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Fri Apr 10, 2015

When I first started researching the Passive House concept I was unaware of the impact it was going to have on my view of how I currently live.  Having fully immersed myself in the subject and recognised the many advantages of its comfortable and quality living potential, with the added bonus of energy efficiency and resultant cost savings, glancing around at my own inefficient, leaky and poorly ventilated home it suddenly made me think: “I want one of those!”  

It’s hardly surprising that Passive House is now the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world and that its popularity is gaining considerable kudos in the UK.  However, despite this there still seems to be many misconceptions and myths around what is required to achieve a Passive House. 

Design, cost implications, location, size and the perception of restrictive standards all seem to play a part in putting the brakes on making the dream a reality or skewing opinions on the huge benefits to be gained from owning such an innovative property.  

Current building regulations in the UK mean that for many developers the Passive House standard doesn’t need to feature on their radar and for many the fear of how this may impact on the bottom line rules it out in a commercial sense.  However, it may surprise many people to learn that, on average, a Passive House will cost less than 10% more than a standard build to construct but saves its occupants up to 80% in heat energy demand costs1 - so the long term benefits far outweigh the short term outlay!  Add to this the robust quality of the finished product and you will have a property that will last a very long time and will be easier to maintain.

Despite no regulations driving the expansion of the Passive House movement, the last two decades have shown an increase in popularity across a range of different climates and there are now over 50,000 buildings certified with thousands more low energy developments inspired by the model.  Indeed, most recently in New York, the Passive House standard has become central to the Mayor’s plan to reduce carbon emissions 80 per cent by 2050.

There has also been a shift amongst the industry in recognising the long term impact on a building’s occupants and how this translates into not only their own wellbeing and the impact on the environment, but also the potential energy cost savings that can be enjoyed.  For example, one of the main pressures on social housing schemes is providing affordable solutions, not only for construction and sustainability, but to the end users themselves.  Start talking EnerPHit and a whole realm of possibilities present themselves for spreading the word about the Passive House movement!

In our previous blog ‘The top 9 Passive House myths – busted!’ many of the potential reasons for not considering a Passive House have been addressed including that a Passive House can’t be attractive.  Well, the good news is that a Passive House can come in all shapes and sizes.  And although undeniably harder to achieve than a new build property this also includes refurbishing existing buildings using the more relaxed EnerPHit standard.

With the announcement of new PHI Classifications for renewable energy in a Passive House recently unveiled the whole team here at Zehnder is eagerly anticipating further details, which will be presented by Wolfgang Feist at the 19th International Passive House Conference in Leipzig on 17th and 18th April 2015.

As we move ever closer towards requiring a solution for managing the world’s decrease in non-renewable energy resources the Passive House concept continues to make more and more sense.  For more information on building Passive House’s in the UK, take a look at our case studies here

Don’t forget we also have a range of other resources for Passive House including e-books, which you can download here.


1Estimated extra costs for Passive House • 15-9% above UK Part L 2010, Bere architects: small detached Passive House prototypes for a housing association; • 12 and 6% above Code 4 (on the UK’s Code for Sustainable Homes) for Wimbish and Ditchingham schemes respectively: Hastoe Housing Association; • 12% above Code 4 for proposed apartments: Broadland Housing Association3; • 3-8% extra above German low-energy standard in 2006: International Passive House Association (iPHA). They suggest this may now be lower; • 0-7% extra: Neil Cutland, 2010 review of prices over Europe.

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