With society looking to curb consumption and slow the effects of climate change at an expedited rate over the coming decade, greater attention than ever is being paid to the design and construction of passive houses. As architects and builders look for ways to create net-zero structures, it is critical to choose materials that are highly insulative, long-lasting, and sustainable. Keep reading to discover more about 5 innovative materials to watch out for in passive buildings. 

Synthetic Stucco
Creating an airtight building envelope is paramount in achieving a passive building, and one of the best ways to fortify the building envelope is by choosing elite cladding options. With this in mind, synthetic stucco is a material garnering more and more attention for its role in creating continuous insulation in exterior walls.

Although synthetic stucco is similar in appearance to traditional stucco, it has an R-value many times greater. It uses a layered approach to create an impenetrable air and moisture cladding solution for the building:

  • A water-resistant barrier is applied to the wall substrate to block water infiltration
  • A layer of insulation is added above the substrate for further protection
  • Fiberglass mesh is added for reinforcement. It is treated with weather-resistant flashing to help prevent freezing and thermal expansion
  • A finishing coat adds color, texture, and initial protection

The result is a truly set-it-and-forget-it cladding solution that provides elite insulation to the building without the need for frequent maintenance and repairs.

Exterior Screening Systems
Leveraging natural sunlight is a pretty intuitive principle in creating passive buildings. It only stands to reason that the more the building uses the sun for lighting and heating, the less it will have to rely on electricity and nonrenewable energy for building functions. As a result, large windows, glass walls, and lighter tints in interior design are all some of the strategies buildings are employing to maximize sun usage.

While all of these strategies are commendable, there will be some situations when the sun output is just too much for comfort. For example, in a south-facing area of the building at 3:00 PM in the height of summer. Rather than negate the building’s sun-leveraging qualities by pumping the AC all summer long, it is better to look into innovative facade screening systems to help mitigate sun output. Facade screens can help absorb some of the sun’s heat waves, making the building interior maintain a more tolerable temperature at times of peak sun output while still allowing the transmission of light rays. In addition, the decorative nature of many facade screens adds an element of architectural intrigue that enhances curb appeal.

Tunnel Dampers
Although modern passive buildings are leveraging the sun to the fullest, there are some cases where the sun can only do so much. Extremely large structures with deep corridors, stairwells, and underground areas of the building are examples of places where it will be hard for the sun to reach. When this is the case, it is critical that no resources are wasted in making these areas functional. A couple of great ideas are to install tunnel ventilation dampers to guarantee that no conditioned air flows in the wrong direction and motion-detected lights so that no lighting occurs when areas of the building are not in use. 

Hurricane Grade Storm Windows
As mentioned, many passive buildings are employing numerous large windows in order to maximize natural light flow. However, windows are traditionally a point of weakness in the building envelope, as unwanted air can sneak in via window-to-wall transitions. In addition, windows are generally more vulnerable to projectile damage than cladding.

Therefore, in order to make the building’s windows as airtight and low maintenance as possible, it is worthwhile to build with hurricane-grade storm windows. Constructed with rugged steel frames and sashes, storm windows stand up well in the face of extended UV exposure and precipitation. They are also capable of withstanding winds in excess of 250 MPH and projectile impact over 100 MPH, making them a strong choice for ensuring the insulative standard of the building envelope through all types of conditions.

Low Maintenance Exterior Features
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all buildings, commercial and residential alike, have renewed their attention to the exterior as a critical component of a complete property. Not only are exterior elements essential in establishing curb appeal, but they give inhabitants a much-needed change of scenery and a chance for some fresh air after hours indoors.

However, it is important to keep resource consumption in check in the midst of the increased focus on the exterior. Some ideas to help keep consumption to a minimum for passive exteriors include xeriscaping lawns; adding outdoor drainage grates to sidewalks, patios, and driveways; and using innovative pergolas for shading and temperature control.

5 Innovative Materials to Keep an Eye On for Passive Buildings
Creating passive buildings is much easier when working with innovative materials that can enhance energy efficiency and sustainability. With this in mind, synthetic stucco, exterior facade screens, tunnel dampers, hurricane-grade storm windows, and low-maintenance exterior features are 5 materials to keep an eye on in the construction of passive buildings. 

Todd Gillman is a freelance writer that loves sharing his knowledge and expertise on construction. He lives in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, where he enjoys spending time with his wife and researching building material trends in his free time. Todd’s work as a freelance writer can be found on Building Product Advisor, a new construction industry resource.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *