What is PassivHaus?

Why am I a passion advocate for social housing which is PassivHaus Certified?

I have three adult children and speaking with them about how they will ‘get on the housing ladder’ was, and still is, a very underwhelming and worrying conversation. That’s why I joined the PassivHaus Trust, started on a steep learning curve, whilst at the same time establishing a network of contacts in the PassivHaus sector – so I can now offer impartial advice to Community Housing Groups, Registered Providers, HA’s, small developers (and individuals for private projects), and even Councils so they can embark on the journey of building social homes which are PassivHaus Certified, and help in some way to address the housing crisis we are currently experiencing in the UK, and help abate Climate Change.


High quality, well designed housing which addresses issues of fuel poverty and residents’ health while also reducing rentals voids and maintenance costs may sound like an impossible dream. PassivHaus is a whole house approach with clear measured targets focused on high quality construction, healthy indoor environments and low fuel bills.

PassivHaus Homes are upto 90% cheaper to heat

It's time to build MORE PassivHaus Certified Social Housing

PassivHaus may seem too costly or high-risk for those who have never built one before, but business as usual also involves its own risks; such as non-performance, overheating and the need to retrofit housing stock at a huge cost to meet future zero carbon targets. Continuing with the current social home construction norms could be riskier than striving for PassivHaus Certified Social Housing. 

Poor Quality!

What is the cost of cold and damp homes that are expensive to heat? Ventilation is also often a problem in non-PassivHaus homes.

Under-performing homes cause several problems ranging from unaffordable energy bills to serious long-term health effects for those living in them – particularly the elderly and children. This often leads to more residents’ complaints, and increased rent arrears. Better quality housing could save the NHS £1.4 Billion in first year treatment costs alone.

Over-heating is also becoming a key issue in non-PassivHaus homes due to increasingly extreme weather, with hotter temperatures becoming more frequent in the UK.

The Performance Gap!

PassivHaus Certified homes do not suffer from a performance gap. The average homes is likely to use around 40% more energy than predicted, with heating demand sometimes 2 to 3 greater. Much of this is due to the lack of quality control on site, failing to ensure high quality construction and that the right materials are used in the right places. Clear evidence proves that actual energy performance of newbuild homes, does not match the design.

The rigorous PassivHaus quality assurance process ensures that what is designed is what gets built and the actual energy performance is, on average, exactly as predicted by the design stage modelling.

Social Housing Stock

The rush to provide homes in a hurry can mistakenly rank quantity over quality, placing social housing providers under pressure to deliver volume. It is not uncommon for newbuilds to suffer from defects and require substantial upgrades within 5-10 years. Aiming for lower standards than PassivHaus without a rigorous compliance process can be more costly in the long-term.

It’s obviously best practice to invest in quality and value now to save on costly repairs later – The 2019 report, The UK Housing Fit for the future? highlights the average home would require an additional upfront cost of £5k to achieve close to PassivHaus standards. Whereas subsequent retrofit costs and remedial works may cost up to £26,500 per home to bring the home up to a standard near to PassivHaus.

Why should residential housing providers build Social Homes which are PassivHaus Certified?

It is important for clients to understand the value and sound business case for building to the PassivHaus Standard; it is so much more than just energy efficiency and thermal performance. There are several benefits, and many are interconnected – creating a catalyst for positive effects.