A fresh initiative to construct NSW schools in accordance with passive house standards could result in pupils breathing cleaner air, with interior carbon dioxide levels standing at up to five times the recommended limit in certain, conventionally designed schools.

The recommendation originates from a feasibility study conducted by Grün Consulting and Envirotecture for School Infrastructure NSW, that compares a current school design against one designed in accordance with the passive house standard.

In the passive house prototype school, the CO2 level lingered beneath the concentration level that starts to influence cognitive function (above 1500 parts per million). Conventional schools, by contrast, reflect CO2 levels as many as five times the recommended limit.

Improved air quality is linked to improved attention spans and the possibility of enhanced academic performance, according to the report. This is particularly important in a scholastic environment, in which students with developing minds and bodies spend a great deal of their time.

The prototype also detected a sizable reduction in energy levels for the passive house version: 90 percent less for heating, 42 percent less for cooling and 62 percent less energy consumption on the whole.

Passive house schools would incur reduced maintenance costs, due to their more basic or smaller infrastructure (including air-conditioning) and a longer institutional lifespan, this owing to improved quality and durability.

Another potential source of savings indicated by the researchers was the streamlining of Green Star ratings, with the government just having nominated a 4-star rating benchmark as the minimum standard for new projects.

Passive house certified projects are assigned 30 points (of a total 100) on a deemed-to-satisfy Green Star pathway. A total of 45 points is required to achieve a 4-star rating.

The study also revealed that in any fresh market for passive house projects, a 10 percent premium can be expected for delivery, relying on the comparative baseline and necessary enhancements.

The report also discovered that the life cycle costs assessment is positive. As international models would suggest, the passive house method of building would be no more expensive than a conventional build. And benefits in this model could include enhanced comfort, the reduction in sick days, and an overall healthier environment.