The Polyurethanes Passive House Open Day on 18 June 2012 demonstrated to building professionals, national energy experts, and political stakeholders how polyurethane insulation can dramatically reduce energy consumption in buildings. The conventional family home, under construction in Brussels, Belgium, will be a showcase for the European polyurethane industry, providing a living example of reduced energy consumption, comfort, and versatility.[image_1_right] A common assumption about passive housing is that they are a high-tech, expensive option; this could not be further from the truth. A passive house typically costs 10 - 15 % more than a conventional house, or approximately EUR 15,000; in this case additional solar panels and modifications result in a total additional cost of EUR 20,000 - 25,000. Importantly, passive housing will recoup this additional expenditure from day one via energy savings; homeowners can expect to recoup the full amount within a decade. As an additional incentive, the Belgian government is also offering a tax rebate of EUR 4,400 to purchasers of passive houses. For homes which are often expected to house a family for several decades, the economics of passive housing add up. Perhaps this is why Bostoen, the Belgian construction company partnering Isopa on the build, has chosen to specialise in affordable passive buildings. Bostoen is an expert in passive construction, contributing to the promotion and proliferation of environmentally friendly, energy efficient housing in Belgium. There are currently 340 certified Passive Houses in Belgium, a third of which were designed and constructed by Bostoen, in addition to 400 homes currently under construction. Bostoen already recognises the superior cost benefits of polyurethane insulation, by specifying it as the material of choice for wall and floor insulation in many of its houses. The Isopa house furthermore has a prefabricated roof, which has been insulated with polyurethane insulation. The house itself will offer approximately 160 m2 of living space comprising of up to five bedrooms and five bathrooms. It has been designed for a modern family to live a comfortable life but with an annual energy consumption of only 15 kWh/m2, while total primary energy consumption, including heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, and appliances, remains below 120 kWh/m2. This is 25 % lower than a "low energy house and 85 % lower than a conventional modern house. To achieve these low levels of energy consumption, a building requires effective thermal insulation and air tightness. The air tightness property is key to a certified passive house, which must avoid uncontrolled heat exchange with the outside atmosphere.[image_2] PU insulation and air tightness
The house uses 18 cm thick, foil-faced polyurethane boards as wall insulation, placed in the void between the 14 cm thick internal brick wall and the outer brick skin. Prefabricated roof panels were installed on both the Polyurethanes Passive House and the three neighbouring builds in a single day. These roof panels contain 40 cm of polyurethane insulation, although typically a depth of only 26 cm is required to meet the insulation standards. Partition walls with the adjoining property have been filled with open cell PU foam to provide acoustic insulation. Internal and external floors will also be insulated with an 18 cm thickness PU foam, helping to maintain the individual temperature of each room. Windows will be triple glazed and polyurethane will ensure a minimal thermal bridge to reduce heat transfer. External doors will also contain rigid PU insulation as a core material. In residential and commercial construction, and particularly in passive houses, the building envelope should be the first thing to consider when creating a more energy efficient living and working environment. The building envelope is the "shell that protects the building from water intrusion and uncontrolled air movement. The building envelope must be complete, sealing all penetrations and gaps around the entire structure. The key component to designing and installing a complete and successful building envelope is the air barrier. This is the physical material used to block air from moving into the building from the outside (infiltration) or conditioned air from escaping to the outside (exfiltration).[image_3_right] The amount of air flow that migrates from inside the home to the outside can be quantified in terms of air changes per hour. A passive house is required to achieve a value of 0.6, compared to a conventional house that has a value of 6.0. This means that a conventional house changes its entire air volume six times in one hour. By lowering thermal transfer between the inside and outside of the home by up to 90 %, the energy used for heating or cooling a home is greatly reduced. The best passive house has achieved air tightness of 0.2. Air tightness can be improved by sealing gaps and filling voids using polyurethane foam, while a sophisticated ventilation system will ensure healthy and fresh air throughout the house. Sponsors and tenants required
Once construction is complete, Isopa will also fit out the house with a multitude of products using polyurethane to demonstrate its comfort and versatility during daily life. Products will include refrigerators, furniture and bedding, composite wood panels for kitchen cupboards and many more. During this second stage, Isopa will be looking for sponsors to provide suitable products. By April 2013, the house will open its door for its first tenants and then the project will really begin. Further information can be found at:
www.excellence-in-insulation.eu Isopa Polyurethanes Communications
The Polyurethane Passive House project was launched as part of the Isopa communications campaign on 1 September 2011. The project provides a living example of the environmental and economic benefits of applying polyurethanes to one of the most rigorous standards available for energy efficient buildings: the passive house standard. Built in Brussels, near the institutions of the European Union, the project targets European and national policy makers, NGOs and sustainability and construction experts. It aims to demonstrate the benefits of polyurethanes in reducing energy costs and fossil fuel consumption in Europe. Even at this early stage of construction, the house has already played host to a number of workshops on energy efficient housing, including the recent event which kicked off the EU Sustainable Energy Week. The Polyurethanes Passive House is part of a broader Vision' campaign which was launched by Isopa in 2008. The campaign promotes polyurethanes as a versatile, comfortable and efficient material. Over the past four years it has consistently expanded to bring spread this message and information to new audiences. Alongside the www.polyurethanes.org website, available in nine languages, Isopa operates the Foaming an Opinion' blog, Polyurethane Twitter and YouTube accounts, and a Passive Housing Europe group on LinkedIn. Together, they present a side of polyurethanes, which is easily accessible to everyone from consumers and sustainability enthusiasts to industry professionals. Isopa is the European Diisocyanate and Polyol Producers Association. The Polyurethane communications campaign is in addition to a variety of information and safety initiatives run for the benefit of the European polyurethanes and plastics industries.