The Passivhaus Standard

Elrond Burrell

Outside of the Building Regulations, the Passivhaus Standard is considered by critics as the most significant contribution to improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Elrond Burrell, architect and author of the popular blog 'Passivhaus in Plain English & More' gives us an overview of the Passivhaus Standard.

The Passivhaus Standard is often referred to as “the world‘s leading standard in energy efficient design.” And usually a description of the standard includes details of the specific technical requirements. (If you are curious about the technical requirements, I cover the key elements in this post.)

The Passivhaus Standard is indeed an international, rigorous, scientific, performance standard for the design and construction of energy efficient buildings. It applies to all kinds of buildings, not just houses. However, the Passivhaus Standard is not just about the technical requirements of energy efficient design, it encompasses:

  • Comfort
  • Energy Efficiency, and
  • Quality Assurance

It is the combination of these three key aspects that make the Passivhaus Standard what it is.

What do Comfort, Energy Efficiency and Quality Assurance mean in practical terms for a house that is certified to the Passivhaus Standard?

The Passivhaus Standard: Exemplary Comfort

A house that is certified to the Passivhaus Standard provides exemplary comfort all year round. While the standard is known for rigorous energy consumption benchmarks, it also has rigorous comfort benchmarks.

The Passivhaus Standard ensures that a house can be affordably and reliably kept at a comfortable temperature all year round. This is true in hot periods of the year and in cold periods. The actual temperature inside the house is up to you though – some people prefer a cooler house, others prefer a very warm house.

The comfortable temperature inside the house includes the surfaces of walls, windows and doors, etc. The Passivhaus Standard requires high-performance windows and doors so that the frames and the glass never feel cold to touch or be near. This also has the benefit of eliminating condensation, which can lead to mould growth and associated health risks.

The Passivhaus Standard ensures that a house is quiet inside and does not suffer from draughts.

The Passivhaus Standard ensures that a house always has plentiful clean fresh air. A ventilation system is required in most climates to comply with the standard. This means that even when it is cold and windy outside, or hot and dry, there is still fresh air silently and gently blown into the rooms of the house at a comfortable temperature. Windows and doors can still be opened whenever you want to, just like any other well-designed house. Equally important though, windows can be closed whenever you want to and there will still be plenty of fresh air throughout the house. More information about passivhaus ventilation can be found at this link.

To read more about the comfort aspects of the Passivhaus Standard follow this link.

The Passivhaus Standard provides a benchmark for what we should expect from a comfortable home.

The Passivhaus Standard: Radical Energy Efficiency

A house that is certified to the Passivhaus Standard uses very little energy to stay exceptionally comfortable all year round – and for you to do all the other things that you would expect to in your house. The Passivhaus Standard accounts for all the energy use in a house, from the heating and cooling, the cooking and lighting, through to TV and computer use.

The Passivhaus Standard ensures that your house uses very little energy because of the way it is designed and constructed. It does not rely on adding renewable energy generation systems to provide (or offset) some of your energy needs, although this is possible. It also does not rely on you making dramatic changes in your lifestyle to use less energy.

The result is that a house certified to the Passivhaus Standard could be using up to 90% less energy that an average house. And it comes with exceptional comfort, far better than an average house. Even compared to a typical new house, which is expected to be more energy efficient than average, a house certified to the Passivhaus Standard would expect to use up to 75% less energy. And this means power bills reduced by up to 75% also!

In the UK, an average medium sized house (approximately 80 square metres) can expect to have an annual energy bill of around £1,158.00, or £96.50 a month, according to A house the same size certified to the Passivhaus Standard would only have an annual energy bill of £115.80, or £9.65 a month. (This is very approximate as energy companies have standing charges that are usually fixed even if your energy usage is very low.)

To read more about how the Passivhaus Standard delivers radical energy efficiency by design follow this link.

The Passivhaus Standard provides a benchmark for how little energy we should expect to use in a comfortable and pleasant home.

The Passivhaus Standard: Reliable Quality Assurance

What good is a standard that doesn’t live up to its promises? The Passivhaus Standard is one of the very few sustainable design standards that has a robust and reliable track record of delivering what it promises – exemplary comfort and radical energy efficiency.

The Passivhaus Standard requires that the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) be used to model the house and the energy use. The PHPP is a very detailed spreadsheet developed by the Passivhaus Institute. It reliably and accurately predicts how much energy will be needed to keep a house comfortable at the benchmarks set by the standard.

The Passivhaus Standard requires that an independent third party, the certifier, check the energy modelling (PHPP) as part of the certification process. They also check key aspects of the design including construction details.

The Passivhaus Standard also requires that the construction process is monitored to ensure what gets built matches the design accurately. Where changes are needed, the energy model and details need to be updated and checked also.

These all add up to a very robust quality assurance process. Designers and builders are more vigilant knowing their work will be checked and verified. And honest mistakes can be picked up and corrected before something gets built wrong!

To read more about the quality assurance of the Passivhaus Standard certification process follow this link.

The quality assurance of the Passivhaus Standard certification process ensures the standard delivers what it promises.

What is the Passivhaus Standard?

There are many things that the Passivhaus Standard is not. What the Passivhaus Standard is, is the benchmark for exemplary comfort, radical energy efficiency and reliable quality assurance. And it needs all three aspects. Energy efficiency is meaningless if you house isn’t comfortable and pleasant to live in. And a standard is meaningless if it doesn’t deliver what it promises.

The Passivhaus Standard reliably ensures houses (and other buildings) provide exemplary comfort and radical energy efficiency. A house that is certified to the Passivhaus Standard will keep you comfortable and pleasant all year round with hardly any energy bills to pay!

The Passivhaus Standard is mostly a voluntary standard, however, a growing number of regions in Europe are requiring that all new buildings (and sometimes significant renovations also) meet the Passivhaus Standard. Other regions around the world are also encouraging new buildings to meet the standard as part of their climate change policy. Further details can be found on the Passive House legislation page on the International Passive House Association website.

The Passivhaus Standard: the benchmark for what we should expect from a comfortable, energy efficient, quality home.

Here is the `author presenting a 2-minute overview of the Passivhaus Standard.





About the author:

Elrond Burrell is an Architect, Writer & Speaker with over 15 years experience in designing and delivering excellent buildings. His areas of expertise are Sustainable Design, Passivhaus, Timber construction, and Building Information Modeling (BIM). He is a passionate advocate of these subjects and loves writing and speaking about them, as he often does in the UK and around the world. You can connect with Elrond via his website.

Elrond Burrell is an Associate at Architype Ltd, however, this article is written in a personal capacity and represents his personal opinions, not those of his employer.