systems include MHRV, occupants will likely have
ing structure then uncontrolled no experience of the maintenance
As indicated earlier a passive house does requirements involved with the system.
amounts of cold external air can infil-
not need a conventional space heating
trate the building. Achieving a high level
system of radiators or underfloor
of air-tightness eliminates cold draughts
heating to maintain a comfortable
and associated comfort losses. It also
indoor climate. Instead, due to the small What happens in the event of
prevents condensation of indoor moist,
space heating requirement involved, the a power failure?
warm air penetrating the structure, and
following building services are sufficient
possible structural damages due to If there is a loss of electricity (and the
in a passive house:
decay, corrosion and frost. The air tight- dwelling has no back-up generator) the
ness of a building can be accurately (IS ■ Mechanical ventilation system with ventilation system will stop working and
EN 13829) measured by carrying out a heat recovery which provides most the supply of fresh air will be cut off. If
blower-door test and the Passivhaus of the space heat requirement. power is lost for a short while (for
Standard is reached when there are less example a few hours), then there is likely
■ Back-up system capable of heating
than or equal to 0.6 air changes per hour to be no noticeable difference in indoor
the air passing through the dwelling
@ 50 Pascal pressure. air quality. However, if the loss of power is
via mechanical ventilation to meet

page 13
prolonged, the simple solution is to open The heat load, on the other hand, has ■ The optimal orientation is due south
the windows and to create natural cross been reduced from 80 W/m2 (6.64 kW for and deviation from this will reduce
flow ventilation through the building. 83m2) to 9 W/m2 (0.74 kW for 83m2). This the contribution of the collectors to
amount of energy could be provided by DHW production. In places where
Additional details on MHRV aspects are
a very small wood chip / pellet there is no south facing roof, then
provided in SEI’s publication Guidelines
boiler/stove compared to what might be expected orientation losses can be
for the Design and Construction of
typically required in a family home. overcome by increasing the collector
Passive House Dwellings in Ireland.
The most common method of ‘heating’
in a passive house is by post-heating the ■ The optimal tilt of the solar panels
fresh air after it has already been for DHW is approximately 45
Back-up Heating System warmed by the exhaust air in the MHRV. degrees. (In a pitch that is greater
As previously highlighted in these There are a number of ways in which the than 45 degrees the potential annual
guidelines, the space heating require- temperature of the air can be boosted, output is compromised somewhat).
ment in a passive house is so low that including:
■ There are two main types of solar
there is no need for a traditional space
■ Water to air heat exchanger; collectors typically used, namely flat
heating system. Space heating demand
plate panels and evacuated tubes.
in a passive house is typically met ■ Compact unit with electrical heat
through passive solar gains (40 – 60%), pump; and
internal heat gains (20 - 30%) and the
■ Wood pellet/wood log boiler/stove
remainder (10 - 40%) needs to be
with integral back boiler.
provided from building systems. The
optimal way to transfer the small An overview of the typical back-up
amount of required heat throughout the heating systems used in passive houses
house is through the mechanical ventila- to provide thermal comfort3 is provided
tion system. in Section 4.4.

The PHPP software will accurately

predict the following two measure-
ments for each retrofit passive house Domestic Hot Water
design: Production 3
Translated from Protokollband Nr. 30,
Lueftung bei Bestandssanierung:
■ Annual Space Heat Requirement – As in any type of dwelling, the passive Loesungsvarianten, Dr. Wolfgang Feist
this measures the amount of energy house requires a system that provides Passivhaus Institut
that is needed to maintain a domestic hot water (DHW). As with
comfortable indoor temperature, space heating, it is important that the
specified in kilowatt hours per system is energy efficient, well
square metre of treated floor area controlled and has an adequate capacity Primary energy, in kWh/year: This
per year, or kWh/(m2a). to meet demand. Generally the DHW includes delivered energy, plus an
system in a passive house is combined allowance for the energy “overhead”
■ Heat Load – this measures the incurred in extracting, processing and
with a heat source such as a wood stove,
capacity of the space heating system transporting a fuel or other energy
solar thermal collector, compact unit or
required to maintain comfortable carrier to the dwelling. For example,
heat pump for space heating. Most in the case of electricity it takes
indoor temperatures at any one
passive house examples encountered account of generation efficiency at
time, specified in Watts per square
have utilised solar thermal collectors as power stations. SEI, Dwelling Energy
metre of treated floor area, or W/m2.
they reduce the use of primary energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP), 2008
For the retrofit case study the annual and CO2 emissions. It is important to version 3, pp. 31.
space heat requirement (without losses note, however, that the Passivhaus
of the heating system) is 15 kWh/(m2a) Standard is indeed achievable without Delivered energy, in kWh/year: This
reduced from an initial 214 kWh/(m2a). solar based water heating. The introduc- corresponds to the energy consump-
Including the losses the so called final tion of the BER system as an indication of tion that would normally appear on
the energy bills of the dwelling for the
energy (post retrofitting) is 30 the energy performance of dwellings in
assumed standardised occupancy and
kWh/(m2a) equating to approximately Ireland, together with the mandatory
end-uses considered.
2,490 kWh over an entire year (the house requirement in the Building Regulations
measures 83m2 in treated floor area). Part L 2007 in relation to renewable
Annually, this would equate to 230 litres energy provision is likely to increase the
of oil, 240 m3 of mains gas or 450 kg installation of solar technologies.
(0.45 tonne) of bagged wood pellets.
In terms of specifying a solar collector
system, the following outline guidance
should be considered:

page 14
Typical Phases of Retrofitting
page 16
Typical Phases of Retrofitting

4.1 Survey note. It will also be necessary to ascer-

tain the extent of the shading surround-
A detailed survey of the building to be ing the building by surveying the
retrofitted is an important basis for a position, shape and height of adjacent
good low-energy design. obstacles such as buildings and trees.
The existing build-up (in terms of materi- Lastly, the completion of a detailed
als, performance and dimensions) of the survey will provide the opportunity to
different elements of the thermal locate potentially harmful or toxic
envelope and details of junctions, possi- substances such as asbestos. These
ble thermal bridges, windows and doors substances should be replaced with
have to be accurately recorded. In many more suitable material during the build-
cases, the precise build-up of the ing process.
envelope will not be known to the
owner of the dwelling (for example
Initial PHPP Calculation
whether external walls are of cavity
block, hollow block or solid block) and in It is recommended to do a PHPP calcula-
these situations it will be necessary to tion of the existing building and to
create an inspection opening to clarify compare the ‘theoretical’ with the actual
the construction type. energy consumption. If there is a consid-
erable difference between both
Details of the heating and DHW system Blower door airtightness test.
Source: MosArt Architecture estimates (for example greater than
as well as data on energy consumption
10%), it would first be important to
over a three year period are also critically dwellings will perform considerably verify the comfort levels of the
important as a means of verifying the poorer than this. occupants.
thermal performance of the existing
building fabric. In parallel with this, it is The National Standard Authority of The initial testing of the dwelling in the
also important to consider the comfort Ireland (NSAI) recently introduced a PHPP software will quickly determine its
levels experienced by the dwelling registration scheme for service providers current performance compared to the
occupants. Low energy bills could be involved in the Air Tightness Testing of Passivhaus Standard and will provide a
misinterpreted as a reflection of an Domestic dwellings to IS EN 13829:2000. good indication of the extent of upgrad-
efficient dwelling when in fact the This scheme should ensure high ing works that would be required. For
occupants might have been living in standards in terms of independence and example, the current space heating
some considerable discomfort during quality of testing and evaluation. requirement of the case study retrofit
the heating season due perhaps to lack The use of a thermal imaging camera
of resources (fuel poverty) or malfunc- can also be very helpful in locating weak
tioning heating systems. points in the thermal envelope but such
A blower door test would be helpful to a procedure is not necessarily manda-
ascertain the current level of airtightness tory especially if the survey and assess-
and to identify where cold air may infil- ment is being undertaken by someone
trate the building fabric in the heating with experience in retrofitting.
season. The Passivhaus Standard Given the importance of maximising
requires an airtightness performance of passive solar gain, the overall aspect of
0.6 air changes per hour measured at 50 the building facades as well as area and Thermographic Image
Pascal pressure and the majority of older orientation of glazing is important to Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services

page 17
house presented in Section 6 was If it is proposed to change the overall ance of the thermal envelope is
estimated in the PHPP as 214 kWh/(m2a) form of the dwelling, care should be provided below, considering the follow-
which is approximately 14 times less taken to bear in mind the important ing aspects:
efficient that the 15 kWh/(m2a) required principles of achieving compactness
■ Insulation (internal and external);
by the Passivhaus Standard. (reducing the surface to volume ratio),
maximizing the proportion of exposed ■ Windows and doors;
glazing to the south, east and west (to
■ Airtightness; and
be tested and verified in the PHPP), and
4.2 Changes in layout/design avoiding unnecessary recesses and ■ Thermal bridges.
In some cases, it might be possible to projections that might cause shading.
alter the dwelling layout and / or An iterative process should be estab- 4.3.1 Insulation
arrangement of glazing in order to lished between the architectural re-
design of the dwelling and cross-check- One of the key challenges in upgrading
increase overall energy efficiency. Given
ing the overall energy performance in overall insulation levels in dwellings is to
that the existing building is already
the PHPP. For instance, existing windows choose from the wide variety of materi-
modelled in the PHPP, any changes that
to the south, east and west of the build- als available on the marketplace. Above
are being considered to the building
ing could possibly be enlarged in order all, the insulation has to be appropriate
form and orientation of glazing can be
to increase solar gain and thereby to its application. Some insulation
tested during the design process regard-
reduce the space heating requirement. products are suited to use for fill in cavity
ing the effect on energy performance as
walls, for example, whereas others are
well as the risk of overheating (which
not. Some are load-bearing for use
might arise if a dwelling has an excess of
under concrete floors whereas others
south-facing glazing without a screen to
4.3 Upgrade Thermal Envelope are ‘soft’ and better suited to fitting in
keep the high summer sun out).
the attic space. Some products have very
As highlighted earlier, a key perform-
When considering a major retrofit low thermal conductivity values ((λ)
ance threshold given by the Passivhaus
project, the owners might also consider lambda values) - which means they have
Institut is the maximum specific space
using the opportunity to extend their high insulating properties and can
heat requirement of 15 kWh/(m2a). For
home or to modify the internal layout or provide a higher level of insulation for a
all retrofit projects (and especially for
arrangement of rooms. In such given thickness compared to lesser
older dwellings), it will inevitably be
instances, it should be remembered that performing products. Insulation types
required to significantly upgrade the
larger homes, no matter how energy will also vary on price, fire safety issues
insulation performance of the thermal
efficient, will undoubtedly consume and amount of processing and / or
envelope and install highly efficient
more energy than smaller houses of a chemicals involved in their manufacture.
windows and doors and mechanical
similar specification. There has been a
heat recovery ventilation system in order Different thicknesses and thermal
tendency for dwellings in Ireland to
to reach the above threshold. conductivities of insulation products can
become larger over the years and
easily be tested in the U-value sheet in
homeowners should consider very The heat recovery system will be
the PHPP. Dependent on the overall
carefully the extent of space that their discussed in Section 4.4. If no heat recov-
retrofit strategy, the additional insula-
families really need. Minimising the area ery is included in the retrofit scheme, the
tion might be placed on the outside of
of extended floor space will reduce build energy savings that it would have
the structural building shell (sometimes
cost and perhaps leave additional funds brought to a project would have to be
referred to as ‘outsulation’), the inside
for enhancing the overall retrofit specifi- compensated for by an even more
(so-called ‘dry-lining’) and/or within the
cation. efficient building fabric.
construction envelope (eg. filling the
Guidance on upgrading the perform- cavity space created by two leaves of
Roof Ceiling Floor Wall Façade Perimeter
Mineral wool x x x x x
Polyurethane x x x x x
Polyisocyuranate x x x x x
Phenolic x x x x x
EPS x x x
XPS x1 x x
Wood fibre x x x x x
Wood wool x x x
Calcium silicate x2
Cork x x
Cocos fibre x x
Foam glass x3 x x x x
Cellulose x x x x
Maximise passive solar gain Notes: 1 Cold roof construction, 2 Internal insulation, 3 Flat Roof, Sedum Roofs.
Source: MosArt Architecture

page 18
In every case, it is critically important as not having to use scaffolding and

OUTSIDE that the retrofit designer makes sure not being dependent on reasonable
that the proposed insulation strategy weather to carry out the works.
will not cause more interstitial
■ In terms of thermal comfort, a room
condensation in the structure that can
which is internally insulated will
be evaporated to the exterior over the
typically heat up much quicker due
course of one year. The amount of
to the avoidance of having to heat
condensate that can potentially build up
up massive external walls.
within the envelope of a building is influ-
enced by climate (temperature and Considering disadvantages, the follow-
humidity) and internal air conditions ing are highlighted:
(high or low occupancy, internal average
■ Internal insulation will reduce the
temperature and humidity). All calcula-

usable net floor area of rooms with
tions in these Guidelines are based on (a)
external walls. In the case of the
climate conditions for Dublin and (b) low
semi-detached retrofit house
occupancy (according to BS EN ISO
presented later, this reduction would
13788, Annex A). ). The danger of inter-
be approximately 20% (300 mm
stitial condensation is that it is, by defini-
insulation) of the total net usable
tion, hidden within the structure and
floor area for insulation with a
therefore may be reducing the thermal
thermal conductivity value of 0.035
performance of the envelope unknown
W/mK (such as mineral wool or cellu-
to the homeowners, potentially causing
lose) and 14 % for an insulation with
In the top diagram, the risk of creating a thermal structural defects in the medium to long
bridge is greatly reduced using external insulation. a thermal conductivity value of 0.025
term as well as health risks from result-
Source: MosArt Architecture W/mK (such as polyisocyuranate).
ing mould growth. There is free software
Related to this, any surface mounted
external and internal blockwork or, in available which can be used to test the
services located on the internal face
the case of timber frame between the risk of causing interstitial condensation
of external walls, such as electrical
wall studs). with different insulation strategies and
switches and sockets, will have to be
application of such tools is strongly
Ideally, the insulation layer should be re-mounted on the new surface.
recommended herein.
continuous all around the building
■ Inevitably thermal bridges will be
fabric without any breaks. While this is Internal Insulation created for example at
relatively easy to achieve with a new-
external/internal-wall-junction or
build project, avoiding breaks in the There are advantages as well as disad-
external-wall/ceiling-junction. As a
insulation layer is considerably more vantages of internally insulating the
result of this, additional insulation
challenging when retrofitting. building envelope which need to be
may be necessary along internal
considered at an early stage of the retro-
The location of insulation relative to the elements such as walls and ceilings
fitting strategy.
structural envelope can have a signifi- to reduce the effect of the thermal
cant influence on thermal bridges. In terms of advantages, the following bridges with all details having to be
External insulation, for example, is attributes are highlighted: studded very carefully to avoid any
typically the most effective in reducing condensation in joints.
■ The external facade of the building
thermal bridges, whereas internal
will remain untouched by the ■ Usually there has to be a vapour
insulation would be the least effective.
upgrading works which would be barrier on the warm side of the
beneficial when dealing with certain insulation. When fixing paintings or
external finishes which homeowners cupboards with nails or screws this
might be reluctant to cover with vapour barrier could be penetrated
external insulation, such as tradi- which would compromise its
tional brick, or natural stone. performance and result in a higher
risk of mould growth and damages
■ Internal insulation may be cheaper
in the wall construction through
when compared to external insula-
condensing water. A service cavity
tion because of certain savings, such
may be necessary to avoid penetra-
tion of the vapour barrier. This again
reduces the treated floor area.

Internally insulating on the top of an

existing concrete floor slab would create
a number of practical knock-on-effects.
For example, the clear height of internal
Testing of various insulation strategies for risk of creating interstitial condensation.
Source: MosArt Architecture

page 19
and external doors and windows would Insulating the Roof Space
be compromised by the higher finished
When considering insulating the roof
floor level, the balustrade height of
space, the first decision to make is to
windows or railings might be too low and
determine the position of the thermal
the height of the lowest riser of an inter-
envelope of the dwelling. In most
nal staircase might not be consistent with
homes, the thermal envelope will be on
the height of the other risers which would
the horizontal and just above the
be unacceptable from a health and safety
plastered ceiling comprising of insula-
point of view.
tion rolled out between the roof joists. In
other situations, such as where there is a External Insulation
vaulted ceiling for example, the thermal External insulation should be
External insulation is typically used with envelope will be within the sloping roof fitted to run past the level of the
internal floor slab in order to
masonry construction types but might comprising of insulation fitted between minimise thermal bridging
also be considered as an option for the roof trusses. In the case of where the (lower sketch)
upgrading timber frame dwellings. The former scenario exists, it might be worth
key principle behind this insulation considering changing the position of the
method is to completely wrap around insulation to the sloping part of the roof
the entire structural building envelope which would result in extending the
thereby significantly reducing thermal heated volume of the dwelling. This has
the advantage of creating a heated attic Source: MosArt Architecture
bridges which can otherwise arise where
external walls and foundations connect space into which it might be possible to likely the hardcore there under before
to internal walls and the floor slab. If position some of the service equipment placing a damp-proof membrane, a layer
external insulation is being proposed for typically found in passive houses, includ- of insulation and a new floor screed. Just
a cavity wall construction, then it would ing a large solar hot water tank as well as as externally insulating a roof, this would
be imperative to also fill the cavity with the mechanical heat recovery ventila- be costly, hugely disruptive for
insulation in order to avoid thermal tion equipment. By positioning this homeowners and might not be justifi-
looping occurring from the ‘cold’ equipment within the (extended) able in terms of cost and return on
unheated cavity through the internal thermal envelope, transmission heat investment.
block leaf to the inside of the dwelling. losses will be minimised. Furthermore,
not having to lay thick insulation within If it is decided not to excavate the
This would also reduce the visible thick-
and above the roof joists might facilitate ground floor slab to provide an insula-
ness of insulation required externally.
placing a floored surface in the attic tion layer, some compensation will be
There are two options of external wall provided by externally insulating the
which would provide additional storage
insulation, as follows: external walls down as far as the founda-
space for the homeowners. A leaky attic
hatch would also be avoided when the tion. Externally insulating external walls
■ The so-called ‘composite system’ or
sloped section is insulated. as far as the foundation will marginally
‘single-skin system’ is where insula-
reduce the heat loss from internal floors
tion is either stuck or mechanically
Shifting the thermal envelope to the as well as marginally reduce thermal
fixed directly to the external face of
sloping roof should be verified in the bridges emanating from the rising walls.
masonry wall, reinforced with for
PHPP software and the load-bearing
example a plastic or glass fibre mesh
capacity of the roof trusses should be Wall Cavity Insulation
and then rendered. To avoid compli-
checked prior to placing additional
cations regarding damages or Cavity wall insulation in Ireland is now
loads thereon.
warranty it is important to use commonplace and involves filling the
components of one building system In dwellings where sloping ceilings are cavity between the inner and outer leaf
only. This composite system is used found, the implications of placing of concrete blocks with appropriate
widely on Continental Europe as a additional insulation underneath the insulation material. It is quite likely that
technique to upgrade existing build- roof trusses should be evaluated with insulating the cavity alone, however, will
ings to the Passivhaus Standard. respect to clear head height. There may not be enough to achieve the required
With this single skin construction be insufficient space internally to place U-values for the Passivhaus Standard. In
type, care should be taken that the additional insulation, in which case it such cases, cavity insulation will have to
system has Agrement Certification might be required to place the insula- be combined with internal and / or
for insurance purposes. tion externally (above) the roof trusses. external insulation to achieve the
This is only likely to be economically targeted U-value identified in the PHPP
■ The second system is where instead of
feasible if the roof coverings (tiles or software.
the above single-skin system a venti-
slates) are in very poor condition and
lated cavity is created between the The proper installation of cavity insula-
need upgrading or replacing.
external cladding and the insulation, tion can be proven by using a thermal
the latter of which is otherwise fixed To externally insulate a ground floor slab imaging camera which will immediately
to the exterior of the existing walls in a would require completely removing the highlight parts of the construction that
similar manner to the other option. existing concrete slab and more than have not been fully insulated due to

page 20
their detection as being colder than the amount of solar gain.
fully insulated areas.
It also should be considered that as the VAPOUR BARRIER AND
U-value of the glass components, e.g. VAPOUR CHECK/ VAPOUR Windows and Doors CONTROL LAYER:
double glazing / triple glazing improve,
the glass will let through less solar and
µ value is the vapour resistance factor
The greatest heat losses in a dwelling
typically occur through windows and light gains in addition to reductions due
of a material (see also IS EN 12524)
doors. The better the thermal perform- to increased frame, mullion and
d is the thickness of a layer
ance of these elements, therefore, the stanchion proportions. However, sd is the equivalent air layer thickness
less insulation will be necessary in walls, improved U-values will provide a net i.e. a vapour barrier with an sd of 1500
floors and roofs. decrease in energy consumption. m is equivalent to 1500 m thickness of
still air in terms of vapour resistance
There is a growing range of windows The joints between windows and doors
and is calculated as follows :
sd [m] = µ x d [m]
and doors available in Ireland which are to walls and floors have to be sensibly
suitable for passive house design. Many detailed. Ideally, an external insulation vapour check: 0.5 m < sd < 1,500 m
of these will have insulation integral to layer would be used to overlap the vapour barrier: sd > 1,500 m
the frame so that thermal bridging from window or door frame by at least 65 mm BRE IP 2/05 Modelling and Controlling
the exterior to interior surface is in order to reduce potential thermal Interstitial Condensation in Buildings.
minimised. Specifiers and homeowners bridges to a minimum. Furthermore the
regards to protection from the dangers
should be aware that mullions and above joints have to be vapour proof on
of interstitial condensation. For example,
stanchions (glazing bars) will reduce the the inside and weather proof externally.
in certain instances a vapour check
area of glass and, accordingly, the
To prevent overheating in summer it membrane with a relatively low resist-
might be worth considering shading ance factor might be sufficient (i.e.,
devices such as overhangs, balconies or allowing some moisture to pass through
bris soliel which block direct sunlight the wall), whereas in other situations, a
when the sun is high in the sky in the complete vapour barrier might be
summer time. In winter, when the sun is required which totally prevents any
lower in the sky, passive solar gain will moisture entering the construction.
be provided by the sun’s rays passing There are currently vapour membranes
underneath the shading device. available on the market which are so-
called ‘intelligent’ insofar as their vapour Airtightness resistance can change depending on the
relative difference in vapour pressure
The Passivhaus Standard requires a
between internal and external environ-
maximum hourly air change rate of 0.6
ments. They can thus ‘close’ or ‘open’ as
at an under and over-pressure of 50
Pascal. That means the entire air volume
of the dwelling changes through gaps,
cracks and other openings in the build-
Traditional sash window with mullions and stanchions ing fabric at a maximum of 0.6 times in
which reduce solar gains and create a thermal bridge one hour at an air pressure of 50 Pascal.
from outside to inside
Source: MosArt Architecture Compared to the current Part L, this level
of airtightness is quite a high perform-
ance standard but is nevertheless
achievable when both design detailing
and site operations have been well

The airtight membrane or layer should

always be located on the warm side of
the insulation and should be continuous Source: Passivhaus Institut
around the building fabric without any
break. In masonry buildings, the
plastered internal face of walls is
regarded as the ‘airtight’ layer, whereas a
separate membrane would be required
if the wall construction is comprised of
timber or steel frame.

Different construction configurations

Externally insulated window frame reducing heat loss will require different strategies with
Source: Optiwin GmbH Use of rubber gasket to seal a penetration of the
airtight membrane. Source: MosArt Architecture

page 21
appropriate. Whichever membrane is construction. This kind of thermal bridge ventilated in a number of ways, includ-
used, it must be remembered that it will can be calculated in the PHPP by enter- ing through controlled means by extract
function as the airtight layer and must ing the percentage of the insulation fans, vents in the wall with adjustable
be treated with great care during the layer occupied by the material (such as grills and openable windows or by
construction process. timber studs) as well as the thermal simply by uncontrolled means through
conductivity of that material. Repeating drafts and leaky construction. As
The timing of carrying out an airtight-
thermal bridges are thus accounted for highlighted in the previous section,
ness test (commonly referred to as a
within the normally quoted U-values for however, it is vital for the Passivhaus
‘blower door test’) is very important in
walls, roofs and ground floors. An extract Standard that a very high level of
the overall retrofit procedure. It is impor-
from the PHPP software is included airtightness is achieved in order to
tant to carry out the test prior to the
below to illustrate how repeating minimise heat loss. Airtight construc-
completion of final finishes so that if the
thermal bridges can be calculated. tion, in turn, is accompanied in the
test fails then any gaps or cracks in the
Passivhaus Standard with mechanical
airtight layer can be precisely located Linear thermal bridges, on the other
heat recovery ventilation systems. This
and accessed for repairs. The use of hand, can be found at junctions of inter-
next section of the guidelines will
smoke puffers / pencils / sticks can be nal and external walls, at the eaves
provide an outline of considerations
very useful to precisely identify leaks where there is little or no space for
necessary in planning such a system in
while the building is pressurised or de- insulation and even around opes for
the context of retrofitting a dwelling.
pressurised. The test should ideally be windows and doors. These bridges were
carried out once the airtight layer has not accounted for at all until they were
Recommended Ventilation Rate
been completed but while it is still recognised in recent versions of the
exposed, including most especially the building regulations. The calculation of According to the Passivhaus Institut, the
taped joints between the windows and thermal bridges is a specialist field that appropriate air change rate for dwellings
doors to the building envelope as well as will probably require assistance from a is between 0.3 and 0.4 times the volume
joints between different elements of the professional. of the building per hour at normal
dwelling (ceiling, walls and floors). All pressure, with a general recommenda-
The linear thermal transmittance (ψ)
persons working on the site must make tion of leaning toward the lower rate.
values have to be verified in accordance
with EN ISO 10211. The ψ values for
sure not to subsequently compromise This maintains high indoor air quality
the airtight layer which can easily while ensuring a comfortable level of
several products certified by the
happen, for example, where services humidity and maximizing energy
Passivhaus Institut can be found on their
such as cables or pipes have to savings.
website (www.passiv.de) or on their
penetrate the barrier.
product certificates. Compliance with the Irish Building
Regulations Part F might require more Thermal Bridges
air changes per hour than the Passivhaus
The concept of thermal bridges has Institut recommends. It is possible to
4.4 Upgrade Ventilation and
been introduced earlier in Section 3. enter a higher air change rate into the
Heating System
PHPP which consequently leads to a
There are two types of thermal bridges
The upgrading of the ventilation and slight increase of the energy consump-
of interest to these Guidelines, namely
heating system is the second step in tion.
(a) repeating thermal bridges and (b)
retrofitting dwellings to the Passivhaus
linear thermal bridges. The PHPP software suggests that 30m3
per person per hour should be provided
Repeating thermal bridges would
to dwellings to ensure good air quality.
include studs or rafters in the insulation Ventilation System
These two measurements can be used
layer or indeed wall ties in masonry
The dwelling to be retrofitted might be to choose an appropriately sized
machine for different dwelling designs.
Taking the retrofit case study presented
later in Section 6 as an example, an
occupancy of 2.4 persons would require
71 m3 of fresh air delivered to the house
per hour. In terms of extract, the PHPP
software uses the following rates for
different room types as default values,
kitchen = 60m3/h, bathroom = 40m3/h ,
shower = 20m3/h and WC = 20m3/h. In
the case study house these total 100
m3/h which is close to the supply
volume which will ensure that the
whole house system will be balanced.
Source: MosArt Architecture The supply and extract volumes can be

page 22
accurately set by using a digital Insulation and Positioning of Duct large for the retrofitted dwelling which
anemometer and adjusting the valves Work and Vents could have a heat load demand of less
on the vents in each room as required. than 20% of that of the original need.
It is very important to adequately
Another strategy would be to retain the
Mechanical Heat Recovery insulate the air ducting so that there is
pipes and radiators already existing in
Ventilation (MHRV) System minimal loss of temperature in deliver-
the dwelling but to replace the older
ing warm air around the house. The
The efficiency of the heat exchanger in larger boiler with a smaller and more
thickness of insulation generally used in
the MHRV determines the amount of efficient one that can serve not only
passive houses is between 6 cm and 10
heat that can be recovered from the space heat requirements but also
cm for ductwork. It is also preferable to
exhaust air and, therefore, has a very domestic hot water production. One
locate the ducting within the thermal
significant influence on the additional advantage of keeping the radiators
envelope and to keep pipe runs as short
space heating that may be required in a results in the homeowner being able to
as possible by ideally positioning the
passive house. The efficiency of sensible control individual room temperatures by
MHRV unit in the centre of the house.
heat recovery should exceed 75% for the adjusting the valves manually to suit
nominal range of flow rates specified for Vents are normally placed in the ceiling their needs or using Thermostatic
the unit when measured in terms of the but can also be placed in the wall if Radiator Valves (TRV) to set the room
supply-air side temperature ratio as necessary. The air inlets are typically temperatures. Even if the original radia-
described in IS EN 13141-7:20044. designed to spread the air horizontally tors are being retained as the primary
Specifiers and designers should be wary across the ceiling, minimising downward heating system, there will still be a need
of products claiming extraordinary draughts. There should be a gap (10mm for a MHRV system which will now not
efficiency rates of 95% or higher. The is sufficient) either under or over the only supply fresh pre-heated air to the
safest route is to install equipment that door of each room to enable the easy dwelling but will also distribute the heat
has been independently tested and movement of air from one room to the generated by the radiators throughout
verified by such bodies as the Passivhaus next. If doors are fitted tight without the house. A further issue to consider in
Institut. such a gap, rooms with exhaust vents debating whether or not to retain the
(See www.sap-appendixq.org.uk). would be under negative pressure and original radiators is the fact that they will
rooms with supply air would be under probably have to be moved if internal
Current accreditation testing procedures positive pressure. insulation is proposed for the dwelling.
for mechanical ventilation systems often
produce unrealistically positive test There are a number of MHRV products
Water to Air Heat Exchanger
results. If reliable measured values are available on the market that have been
not available, or a certificate is not specifically developed for retrofitting to This method involves using a heating
presented, then the values are calcu- the Passivhaus Standard. device placed immediately on the fresh
lated by subtracting 12% from accredita- air supply outlet of the MHRV. If the
tion test results. house needs additional heat (which is
Heating System
In DEAP a default efficiency of 0.66 is determined by a thermostat) then hot
The most common method of ‘heating’
assumed for mechanical heat recovery water is circulated through the device,
in a passive house is by post-heating the
systems and the default Specific Fan hence the title of ‘water to air heat
fresh air after it has already been
Power (SFP) is assumed to be 2W/[l/s]. exchanger’. The hot water is heated, in
warmed by the exhaust air in the MHRV.
This default value is considerably less turn, by using a number of energy
There are a number of ways in which the
than is achievable in practice (as verified sources including a stove or boiler (for a
temperature of the air can be boosted,
by institutes such as the Passivhaus larger house) in combination with solar
including those listed below:
Institut). hot water panels or evacuated tubes.
■ Water to air heat exchanger;
The Passivhaus Standard can be Compact Unit with Electrical Heat
achieved without a heat recovery system ■ Compact unit with electrical heat Pump
as well. However, when eliminating the pump; and
This system is so-named as it incorpo-
MHRV system the savings foregone in rates all of the technology required for a
■ Wood pellet/wood log boiler.
recovering the thermal energy have to passive house in a relatively small unit,
be compensated by other measures such These three options are explored in
namely the MHRV, the DHW and the
as additional insulation of the thermal outline only below with additional
heating power for the home, in this case
envelope. This could turn out to be a false details provided in SEI’s Guidelines on
powered by an electrical heat pump. It is
economy, therefore. As a practical Passive Homes. It may well be possible
therefore very suited to smaller homes
example, if a MHRV system was omitted to continue to use the existing heating
where space might be limited for large
in the case study building (Section 6), the system in the dwelling (for example, oil
tanks, stoves and storage for wood. It is
space heating requirement would boiler with radiators) albeit in many
important to use a heat pump with the
double the maximum allowed by the cases it might not be an efficient model
highest possible efficiency (coefficient of
Passivhaus Standard. and might be at or near the end of its
performance or COP).
useful life. In addition, the design output
of the heating system is likely to be too

page 23
■ An independent combustion air stored hot water on basis of stored
supply must be provided to any water temperature;
stove or boiler in a passive house
■ Separate and independent
bearing in mind the level of airtight-
automatic time control of space
ness that has to be achieved. It is
heating and hot water;
important to check if your chosen
product can accommodate direct ■ Shut down of boiler or other heat
connection to the external air. source when there is no demand for
either space or water heating from
■ Most wood boilers/stoves are highly
that source.
efficient (up to 80 – 90%) and when
burning pellets there is very little ash The above levels of control should be
remaining following combustion. A incorporated into any dwellings retrofit-
flue will be required to take exhaust ted to the Passivhaus Standard.
gas emissions safely away from the
Additional control features can be incor-
house, as with any typical
Water to air heat exchanger unit. Source: MosArt porated to a heating system so the overall
Architecture boiler/stove. This flue must comply
system performance improves. One
A 3D model of a typical compact unit is with Part J of the building regula-
example is the ‘weather compensation’
illustrated below. tions.
feature, which is the ability to adjust the
Wood pellet/Wood pellet stove/Wood ■ A stove or boiler that directs most of output of the system based on the
log boiler the heat output to the DHW tank is measured external temperature. The main
essential if the hot water is to be advantage of using weather compensa-
A boiler is typically located in a separate used to heat the ventilation air as tion is that the heating system closely
plant room whereas a stove is located in described above. If there is a need to monitors external temperature trends and
an internal room for example a living back-up the MHRV the stored hot adjusts the output accordingly.
room. Wood pellet stoves/log boilers can water will be used to re-heat the
serve as an auxiliary or back-up source of The preferred internal temperature can
fresh air.
heat as well as for domestic hot water be set using an internal thermostat. If
production. The following issues should ■ As previously indicated, it will often the internal temperature goes below the
be remembered when considering be logical for such units to be used thermostat setting, the system will
installing a wood stove or boiler: for not only auxiliary space heating automatically start to heat the fresh air
but also for auxiliary water heating. passing through the ventilation equip-
■ Pellet boilers are available in types ment.
loaded automatically or manually, ■ Although the demand for wood fuel
whereas wood log boilers and wood will be low, a dry space for storage Individual Room Temperature Control
pellet stoves for domestic use are has to be provided. Wood (whether
Different rooms may have different
only manually charged. logs, chipped or in pellets) is bulky
temperatures due to solar gains, occupa-
and a considerable volume is
■ The equipment must be sized appro- tion and internal heat loads. Room
required for storage especially if it is
based temperature controls for temper-
purchased in bulk to keep costs to a
ature differentiation between different
minimum. Storage underground is
rooms may be necessary if individual
also possible in special containers.
comfort requirements are set for differ-
Wood pellets need to be kept dryer
ent rooms. In a centralised ventilation
than chips or logs.
heating system, however, the supply air
Integrated controls for heating in a temperature is relatively constant (20
Passive House degree C) for the whole house and this
would be typical for most houses retro-
Heating systems in Ireland have tradi-
fitted to the Passivhaus Standard.
tionally been simple, with among the
most common boiler based systems DHW is produced typically by the back-
Compact unit including ventilation heat recovery and being a timer and a cylinder thermostat, up heating system, supported by solar
air to water heat pump. Source: Drexel und Weiss
and with sometimes even room thermo- collectors. Hot water can also be
stats being absent. However, the produced electrically but this will
priately to the heat load of the
Building Regulations Part L require increase the primary energy consump-
house. This will be defined by the
minimum levels of control, installing tion and therefore adversely affect the
‘Verification page’ in the PHPP
equipment to achieve the following: BER.
software. Taking the prototype
house presented in these guidelines, ■ Automatic control of space heating
on the basis of room temperature;
4.4 Site supervision
a stove of just 7 kW output would be
sufficient for all space heating and An overview of the various works
■ Automatic control of heat input to
DHW needs. required to achieve the Passivhaus

page 24
Standard has already been provided, …) may appear. The opportunity should
including emphasising the different be taken to remove these and replace
insulation methods that could be used, with harmless materials.
the importance of minimising thermal
bridges, the risks associated with unwit-
tingly creating interstitial condensation For further information on asbestos
and the need to achieve a high level of removal - www.epa.ie.
airtightness. It is vitally important that
both the contractor(s) carrying out the
work as well as the energy advisor
inspecting the works must be suitably
experienced in all of the above issues in
order that a successful result is achieved References
for the homeowner.
IS EN 13141-7:2004, Ventilation for
There is a rather high margin for error in buildings/ performance testing of
retrofitting to the Passivhaus Standard components/products for residential
and care should be taken at every step of ventilation. Performance testing of a
the way. mechanical supply and exhaust ventila-
tion units (including heat recovery) for
During the construction while opening mechanical ventilation systems
wall, floor or ceiling constructions intended for single family dwellings.
harmful substances (Asbestos, pollutant
emitting materials, respirable glass fibre

page 25
page 26
Upgrading of Typical Construction Types
page 28
Upgrading of Typical Construction Types

This section illustrates many of the most Readers should also note that a change plastered with an approved render
common construction types in Ireland in external finishes may require planning system.
and various means of upgrading their permission.
In many situations, random rubble walls
performance to the Passivhaus
or hollow block walls will already be
Standard. It must be appreciated that 5.1.1 Random Rubble and Hollow
insulated internally (commonly referred
there are many different construction Block Wall
to as ‘dry-lining’). If the wall is already dry
types as well as numerous techniques
Walls constructed of random rubble or lined, the plasterboard and plastic sheet-
and materials available to reduce
hollow block are often found in very old ing should be removed in order to check
thermal losses and to deal with all the
dwellings and, accordingly, are often not the condition of the timber or metal
permutations and combinations would
insulated. studs as well as the existing insulation. If
not be possible within these Guidelines.
these are not in good condition, they
It is hoped that the variety of examples If the stone used in the dwelling is
should be replaced or upgraded and
covered below, however, provide as exposed and of high aesthetic quality,
closed with OSB and an airtight layer/
useful guidance for most scenarios that homeowners might well be reluctant to
vapour control layer. As has been
will be encountered by persons inter- clad over this with external insulation
stressed earlier, great care has to be
ested in retrofitting. which would completely alter the
taken when insulating internally in order
character of the building. In situations
It must be stressed that readers to avoid causing interstitial condensa-
where this is not the case, however,
should not copy techniques from tion. A membrane with a high vapour
external insulation might be considered.
these guidelines without checking the resistance (vapour ‘barrier’) may help to
suitability of the building being When insulating externally there are two prevent the build up of condensation,
upgraded! For all parts of the thermal possible options, either using a loose but this should be proven by calculation.
envelope, the risks of interstitial insulation type with a ventilation cavity
It is recommended to create an insulated
condensation have to be calculated or using a single skin insulation type.
service cavity for cables and pipes
and verified. Furthermore, there may Using loose external insulation typically
running along the external walls in order
be other issues such as structural requires a substructure comprising
to protect the vapour control layer from
stability and fire safety considera- wooden battens which are fixed to the
being penetrated by nails or screws.
tions to be considered. wall and bear the load of the new
façade. Depending on the thickness of It is possible to mix both external and
Retrofitters should only use IAB
the insulation required, it might be internal insulation techniques but there
approved products with installation by
necessary to counter batten externally is likely to be more costs involved due to
specialist contractors only to ensure
to the first layer of battens to provide additional labour and materials.
insurance by Home Bond.
enough depth. An oriented strand board
A number of 3D images are provided to
(OSB) or a wood fibre board is then fixed
5.1 Walls illustrate different possible approaches
to the external side of the battens
to significantly upgrading the energy
The following Section explains how to followed by a breather membrane.
performance of random rubble and
upgrade different wall constructions Thereafter, a ventilation cavity is formed
hollow block walls. These sketches are
which are common in Ireland. with vertical battens which can be clad
not exhaustive. Rather, they serve as
with appropriate materials.
For all construction types care has to be examples of the kind of approach that
taken when externally insulating at the The other option is to insulate externally might be used.
base of walls. The insulation here should with insulation boards which create a
be a type of material which is suitable for a single skin structure (ie. no ventilation 5.1.2 Cavity Walls
humid environment. Furthermore the cavity). In this case, the insulation of
When dealing with cavity walls, it is
detail has to be developed in that way so required thickness can be mechanically
usually best to full-fill the cavity with
no moisture can infiltrate the construction. fixed to the structural wall and thereafter

page 29
Existing Standard Random Rubble Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Random Rubble Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - Internal “Loose” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 30
Dry Lined Hollow Block Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 31
Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are
premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Dry Lined Hollow Block Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - External “Loose” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 32
Existing Standard Hollow Block Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Hollow Block Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - Internal “Loose” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 33
Existing Standard Hollow Block Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Hollow Block Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - External “Rigid” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 34
insulation in order to reduce the thick- As for the random rubble and hollow sation is considered in the detailing and
ness of the additional insulation that will block wall, there are two means of exter- design. As before, it is recommended to
inevitably be required. This is normally nally insulating, namely with a (new) remove existing insulation and airtight
done by injecting suitable insulation ventilated cavity construction or as a layers where they exist and upgrade
(such as beads) into the cavity. single skin construction. It is likely that these in best practice manner including
the insulation layer does not have to be service cavity as described in Section
Make sure when filling the cavity that
as thick as for the random rubble or 4.3.1 and 5.1.1.
the insulation material does not transmit
hollow block wall because of the better
water coming from driving rain to the
thermal performance of the cavity wall. 5.1.3 Timber Frame
inner leaf (there is a variety of certified
products available on the market so If it is decided that the wall should be Typically in Ireland, the structural part of
please ensure the installer is IAB certified insulated internally, care should be timber frame constructions is built with
(Check www.nsai.ie). taken that potential interstitial conden- OSB on the outside, insulation in

Existing Standard Cavity Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Cavity Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - External “Loose” Insulation Source: MosArt Architecture

page 35
Existing Standard Cavity Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Cavity Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - External “Rigid” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 36
between the studs and a layer of the internal or external face of the accuracy than on-site assembled
polyethylene on the inside. It is more construction. constructions. Another advantage is that
than likely that the polyethylene sheet- the footprint of the building would not
Only certified insulation systems which
ing will not have been installed as an extend as much as it would if the
do not transmit water from the outer to
airtight layer. Therefore the sheeting has concrete leaf was retained and
the inner leaf should be used.
to be taken off and the condition of the additional insulation were placed
insulation checked and possibly There are again the same possibilities to exterior to that. Such considerations
replaced by a better performing type. upgrade the timber frame construction might be important with buildings that
Opening the wall will also provide a to the Passivhaus Standard externally are very closely spaced. This option is
good opportunity to check the condi- and internally as mentioned above for not illustrated below but the build up
tion of the studs as there might be the masonry wall constructions. Some of will be similar as for external upgrade
damage caused over the years by these options are illustrated below. with loose insulation material. A disad-
penetrating water. In the worst-case vantage that must be considered is the
Another option to upgrade a timber
scenario parts of the structure may have cost and waste associated with remov-
frame construction is to remove the
to be changed. ing the outer masonry leaf.
outer leaf of concrete block or brick and
The existing cavity (between the timber insert a new insulated timber frame wall
5.2 Floor Slab
structure and the external concrete in its place. The principal advantage of
block leaf ) should be filled with insula- this approach is that large parts of the Floor construction types in Ireland
tion to reduce the inevitable additional walls can be pre-fabricated and there- typically comprise of either a suspended
insulation that will be required either on fore produced with a much higher timber floor, power floated concrete

Existing Standard Timber Frame Exterior Wall


Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Timber Frame Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - External “Loose” Insulation
Source: MosArt Architecture

page 37
Existing Standard Timber Frame Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Timber Frame Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - External “Rigid” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 38
Existing Standard Timber Frame Exterior Wall

Note: Only the use of IAB approved products are

premitted and installation by specialist contractor only

Timber Frame Exterior Wall Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard - Internal “Loose” Insulation

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 39
floor or concrete floor with a screed with and can be upgraded by removing the thermal conductivity will increase up
finish. The thermal performance of these the floor covering, insulating between to approximately 0.02 W/mK. It should
is typically not sufficient to achieve the the joists, fixing a vapour control layer be noted that at the time of print this
Passivhaus Standard and will thus and covering this with a new floor finish. product does not have Agrment certifi-
require upgrading. Unfortunately, floor Make sure that the vapour control layer cation.
constructions are difficult to upgrade is not penetrated.
If the U-value of the above upgrade
because most often the finished floor
An option of upgrading concrete floor options is still not low enough (as deter-
level cannot be changed (considering
slabs with a screed finish is to take off mined by the PHPP software) or if there
clear heights at doors, first steps at stairs,
just the screed and insulation and is a power floated concrete floor slab it is
height of balustrades etc.).
exchange the existing insulation with a worth thinking about completely replac-
For bungalows it is worth thinking about better performing insulation. Vacuum ing the floor construction with highly
high performance vacuum insulation insulation, for example, has a thermal insulated floor slab as described in
(see performance details below) plus a conductivity (λ) value of 0.004 W/mK, i.e. Section
new build up on top of the screed. The approximately 10 times more efficient
The installation of a radon barrier should
knock-on effects of rising the finished than either mineral wool or cellulose.
completed in accordance with the Irish
floor level has to be considered very For more information please visit the
Building Regulations.
carefully. Internal doors may have to be following website: http://www.vip-
cut at the bottom and special detailing bau.de/e_pages/start_e.htm
would be required at the threshold of
Vacuum insulation has to be handled
external door(s).
with extraordinary care (like glass). If the
Suspended floors are the easiest to deal foil wrapping of the boards is penetrated

Existing Standard Suspended Timber Ground Floor

Suspended Timber Ground Floor Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 40
Existing Standard Concrete Ground Floor

Note: Excavation Required to allow for additional Thickness

of Insulation to Engineers Detail.
Note: Only the use of IAB approved Products are Permitted
& Installation by Specialist Contractor Only

Concrete Ground Floor Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 41
5.3 Roof Usually the airtightness layer (or rather connected – otherwise, while each room
the vapour control layer) - if existent – itself might have a sealed ceiling, the
5.3.1 Cold Roof / Insulated at will not be installed correctly to achieve partition walls will severely compromise
Ceiling Level the Passivhaus Standard. For example, the overall airtightness of the dwelling.
the joints between different sheets will Alternatively, it might be possible to
Where there is a cold unused attic space typically not be taped. The first task, install the airtight layer on top of the
the insulation will typically be found therefore, is to remove the existing joist which is an easier option. If choos-
within the joists just above the plaster- plasterboard and exchange it with a ing this option, however, be aware that
board ceiling to the attic. layer of OSB. On the internal face of the the insulation must be installed above
As suggested earlier, in the long term OSB a vapour control layer has to be this membrane which will reduce the
the homeowner might consider convert- fixed. Installing this vapour control layer available head height in the attic space.
ing the attic space to a living space or is difficult work as the membrane needs
A service cavity should thereafter ideally
might be used to locate some of the to be seamless under the entire insula-
be created by battens and plasterboard
passive house mechanical plant which tion layer. In the case of houses with
on the internal side of the airtight layer.
should be sited within the thermal masonry internal walls, each room can
This will lower the ceiling height,
envelope, such as the ventilation system. be sealed individually as the membrane
however, and it has to be clarified by the
In these cases it is recommended in can be taped to the four walls which are,
designer if this is acceptable to the
terms of cost and good building practice themselves airtight. In situations where
to create a ‘warm’ attic which means that partition walls are constructed of timber,
the sloped section of the roof is however, the creation of a full seal is
insulated (see Section 5.3.2). more challenging. The membranes in all
individual rooms need to be properly

Existing Standard Ceiling to Attic Space with Insulation on the Flat

Note: Excavation Required to allow for additional Thickness

of Insulation to Engineers Detail.
Note: Only the use of IAB approved Products are Permitted
& Installation by Specialist Contractor Only

Ceiling to Attic Space with Insulation on the Flat Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 42
5.3.2 Sloped Roof is recommended. The rafters have to be When the external parts of the roof are
increased in size by adding another in good condition the insulation could
If it is necessary to insulate the sloped
rafter on top of them. On top of that an be added to the inside. The build up is in
section of a roof there are two options,
OSB or wood fibre board is fixed and principle the same as the external insula-
either insulation on top of the rafter
then battens, counter battens and slates tion except that there is no OSB or wood
(externally) or below the rafter (inter-
are added. fibre board on top of the rafter. Note that
an additional internal build up will
Insulation will also be placed between
If the roof slates or tiles as well as exter- reduce the clear head height and with it
the rafters and internal to this will be an
nal weathered parts of the roof construc- the usable floor area.
OSB layer, vapour control layer, battens
tion are in poor condition it is probably
to create a service cavity and, finally,
wise to replace these as part of the
upgrade. In this case external insulation

Existing Standard Pitched Roof With Insulation on the Slope

Note: Ceiling Heights may Restrict this Build Up

Pitched Roof with Insulation on the Slope Upgraded to Passivhaus Standard

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 43
The thermal performance of buildings is costs also have to be considered. There The following two sections show possi-
not only dependent on carefully are many options and strategies that can ble solutions for the upgrade of a block
designed build up of walls, roof and floor be used to retrofit to the Passivhaus work and timber frame wall construc-
slab. When retrofitting buildings to the Standard and to show every single tion.
Passivhaus Standard the correct design option for the upgrade of the building
of junctions in terms of insulation, envelope would go beyond the scope of
thermal performance, airtightness and these guidelines.

Additional insulation applied

in attic space and ventilation tile installed.

Airtight layer sealed to wall.

Existing windows removed and replaced

with new tripled glazed thermally broken

Existing conc. window cills removed and

replaced with pressed metal cills with
external insulation returned to underside
of cill.

Additional insulation applied using

‘beads’ to create a full fill cavity.

Airtight layer to continue through

floor cavity.

External insulation fixed to existing

render returned to meet the window

External windows removed and replaced

with new tripled glazed thermally broken

Existing conc. window cills removed and

replaced with pressed metal cills with
external insulation returned to underside
of cill.

Airtight layer to be sealed at floor slab.

Addition of perimeter insulation from

rising wall to underside of external
insulation to reduce impact of cold

Standard Cavity Wall Construction Retrofit for Cavity Wall Construction

Source: MosArt Architecture Only the use of IAB approved products is
permitted & installation by specialist contractor only.

page 44
Additional insulation applied
in attic space and ventilation tile installed.

Airtight layer sealed at all joints and to all

walls, floor and external opes.

Additional insulation applied using new

internal stud work and returned to meet
window frame.

Existing windows removed and replaced

with new tripled glazed thermally broken

Existing conc. window cills removed and

replaced with pressed metal insulated
cills and 2 No. courses of brick laid to
match existing.

Optional service cavity.

Insulation fitted into floor cavity with

airtight layer continuing through.

Existing windows removed and replaced

with new tripled glazed thermally broken

Existing conc. window cills removed and

replaced with pressed metal insulated
cills and 2 No. courses of brick laid to
match existing.
Additional insulation applied using new
internal stud work and returned to meet
window frame.
Airtight layer to be sealed at floor slab.

Floor screed cutback to allow additional

for insulation.

Addition of perimeter insulation at rising

wall to reduce impact of cold bridging.

Standard Timber Frame Construction Retrofit for Timber Frame Construction

Source: MosArt Architecture Only the use of IAB approved products is
permitted & installation by specialist contractor only.

page 45
page 46
Case Study Retrofit Building - Theoretical
page 48
Case Study Retrofit Building - Theoretical

This Section will illustrate a theoretical The construction of the walls, floor and
case study in how to approach the ceiling is summarised in the Table below.
upgrading of a semi-detached house to The windows were replaced in 2004
the Passivhaus Standard. A description from single glazed units with wooden
of the construction type and thermal frames to double glazed PVC. Attic
performance of the property will first be insulation was also fitted in 2004 which
provided. Thereafter, it will be shown added considerable comfort to the
how the specialist software PHPP was dwelling.
used to determine such critical issues as
Thermographic images of the house
the level of insulation required for the
were taken at pre-dawn in late
Passivhaus Standard along with sizing of
September 2008, with an outside
mechanical systems and prediction of
temperature of 11 degrees C and an
annual space heating requirement.
internal temperature of 18 degrees C.
Schematic drawings are included in
The low energy performance of the
order to illustrate various means of
building fabric can be easily appreciated
achieving a highly efficient thermal
from these images, highlighting uninsu-
envelope as well how to deal with
lated external walls with thermal bridg-
challenging issues such as thermal
ing, heat loss through ventilation grills,
bridging and excellent air-tightness. An
uninsulated external door, poorly
approximate estimate will be provided
insulated hot water pipes connecting to
of the projected savings in terms of
radiators and inadequately sealed attic
energy for both heating and DHW
A blower door test was also carried out
Dwelling Description on the same day to determine the level
of airtightness of the dwelling. The result
The dwelling chosen as a case study is a
of this test was 6.39 air changes per hour
semi-detached / terraced house built in
at 50 Pascal, or 6.6m3/(hm2). The principal
the late 1970’s and located in north
weakness of the envelope in terms of
County Dublin.
airtightness is the ground floor, compris-
The house comprises three bedrooms ing wooden flooring on timber joists
and one bathroom upstairs with an over a ventilated void. According to the Source: MosArt Architecture
entrance hall, sitting room, kitchen and occupant, there are often severe drafts
total accommodation comprises 83m2. Walls Floor Ceiling Windows and Doors
In addition to this is an unheated, exter- 100mm inner 25mm wooden 12mm plaster
nally accessed, single storey, flat roofed concrete block floor covering board
garage attached to the western side of 40mm cavity 150mm joists 100mm ceiling joist
uninsulated uninsulated with 100mm mineral
the dwelling. wool insulation
In terms of aspect, the front of the house 100mm exterior 150+ mm open
concrete block ventilated space
faces north and the rear of the house
faces south. There are no east facing Overall U-value Overall U-value Overall U-value Overall U-value of
= 1.69 W/(m2K) = 1.47 W/(m2K) = 0.43 W/(m2K) windows = 1.85
windows but three windows which face W/(m2K) and doors
west. = 3.0 W/(m2K)

page 49
blowing up from the open space below
the ground floor creating severe thermal
discomfort. A number of the windows
and both external doors are insuffi-
ciently sealed as can be seen from the
smoke test carried out during the blower
door test. Other weaknesses include
wiring which passes from the first floor
through to the attic space as well as a
poorly sealed attic hatch. Front (north) elevation illustrating significant heat loss Heat loss depicted in black and blue colouring created
through the upstairs front bedroom external wall by an uninsulated front door. Note how the cold
(Bedroom 2). The red glow located between the two migrates inward along the floor.
Current Heating and DHW System
windows is created by heat loss from a wall mounted Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services
radiator at that position.
The house is currently heated using a Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services
relatively new natural gas boiler of
approximately 80% efficiency. The boiler
heats six radiators (two downstairs and
four upstairs) which are controlled by a
thermostat located in the kitchen. There
is also a wall mounted electrical heater
in the upstairs bathroom and a portable
electric heater in the living room.

The house currently has no DHW tank.

Hot water is provided on demand at the
Rear (south) view of Bedroom 3 highlighting in red Heat loss (depicted in grey line) from an under floor hot
kitchen sink (using electricity) and in the significant heat losses through the uninsulated exter- water pipe feeding a radiator.
upstairs bathroom with an ‘electric nal wall from a wall mounted radiator positioned Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services
under the window.
shower’. The primary control for heating Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services
aside from the kitchen thermostat is a
time clock.

Heat loss depicted in blue colouring created by cold air Poorly sealed attic hatch displaying heat loss around
entering the corner of a bedroom through a ventilation the perimeter (in dark blue colouring).
grill. Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services
Source: GreenBuild Building Information Services

Smoke test clearly highlights poorly sealed windows Smoke test illustrating air leakages below a window sill Leaky floor construction
Source: MosArt Architecture Source: MosArt Architecture Source: MosArt Architecture

page 50
Source: MosArt Architecture

page 51
Retrofitting Strategy PHPP DEAP
Annual space heating 214 KWh/(m2a) 160 KWh/(m2a)
All the relevant details concerning the requirement
existing building dimensions, thermal Annual primary 441 KWh/(m2a) including 356 KWh/(m2a) (only includes
envelope performance, level of airtight- energy use all household electricity electricity for lights, pumps & fans)
ness, orientation and shadowing as well Building Energy Rating N/R E2
as electrical elements, heating system CO2 Emmissions 94 KgCO2eq/(m2a) 37 KgCO2eq/(m2a)
are entered into both the PHPP and the
Space Heat Requirement
DEAP software.

Retrofit Steps
As can be seen from the Table above, the 6
dwelling as it is currently constructed
has an annual space heating require-
ment of approximately 14 times that of 4
the Passivhaus Standard. Further, with
an existing BER of E2, there is consider-
able scope for improvement to bring the 2
overall energy efficiency to what would
be required by the revised 2008 Part L
Building Regulations (a BER of approxi- 0
mately B1).
0 50 100 150 200 250
Taking the current annual space heating
Source: MosArt Architecture kWh/(m2a)
demand and multiplying this by gas and
electrical prices, it should, theoretically Primary Energy Requirement
(according to the PHPP), cost the owner
Retrofit Steps

in the order of €900 per year on gas and 6

€570 per year on electricity, totalling
approximately €1,500 per year. This
estimation is very close to the actual 4
amount spent on heating by the
occupant of the house as determined 3

from a review of their energy bills. 2

Preparing a Retrofit Strategy 1

There are quite a number of aspects of 0

the current dwelling that cannot be

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
altered to any significant degree, includ-
Source: MosArt Architecture 2
kWh/(m a)
ing, for example, orientation and surface
to volume ratio. Other aspects that Heat Load
might be improved, albeit with some
Retrofit Steps

difficulty and therefore relatively high 6

cost, include thermal bridges and
amount of south facing glazing. The
most cost effective means of making 4
considerable improvements to overall
energy performance include (a) signifi- 3

cantly upgrading the insulation value of 2

the entire thermal envelope, including
windows and doors, (b) considerably 1
improving the level of airtightness, (c)
installing a mechanical heat recovery
ventilation system and (d) fitting renew- 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
able energy technologies such as solar Source: MosArt Architecture 2
collectors for DHW and improving the
efficiency of the gas boiler. overall result of the upgrading strategy met, reducing the current energy
is provided hereunder: use by 93% from the current level of
The steps used to gradually upgrade the
214 kWh/(m2/a) according to the
case study dwelling are detailed in the ■ The space heating requirement
PHPP calculations. Referring to DEAP
table on page 55. A summary of the target of 15 kWh/(m2a) has been

page 52
the ‘heat use’ has been reduced from those were upgraded to the same layer as the cavity to continue the
160 kWh/(m2a) to 9 kWh/(m2a) (also a Passivhaus Standard, there would be insulation layer.
reduction of 93%) a reduction in annual emissions of
CO2 by 2MTCO2eq/(m2a). Thermal Bridges
■ Achieving the Passivhaus Standard
required very significantly upgrad- ■ Lastly, the Building Energy Rating of In general thermal bridges are reduced
ing the U-values of the building the case study dwelling in achieving by using external insulation. Perimeter
envelope. The poorest performing the Passivhaus Standard would be insulation should be continued on the
element of the dwelling is the walls an A3, a very significant improve- outer face all around the building
(U-value of 1.69 W/(m2K)) which ment from its E2 BER. approximately 500 mm to 1,000 mm into
would need to be upgraded to 0.10 the ground, dependent on the depth of
W/(m2K). The windows and doors Measures in Detail the foundation. Furthermore, the frames
would have to be replaced with high of windows and doors should be
As mentioned above all proposed
performance triple-glazed elements, overlapped by the external insulation (at
measures have to be checked and be
airtightness improved from 6.39 air least 60 mm thickness) to reduce
approved for each individual project.
changes per hour at 50 Pascal to 0.6 thermal losses.
air changes per hour, use of a MHRV
Thermal Insulation The most significant thermal bridges
system with an efficiency of 85%,
would occur at the concrete canopy over
increasing the area of south facing The existing house was built in tradi-
the front door, the concrete columns on
glass from 7.38m2 to 9.05m2 and tional un-insulated cavity wall construc-
either side of the front door and at the
replacing the gas boiler with a unit tion, with a U-value calculated at 1.69
joint of wall and roof of the adjacent
with 90% efficiency and installing W/m2K. A 40 mm fulfilled cavity with
garage. It would probably be best to
5m2 of solar collectors (flat plate or blown insulation beads and rendered
remove the existing concrete canopy as
evacuated tube) on the south-facing 300 mm EPS insulation on the outer leaf
well as the columns. If there is still a need
roof. will bring the U-value down to 0.10
for a canopy it could be constructed as-
W/m2K. As shown in Section 5 there are a
■ The primary energy demand includ- new, yet structurally separated from the
number of options available to upgrade
ing for DHW, heating, cooling, auxil- house.
a wall such as that described above.
iary and household electricity was
The uninsulated cold wall of the garage
reduced in the PHPP analysis from The flat ceiling to the attic has to be
should ideally be disconnected from the
457 kWh/(m2a) to 105 kWh/(m2a) and insulated with 100 mm mineral wool
house and the resulting gap insulated
in DEAP from 375 kWh/(m2a) to 55 between the joists. Additional insulation
(some means of structurally anchoring
kWh/(m2a) will be required, however, in order to
the garage wall back to the house will
achieve the target U-value (if using
■ The heat load for the dwelling was likely be required). The roof of the
mineral wool insulation, for example,
reduced by 90% from the current garage is easier to deal with as it is
400 mm would be required. If other
size of 80 W/m2 to 9 W/m2. Taking mainly made from timber and therefore
insulation products with lower thermal
that the dwelling is 83m2 in size, the its thermal conductivity is not that high.
conductivity (λ) values are being consid-
size of boiler required for space Besides, additional insulation can easily
ered, less depth would be needed). In
heating alone could be reduced be fitted above and under the rafters to
order to keep the attic accessible, it
from 6.6 kW output to just 0.8 kW. reduce the thermal bridges.
would be advantageous to construct a
■ Frequency of overheating remains raised floor above this additional insula- Thermal bridges can also be created at
unaltered at 0%. tion using OSB, for example. the party wall with the neighbour if they
do not insulate their building. These
■ Referring to the CO2 calculations in The existing ground floor slab is a
thermal bridges can be reduced by
DEAP, the CO2 emissions have been suspended floor construction and it
insulating internally.
reduced from 160 kgCO2eq/(m2a) to would have been extremely difficult to
12 kgCO2eq/(m2a), representing a reduce the U-value down to the required Lastly, the hatch to the attic has to be
93% reduction. In real terms, given 0.10 W/m2K. It was decided, therefore, well insulated and sealed airtight.
the house size of 83m2, there would that the best option in this case would
be an annual saving in CO2 be to remove the existing floor and Airtightness
emissions of over 12,000 Kg, or construct a new 150 mm concrete floor
A continuous airtight layer has to be
approximately 12 tonnes. In 2004, slab with 300 mm insulation under-
created in the building. As render is
the ‘average dwelling in Ireland was neath.
airtight, there is typically no difficulty in
responsible for emitting approxi-
achieving airtightness over wall areas.
mately 8.2 tonnes of CO2. If the case Windows and Doors
Windows and doors should be taped
study house was retrofitted to the
In terms of glazing, it is proposed to use airtight with a suitable tape to the wall.
Passivhaus Standard, it would emit
triple glazed windows with an average Following that the reveals can to be
just 1 tonne per year. It is estimated
U-value (glass and frame) of Uw plastered.
that approximately 750,000 houses
in Ireland were built before the first average=0.9 W/m2K and doors with a U-
The layer of foil underneath the concrete
ever Building Regulations. If 25% of value of Ud=0.8 W/m2K. The windows
floor slab serves two purposes.
and doors should be installed in the

page 53
The first duty is to prevent the concrete unit are located in the ‘box room’ on the same dwelling completely from new. It
seeping into the gaps between the first floor. The ventilation ducts are must be stressed that such works are
insulation boards while pouring it. The passed through the ceiling void and most economically viable when dealing
second function is to create the airtight supply the fresh air to the habitable with an old dwelling which, irrespective
layer. This foil has to be taped airtight at rooms such as bedrooms and down to of energy performance, needs to be
the edges to the walls. the ground floor in two shafts to the completely upgraded. The case study
family and living room. The air is dwelling presented in the following
All joints of joists or rafters to walls have
extracted in the kitchen, hall, box room chapter is an example of where such an
to be taped airtight to the walls. If there
and bathroom. overhaul was needed. In that case, the
is no render in the ceiling level at the
extra over costs to reach towards
walls these spaces have to be rendered The heat recovery unit is calculated with
Passivhaus Standard (i.e. over the above
or spanned with a vapour barrier an efficiency of 85% and as a ‘back-up
costs of new kitchen, extension, conven-
membrane. heating’ the existing heating system
tional builder’s work and so forth) was in
with radiators is retained.
Underneath the insulation of the first the region of 14%.
floor ceiling a vapour barrier has to be Room temperatures are controlled with
Until such time as more projects get
installed. It is very important to carry out time control, external temperature
underway in Ireland, it is difficult to
a blower-door-test before the closing sensors and thermostats.
estimate what retrofit costs will be.
the access points to joints and junctions.
It will typically happen that the first test Cost of Retrofitting
result exceeds the 0.6 air changes per
The cost of the above proposed works
hour. During the test leakages can be
has not been estimated for this ‘theoret-
located and sealed.
ical’ case study. However, experience on
Continental Europe suggests that retro-
Ventilation Heating System
fit costs to the full Passivhaus Standard
In the case of the example dwelling, the typically equate to approximately 60%
ventilation system and heat recovery of what it would cost for to build the

page 54





Current Space Part L 2005 Part L 2007 Retrofitted
Heat Passivhaus
Requirement Standard

Space heating energy comparison, Current use in case study dwelling, Building Regulations (TGD) Part L 2005 and
2007 and the Passivhaus Standard. Source: MosArt Architecture


Step Description Space Heat Primary Heat Load Frequency of Primary Heat use CO2 Building
Requirement Energy (DHW, Overheating Energy (Space Heat emissions Energy Rating
Heating, Cooling, Requirement)
Auxiliary and

Units of Measurement kWh/(m2a) kWh/(m2a) W/m2 % kWh/(m2a) kWh/(m2a) kgCO2eq/(m2a)

Passive House threshold 15 120 10 10 - - - -

Current performance 214 457 80 0 375 160 79 E2

1 Insulation of building fabric 49 178 26 4 177 51 39 C2

(walls, ceiling, floor),
reduction of thermal bridges
- improve U-value walls
from 1.69 to 0.10 W/(m2K),
U-value ceiling from 0.43
to 0.09 W/(m2K), U-value floor
from 1.47 to 0.10 W/(m2K)

2 Change from double to triple 35 154 20 5 153 38 34 C1

glazed windows, change doors
-improve average U-value windows
from 1.85 to 0.91 W/(m2K), U-value
doors from 3.00 to 0.80 W/(m2K)

3 Airtightness - improvement from 6.39 29 145 13 15 125 22 28 B3

to 0.6 airchanges per hour @ 50 Pascal

4 Balanced whole-house-ventilation system, 16 126 9 0 108 9 25 B2

with Heat Recovery Unit, efficiency 85%

5 Increase window sizes of south facing 15 126 9 0 108 9 25 B2

windows,from 7.38 to 9.05 m2

6 Condensing Gas boiler for heating 15 105 9 0 55 9 12 A3

and DHW- efficiency of 90%, DHW
not electric anymore, 5 m2 Solar
panels, 300 l hot water storage
Source: MosArt Architecture

page 55
Externally Insulated Building Envelope and Heat Recovery Venilation System in Retrofitted Dwelling

Source: MosArt Architecture

page 56
Copy of the PHPP 2007 verification sheet for theoretical case study pre retrofitting

page 57
Copy of the PHPP 2007 verification sheet for theoretical case study post retrofitting

page 58
Case Study of Completed Retrofitted Project
page 60
Case Study of Completed Retrofitted Project

Case StudyTheofexisting
This project is one of the first in Ireland in Retrofitted
double glazed windows Project
achieved. Testing with a thermal
retrofitting a conventional built dwelling were replaced with thermally broken imaging camera is also available. This
towards a Passivhaus Standard. The triple glazed windows throughout and can detect any cold bridges in the exter-
clients visited MosArt's demonstration triple glazed roof lights were installed in nal fabric of the building. Strict on site
passive house ‘Out of the Blue’ in 2006 the roof. supervision is required throughout the
and were inspired to convert their home construction works by the designer. The
to the same standard of comfort and site foreman or main contractor should
energy efficiency. The existing roof was a standard tiled also be made aware of the importance of
roof with pre-fabricated timber trusses strict on site supervision by them of all
The existing external walls were
with insulation on the flat. As the alter- trades to achieve an airtight building. On
constructed as a standard cavity wall
ations to the existing house included an completion the house should have one
with a 100 mm brickwork outer leaf, 100
additional bedroom in the roof space final blower door test.
mm cavity and 100 mm concrete block-
the insulation had to be changed to on
work inner leaf. Upon inspection the
the slope to accommodate this.
cavity was found to have no insulation
Additional timber rafters were installed The retrofitted building was occupied in
installed and the walls had been dry
to accommodate additional higher May 2008 and at the time of print, the
lined internally with timber studs with
density insulation in the roof space heating season is approximately 50%
rock wool insulation between, polyethyl-
between the timbers, airtight vapour complete. The actual annual energy
ene vapour barrier and plasterboard
barrier was added and new plasterboard consumption cannot be verified before
with skim finish.
with skim finish. May 2009 at the earliest. A comparison
As the exterior leaf was brickwork we between the modelled and achieved
The existing heating system was
were restricted in how we could improvement of the energy perform-
replaced with a MHRV unit and heat
upgrade the fabric to the Passivhaus ance of this project is yet not possible,
pump with a gas condenser boiler as
Standard. We achieved this by fully filling therefore it is anticipated that the annual
back-up and solar collectors to the roof
the cavity with blown in insulation, the space heating requirement will be
for hot water supply.
existing dry lining was removed inter- reduced by 80%.
nally and replaced with larger timber It is important to note that the
The extra-over cost to achieve the
studs and higher density insulation programme for a passivhaus build differs
Passivhaus Standard according to the
between, a higher quality airtight to that of a conventional build. Time
cost plan on this project was 14%. It
vapour barrier was installed and taped should be allowed for the installation of
should be borne in mind that this house
on all joints with specific care taken to the airtight layer, this airtight layer
underwent a major retrofit and exten-
junctions at floors, ceilings and around should then be tested (blower door test)
sion programme and thus the above
windows and doors and new plaster- for leaks prior to any plasterboard being
percentage extra over costs should in no
board and skim finish was installed. All installed. Should any leaks be detected
way be taken as a general guide for
existing wall vents were blocked up they should then be rectified and the
retrofit projects.
internally and a MHRV unit was installed airtight layer should be re tested until
throughout the house. the required level of airtightness is

Improvement of U-values

Envelope elements Pre-retrofit U-values Post retrofit U-values

External cavity wall 0.28 W/(m2K) 0.19 W/(m2K)
Floor slab 0.58 W/(m2K) 0.18 W/(m2K)
Roof 0.13 W/(m2K) 0.11 W/(m2K)
Windows 2.90 W/(m2K) 0.81 W/(m2K)

page 61
All proposed retrofit measures must be properly detailed to enable
construction and well as to verify performance in the PHPP software

page 62
Before commencing
any retrofit works, a full
survey will be required
to establish current
insulation standards

While the red brick

facade remained
untouched, all the
windows were upgrad-
ed to triple-glazed
Passivhaus Standard
units (U-value of 0.81
W/(m2K) for entire

These special triple

glazed roof lights were
used on the south
facing rear elevation
(U-value of 0.91
W/(m2K) for entire

Retrofitting to reduce
energy consumption
also provides a valuable
opportunity to enhance
the aesthetics of the

The mechanical heat

recovery ventilation
system was installed in
an accessible part of
the warm attic space

page 63
This water to air heat
pump is connected to a
low-temperature under-
floor heating system
and is anticipated to
provide 85% of the
space heat requirement
(COP = 3.4)

The existing building

envelope was dry-lined
internally with high
performance insulation

Locations such as this

where large services
exit the building
envelope are very
difficult to seal properly
in terms of airtightness

The south facing rear of

the house on comple-
tion, with 15m2 of flat
plate solar thermal
collectors which are
expected to contribute
65% of DHW demand

page 64
page 65
Sustainable Energy Ireland
Renewable Energy Information Office
Unit A, West Cork Technology Park
Co Cork
T. +353 23 8863393 renewables@reio.ie
F. +353 23 8863398 www.sei.ie

SEI is funded by the Irish Government under the

National Development Plan 2007 - 2013 with
programmes part financed by the European Union.