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What is Passivhaus / Passivhaus Standard?


Passivhaus or ‘Passive House’ is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world with 30,000 buildings realised to date with the majority of those since the turn of the century. The Passivhaus standards strengths lie in the simplicity of its approach; build a house that has an excellent thermal performance, exceptional airtightness with mechanical ventilation!

This robust approach to building design allows the designer to minimise the ‘Heating Demand’ of the building and in some residential buildings only specify a heated towel rail as means of conventional heating, this heat can then be recovered and circulated by a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) unit.

The Standards Origins
The Passivhaus standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s by Professors Bo Adamson of Sweden and Wolfgang Feist of Germany and the first dwellings to be completed to the Passivhaus Standard were constructed in Darmstadt in 1991.

The Passivhaus standard can be applied not only to residential dwellings but also to commercial, industrial and public buildings.

This has led to the following functional definition of a Passivhaus.

“A Passivhaus is a building, for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air.”

This means that the heating requirement in a Passivhaus is reduced to the point where a traditional heating system is no longer considered essential. Cooling is also minimised by the same principles and through the use of shading and in some cases via the pre-cooling of the supply air. Night purging and the use of natural cross-ventilation through open windows is encouraged during the summer months.

As well as being an energy performance standard Passivhaus also provides excellent indoor air quality, this is achieved by reducing the air infiltration rates and supplying fresh air which is filtered and post heated by the MVHR unit.

Global Application
The Passivhaus standard can be applied to any climate in the world and works equally as well in warm climates as it does in more moderate climates. To date Passivhaus buildings have been designed and built in every European country, Australia, China, Japan, Canada the USA and South America….a research station has even been constructed to the Passivhaus standard in Antarctica!

Fuel Poverty
As we become more aware of fuel poverty it becomes increasingly important to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, with fuel prices continuing to rise the low heating demand of Passivhaus Buildings of less than 15kWh per square metre per year means that annual fuel costs are reduced by a factor of 5-10. For example a household living in a 70m2 Passivhaus with gas heating could spend as little as £25 on space heating each year.

For more information on the Passivhaus standard please view BRE’s interview with Dr. Wolfgang Feist here

Source: http://www.passivhaus.org.uk/standard.jsp?id=122


The Code for Sustainable Homes, launched in 2007 is an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes. It was developed by BRE Global, but it is a UK Government owned standard.

BRE Global act as advisors on technical issues relating to maintenance and development of the technical contents of the CSH standard and manage implementation of the scheme through assessment and certification services, under contract to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Where is the Code for Sustainable Homes required?
For anyone wishing to understand when to apply the Code for Sustainable Homes to their development, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the BRE’s Housing Standards Review Page [https://www.bre.co.uk/housing-standards-review].

Scope and Scoring
The Code for Sustainable Homes covers nine categories of sustainable design:

o Energy and CO2 emissions (m)
o Water (m)
o Materials (m)
o Surface Water Run-off (m)
o Waste (m)
o Pollution
o Health and Wellbeing (m)
o Management
o Ecology

There are mandatory performance requirements in 6 categories (denoted by an ‘m’ above). All other performance requirements are flexible. It is possible to achieve an overall level of between zero and six depending on the mandatory standards and proportion of flexible standards achieved.

Assessments are carried out in two phases:

1. An initial assessment is carried out at the design stage. This is based on detailed documentary evidence and commitments which results in an interim certificate of compliance.
2. Final assessment and certification are carried out at the post-construction stage. Based on the design stage review, this includes a confirmation of compliance, including site records and visual inspection, and results in a final certificate of compliance.

Source: http://www.breeam.com/uk-new-construction


BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) is the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings and communities. It sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and has become the de facto measure used to describe a building’s environmental performance. BREEAM provides clients, developers, designers and others with

• market recognition for low environmental impact buildings
• assurance that best environmental practice is incorporated into a building
• inspiration to find innovative solutions that minimise the environmental impact
• a benchmark that is higher than regulation
• a tool to help reduce running costs, improve working and living environments
• a standard that demonstrates progress towards corporate and organisational environmental objectives
BREEAM addresses wide-ranging environmental and sustainability issues and enables developers and designers to prove the environmental credentials of their buildings to planners and clients. It:

• uses a straightforward scoring system that is transparent, easy to understand and supported by evidence-based research
• has a positive influence on the design, construction and management of buildings
• sets and maintains a robust technical standard with rigorous quality assurance and certification
For a full range of information on BREEAM, the various BREEAM schemes, case studies and training, go to www.breeam.com. You can also take our online BREEAM Awareness courses.

Source: https://www.bre.co.uk/page.jsp?id=829