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To better understand how unitized panel wall systems can be utilized to meet Passive House requirements, we must first understand the 5 basic principles of Passive House design.

The 5 principles that enable buildings to reduce heating & cooling energy demands, and overall energy use are: 

  • Absence of thermal bridging
  • Use of high-performance windows
  • Selecting region & climate-appropriate insulation
  • Achieving an airtight building envelope
  • Utilizing continuous mechanical ventilation while maintaining active heat recovery

When all 5 principals are met and are working together in harmony, research data shows that building energy consumption can be reduced by as much as 85% when compared to traditional construction. Passive House buildings aim to provide tenants with excellent indoor air quality and comfort, increasing long-term viability by significantly lowering monthly utility bills and the buildings’ overall operational footprint. 

While sustainable, resilient, and reliable buildings sound like the answer to the current global carbon reduction imperative, in the world of high-rise construction, streamlined schedules, reductions in construction costs, and profitable return on investment take precedence above all else. But what if there was a way to marry fast-track construction & construction cost savings with Passive House buildings? Prefabricated building enclosures, also known as unitized façade systems, are the industry standard for meeting such fine-tuned requirements.

Unitized façade systems are wall assemblies comprised of units that are fabricated within factory settings, and then packaged & delivered to construction sites around the world. The ability to fabricate within weather-sealed and climate-controlled environment allow for panelized systems to achieve heightened levels of manufacturing precision, daily quality assurance & control oversight, and in some cases even testing to confirm wall assemblies meet the highest level of standards. All these factors help project teams streamline construction schedules, reduce costs, and improve assembly quality. Once the unitized façade systems arrive on site, like a set kit of parts, units are hoisted and hung from anchor clips connected to the building’s superstructure. 

Unitized façade systems are designed to lose less heat at the frames and edges, delivering better air tightness and eliminating thermal bridging through the implementation of high-performance gaskets and horizontally & vertically interlocking frames. One such prefabricated exterior wall utilizes high thermal performance steel reinforced polymer windows and non-combustible stone wool insulation to provide R-Values of anywhere from R-17 to R-27 for wall assemblies. 

Utilizing the plug-and-play assembly system, the unitized panels can be installed from the interior of the building, eliminating the need for scaffolding, increasing installation times by as much as 80%, and serving job sites in high-traffic areas with limited ground accessibility. Project teams typically see 10%-15% lower costs than traditional onsite construction utilizing materials such as brick masonry. Because of the speed and minimal material waste, jobsites can reduce the labor force by as much as 10 times, providing additional savings for the Owner. 

Merging the 5 Passive House principles with the efficiencies of unitized panel wall systems contributes not only to cost savings during the construction process but long after the building is in use. As material and assembly technology further advances, there will be a clear preference among project teams between traditional onsite construction and prefabricated exterior wall systems. 

Questions? Contact Rimkus today!

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About Sullivan Engineering, A Rimkus Company

Sullivan Engineering provides high-quality building envelope restoration and compliance solutions.

We partner with facilities managers and account executives to provide technical expertise and project management for building envelope restoration, compliance, and maintenance.

Our solutions reduce the overall building life cycle maintenance costs by creating long-lasting, high-quality work for years to come.

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