17. What is the European Passive House Standard?

The Passive House (Passivehaus) building standard originated in Germany in 1988 and is a voluntary standard which is overseen worldwide by the Passivehaus Institut in Germany (est 1996). Passive House certified buildings are the most energy efficient buildings worldwide.

A passive house is defined as "a building in which a comfortable interior climate can be maintained without active heating and cooling systems (Adamson 1987 and Feist 1988). The house heats and cools itself, hence "passive"."

The standard is most often applied to new buildings but is also used for refurbishments of existing buildings.

In European passive house construction the following requirements must be met:

  • an annual heating requirement that is less than 15 kWh/(m²a),
  • total energy consumption of living area may not exceed 120 kWh/(m²a) for heat, hot water & household electricity, and
  • the building must not leak more air than 0.6 times the house volume per hour, as determined by a blower door test.

The key factors in European passive house design are:

  • Compact form and good insulation,
  • Southern orientation and shade considerations,
  • Energy-efficient window glazing and frames,
  • Building envelope air-tightness,
  • Passive preheating of fresh air,
  • Highly efficient heat recovery from exhaust air using an air-to-air heat exchanger,
  • Hot water supply using regenerative energy sources, and
  • Energy-saving household appliances:

Comparison of Energy Ratings of Homes in Europe. *

Comparison of European  regulations for heating, cooling and electricity usage.

WSchVO = German Heat Protection Regulation SBN = Swedish Construction Standard

The Passivehaus Institut has developed "The Passive House Planning Package" (PHPP)which provides everything needed to design a properly functioning Passive House including tools for:

  • calculating energy balances (including U-value calculation)
  • planning the windows
  • designing the comfort ventilation system
  • determining the heating load
  • estimating the summer comfort, and
  • designing the heating and hot water supply

Passive Houses are built from a wide range of materials and use many different construction techniques, however attention to detail to ensure a "continuous uninterrupted airtight building envelope" is essential. The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) includes a construction manual with detailed techniques to achieve this.

Passivehaus certification of completed buildings worldwide is overseen by the Passivehaus Institut to ensure that buildings will perform as specified to the standard. Currently there are over 30,000 such buildings mainly in Europe.


* Published by The Passivehaus Institut.

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