I had the pleasure to volunteer for the Passive House Australia Association and help out with the Ice Box Challenge.

An Australian-first. The idea is a physical demonstration of the benefits of Passive House construction. Two boxes are placed in the elements for 12 days, one built to the minimum Building Code compliance and the other to the Passive House (or Passivhaus) standard. 720kg of ice is placed in each box. And after the 12 days, the ice left in each box will be weighed and compared.

Well, it looked like there won’t be much left, if at all in the standard construction home.

Unsurprisingly, the passive house has been performing much better than the other home. With much lower temperatures inside.

By 12pm, on a very hot and sunny Melbourne day, it was still only 9 degrees inside the passive house box, as long as the sun was not hitting the triple glazed window.

Whereas the other box had a temperature of around 26 degrees.

And yes, when building a passive house, you can still open your windows, but you don’t have to anymore.

But what I found even more interesting was what happened once the sun hit the windows. The single glazed aluminium window didn’t stand much of a chance. The inside rapidly heated up to 36 degrees.

On the other hand, once the triple glazing got hit by the sun, the box also warmed up, but only to 19 degrees.

This proves how very important external shading is. You have to stop the sun from hitting the glazing in the first place. No matter how good your glazing is, even if you use the best triple glazing.

However, I find it quite shocking how very badly the house according to the building standard heated up. It would clearly be unbearable inside and you could not cope without air conditioning. Also, we should not forget that this is a 6-star home not coping with the sun and the heat. Sadly, most Australian homes rather range between the 1 and 3-star mark. Which means the inside would probably be even hotter?

Another big problem is, that in many instances, often even new homes only have a 6-star rating on paper, but in reality, the actual performance is often much worse, as no attention has been paid during the construction to install the insulation properly. Meaning there are heaps of gaps in the insulation and around windows, leading to really draughty and bad performing homes.

So not only are we looking at a big problem with the too minimal requirements for the current housing standard, even worse, there are no compliance checks in place. Meaning even though the standard itself is not good enough anyway, most homes are built to an even lower standard.

If you are planning to build a new home or renovate, don’t just settle on the current minimum standard.

We need to design and build beautiful energy efficient and sustainable homes, that will cope with the coming climate changes and can be enjoyed by future generations!

Invest in yourself and your home and spend as much money as you can on windows and insulation and ideally get yourself a passive house! Your health and the planet will thank you for it and you will be able to enjoy low to no energy bills ever. How good would that be?