Passive Design - Capral

Passive Design

Let your house do the work

Simple things like orientating your home to take advantage of available sunlight and selecting energy efficient windows and doors can make a real difference.

Passive Design is the term given to the design of homes that have little, if any, need for artificial cooling and heating. Through the use of clever design principles the home takes advantage of the natural climate to maintain thermal comfort. Passive design principles can be applied throughout Australia’s different climate zones.

A home with a Passive Design provides a more comfortable living environment and results in decreased energy costs to heat and cool due to improved energy efficiency. In doing so this helps the environment through decreasing greenhouse gas emissions related to artificial heating and cooling.

There are several key elements to consider when using Passive Design:

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass describes the ability of building materials to store heat. Thermal mass is used to store heat from the sun during the day and re-release it when required. Adding thermal mass helps reduce extreme temperatures within the home, making the average temperature more moderate all year- round. Consequently, occupant comfort levels are increased and energy costs are reduced.

Heavyweight building materials store a lot of heat so are said to have high thermal mass, whereas lightweight materials do not store much heat and therefore have low thermal mass. As a rule of thumb, the greater the daily temperature range, the more thermal mass required.

Windows & Glazing

Windows and glazing are a critical element of Passive Design as up to 9% of heat loss and 87% of heat gain occurs through windows with mm single glazing.

Passive Design takes advantage of this by keeping winter heat indoors and excluding excessive summer heat from entering the building. Appropriate placement of windows and doors is another important consideration; as well as minimising reliance on artificial heating and cooling, windows aid ventilation and importantly, a healthy living environment.

Single glazed high performance glass can stop up to 0% of solar heat gain while Low E double glazing can stop up to 77% of solar heat gain, which equates to a financial saving of approximately 0% off your energy bill to heat and cool. Specifying high performance glazing for your home can add as little as 1% to the total building cost.


Optimal positioning of a home on its site can have a significant impact on its thermal performance. During winter the most sunlight enters a home through north facing windows and doors.

If your site doesn’t permit or altern- atively you are renovating an existing home and unable to optimise the orientation, energy efficient windows and doors will prevent heat gain and heat loss and help ensure your home is thermally efficient.


Areas that are used for relatively short periods of time such as bathrooms, laundries and garages are best positioned on the west to provide a buffer against the extreme summer heat.

To ensure you enjoy the maximum benefits of solar heat, position rooms that generally require heating, such as living areas, on the north side of the house.


Whether it be the roof, walls, doors or windows, it is imperative that premium insulation is achieved and that all gaps are filled to keep wanted air in and unwanted air out. High performance windows and doors provide superior insulation when combined with other insulation materials. This reduces the amount of artificial heating and cooling needed to maintain thermal comfort, which in turn means smaller heating and cooling units and decreased
running costs.


Preventing summer sun from directly hitting windows is one of the most effective ways to reduce summer heat from negatively impacting on thermal performance. Shading can be achieved through appropriately sized and positioned eaves or by other means such as verandas, trees and outdoor blinds. As the winter sun enters at a lower angle than summer sun, by using effective shading you can guard the same areas from heat gain in summer.


Well placed windows and doors can capture cooling breezes for optimal ventilation. Trees and other external objects can be used to direct breezes through the home. Some window types, such as casement windows and louvres, are particularly useful in controlling breezes for maximum benefit.

Passive Design Checklist



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