Passivhaus is a building standard and design process aimed at producing buildings that are energy efficient and affordable with a low ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. The word is originally German and is sometimes translated into Passive House.
The standard has been used for residential properties, office buildings, schools, kindergartens and supermarkets. The vast majority of Passivhaus structures have been built in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia.
The Passivhaus design process integrates with architectural design. Although it is generally applied to new buildings, it can also be used for refurbishments.
According to the Passivhaus Institute, a Passive House is more than just a low-energy building:
- Passive Houses allow for space heating and cooling related energy savings of up to 90% compared with typical building stock and over 75% compared to average new builds. Passive Houses use less than 1.5 l of oil or 1.5 m3 of gas to heat one square meter of living space for a year – substantially less than common “low-energy” buildings. Vast energy savings have been demonstrated in warm climates where typical buildings also require active cooling.
- Passive Houses make efficient use of the sun, internal heat sources and heat recovery, rendering conventional heating systems unnecessary throughout even the coldest of winters. During warmer months, Passive Houses make use of passive cooling techniques such as strategic shading to keep comfortably cool.
- Passive Houses are praised for the high level of comfort they offer. Internal surface temperatures vary little from indoor air temperatures, even in the face of extreme outdoor temperatures. Special windows and a building envelope consisting of a highly insulated roof and floor slab as well as highly insulated exterior walls keep the desired warmth in the house – or undesirable heat out.
- A ventilation system imperceptibly supplies constant fresh air, making for superior air quality without unpleasant draughts. A highly efficient heat recovery unit allows for the heat contained in the exhaust air to be re-used.
In an article in the Guardian published on 9 December 2022, Matthew Weaver writes:
Even on the coldest day of the winter so far, tenants of a pioneering housing scheme say they do not need to turn on their heating. A blast of Arctic air has brought a dusting of snow to the Goldsmith Street housing scheme in Norwich, but inside “it’s like summer”, according to Jayed Abdas Samad, 32, a Just Eat delivery rider…
The 105-home development was hailed a “modest masterpiece” when it won the Stirling architecture prize in 2019. But more importantly now, these triple-glazed homes with 60cm-thick insulated walls, are saving tenants money.
Passivhaus Trust – UK Passive House Organisation
How to Build a Passivhaus – pdf document from Passivhaus Trust
Passivhaus Institute – independent German research institute involved with development of the concept
Passipedia – Passive House Resource
Passivhaus Learning Platform – UK based
Guardian article on Passivhaus social housing in Norwich
Guardian article on Sterling Architecture Prize 2019 for Passivhauses in Norwich