green-building-blogheader image
1 Helpful?

Passivhaus Homes are Extremely Tight and Energy-Efficient

The stringent construction standard — also called Passive House — can be used for new homes as well as for deep energy retrofits of leaky old houses

Posted on Mar 7 2010 by Daniel Morrison

UPDATED May 16, 2014: More links added to news stories, blogs, and products.

The Passivhaus standard is probably the most stringent available standard for energy-efficient buildings. Passivhaus buildings have to meet a strict airtightness standard (0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals), so they tend to be much tighter than homes that meet Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. or LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. requirements.

The standard was devised in the 1990s by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, a German physicist inspired by superinsulated houses built in Canada and the U.S. during the late 1970s. Thousands of superinsulated buildings in many countries — including a few dozen in the U.S. and Canada — have been certified as meeting the Passivhaus standard.

Passive House on GBA

GreenBuildingAdvisor includes a wide array of articles and other resources for those interested in learning more about the Passivhaus standard.

In the Green Primer:
Can Houses be “Too Insulated” or “Too Tight”?

In Code Green:
Tight Houses: A Good Idea (and Code Requirement)

A Passivhaus Foundation
A Passivhaus Renovation Project in NYC

Feature Articles:
Passivhaus For Beginners
A Conversation With Wolfgang Feist
Passive House: After Hours

Passivhaus Crosses the Atlantic
Net-Zero-Energy versus Passivhaus
Can Foam Insulation Be Too Thick?

A 'Magic Box' For Your Passivhaus
Passivhaus Windows
Windows That Perform Better Than Walls

Choosing Triple-Glazed Windows
Making the Case for Triple-Glazed Windows
'Innie' Windows or 'Outie' Windows?

Simplicity Versus Complexity
Heating a Tight, Well-Insulated House

Forgotten Pioneers of Energy Efficiency
The History of the Chainsaw Retrofit
Equipment Versus Envelope

Remodel Project: Deep Energy Retrofit

Video: Superinsulating a Home With Rigid Foam
PowerPoint: The History of Superinsulated Houses in North America

Can ‘Passive House’ Be Trademarked?
Service Cavities for Wiring and Plumbing
Occupant Behavior Makes a Difference: Or, when is a Passivhaus not a Passivhaus?

EnerPHit — The Passive House Approach to Deep Retrofit
Cold-Climate Passivhaus Construction Costs
The Klingenberg Wall

Passive House Training, One Year Later
Is the Passivhaus Program Truly Innovative?
Calculating the Embodied Energy Payback for Passivhaus Buildings

Will Passivhaus Remain a Boutique Program?

Pro/Con Viewpoints:
Pro/Con: Does Passivhaus Make Sense Over Here?
In Defense of the Passive House Standard
Comparing Passivhaus Homes to Other Low-Energy Homes

Passive House: What Do You Think?
Passive House 2: Reader Questions and Responses
A Post-Passivhaus Paradigm for Energy-Efficient Design

Are Passivhaus Requirements Logical or Arbitrary?
A Passivhaus Rebuttal: In Defense of the Standard
PHIUS PHlogging

Passivhaus Buildings Don’t Heat Themselves
Ten Misconceptions About the Passive House Standard
A Post-Passivhaus Paradigm for Energy-Efficient Design

Green Homes Articles:
The First U.S. Passive House Shows That Energy Efficiency Can Be Affordable
Passive House Methods Help Build for the Future
Deep Energy Makeover: One Step At A Time

Passivhaus, Part 1: Concepts and Basics
Passivhaus, Part 2: The Standards
Passivhaus, Part 3: So You Want to Be a Passivhaus Consultant?

National News Stories:
Habitat’s High-Performance Experiment

A U.S.-Made Door for Passivhaus Buildings
Passivhaus Practitioners Share Their Success Stories
Three U.S. Projects Are Passivhaus Award Finalists

A Passivhaus Conference in Germany
A Petition Strives to Defend a Certain Definition of ‘Passive House’
Possible Relaxation of Passivhaus Standard Stirs Debate

A Bridge Over Passivhaus Waters
PHIUS Tries to Trademark ‘Certified Passive House Consultant’
PHIUS Draws a Line in the Sand

The Passivhaus Institut in Germany Disowns Its U.S. Satellite
The American Passive House Institute Responds to Dr. Feist
Round 3: Wolfgang Feist Discusses the PHI-PHIUS Split
Passivhaus Combatants Continue To Speak Out

When Remodelers Carve Paths to Passive House
Solar Decathlon Winners Embrace Passivhaus Standard
A New Passivhaus Advocacy Group for the U.S.

Solar Decathlon Winners Embrace Passivhaus Standard
Nudging Passive House Concepts into the Mainstream
Consultant: Europe Leads U.S. in Green Building

European Products for Building Tight Homes
Should It Be a Passivhaus or a Passive House?
Folding Glass for Passivhaus Projects

A Mileage Sticker for Every Passivhaus
Brute Force Collaborative
PHIUS Posts Window Data

PHIUS Says No to Some Types of Spray Foam
Passivhaus and Spray Foam
PHIUS Measures Its Approach to Spray Foam

Regional News Stories:
A Passivhaus Design for Alaska’s Frigid Climate

When Remodelers Carve Paths to Passive House
The First Passivhaus Retrofit Certification in the U.S.
Preaching Passivhaus in California
California’s First New-Home Passivhaus Is Also a Rental
A Passivhaus Debut Just South of San Francisco

NZE Community Near Boulder
A Long Delayed Net-Zero Community Nears A Restart

Prescott Passive House: A Class Project
Prescott Passive House: A Tough Sell
Prescott Passive House Saga Continues, with a Discount

Passivhaus Finds a Home in the Bayou State
Following Up on a Passive House in the Deep South
Applying Passivhaus to Post-Katrina Reconstruction
Does Passivhaus Work in New Orleans?

Striving for Passivhaus Affordability
Gearing Up for a Passive House Residence at Unity College
Squeezing the Price on Passivhaus

A Cohousing Community Readies for Construction
Unity College’s TerraHaus Aims for Passivhaus
Unity College’s TerraHaus Debut

Striving for Passivhaus Affordability
Two Single-Family Passivhaus Projects in Maine

A Passivhaus Doesn’t Have to Look Weird

Little House, Big Energy Efficiency in Boston
Applying Passive House to a Century-old Building
A Conservative Legislator with a Passivhaus Mindset

Matt Beaton’s Full-Court Passivhaus Press
Aiming for Passivhaus in Boston

Passivhaus on Spec in Boston

Michigan Gets Its First Passivhaus

A Passivhaus Retrofit in Minnesota
MinnePHit House

New Jersey
Passivhaus Building the Modular Way

New Mexico
Paths to Passivhaus in Santa Fe

New York
The Passive House Family Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Steps Forward and Back in Brooklyn, NY
A Passive House Take on the Hudson Valley

Green Prototypes in Upstate NY Edge Toward Summer Unveiling
A Habitat Passivhaus for Upstate New York
R-House is Still a Passivhaus Contender

A Passivhaus Project Wraps Up in Brooklyn
Bringing Passivhaus to Harlem
Passive House Design Comes of Age

EcoVillage at Ithaca Plans a Passivhaus Branch
For Sale: One Passivhaus, $595,000
Passivhaus is Blossoming in Brooklyn

After a Bumpy Start, a Passivhaus Success Story

North Carolina
Passive House: What Do You Think?

Striving for Passive House in Ohio
A Straw-bale Project Aims for High Performance
A Museum Will Build, Then Sell, a Passivhaus

Building to the Passivhaus Standard in Northern Oregon
Traditional Styling, Passive House Construction
Oregon’s Reach Code Adopts the Passivhaus Standard

Karuna House: One Project, Three Certifications
Trekhaus: A Passivhaus Duplex in Oregon

Affordable Urban Green in Philly
Onion Flats’ Big Multifamily Passivhaus Plan
An Affordable Passivhaus Comes to Pittsburgh

Passivhaus Townhouses Are Underway in Philadelphia

Aiming for Passive House in Texas

Pioneering Passive House in the Western U.S.
Passive House Ambitions Land in Park City, Utah

Vermont House Wins $10,000 Net-Zero-Energy Prize
Habitat’s Passive House Focus in Vermont
Habitat in Vermont Continues Its Passive House Journey

A Vermont Home Aims for Passivhaus Certification
The Passivhaus/Almost Passive House Faceoff

Farmhouse Style Meets Passive House
Passivhaus on a Budget
Virginia Farmhouse Wins Top LEED Honors

Touting a Hotel with High (Energy Efficiency) Standards
A Passive House Kick-Start in the Northwest
A Passive House That Fits in Your Pocket (Almost)

Visiting Passivhaus Job Sites in Washington State
More Passivhaus Site Visits in Washington State
A Passivhaus Take on Multifamily

Seattle Passivhaus: Yours for $1.45 Million
A Contemporary Passivhaus Design in Seattle

Washington, DC
The First Project in the D.C. Area to Aim for Passivhaus Certification
Solar Decathlon: Parsons and Stevens Institute Team Up
A Passivhaus Project in D.C. Nears Completion

Passive House in the (Wisconsin) Woods
Passive House in the Woods Opens Its Doors
Passive House in the Woods Goes Energy-Positive

A ‘Kit-Home’ Approach to Passivhaus
Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Jolts Passivhaus Owner

International News Stories:
Hunting Energy Efficiency in Southeast Australia

Belgian Passivhaus is Rendered Uninhabitable by Bad Indoor Air

Promoting Passivhaus in Bulgaria

Passive House Finds Friends in Canada
Canada: Showcasing Passivhaus on the Olympics’ Stage
Canada: Austria Passive House Takes a Star Turn

Canada: Passivhaus Forum Set for Austria House
Canada: Forging Ties Between Pre-Design and Passivhaus
Canada’s First Residential Passivhaus Building

An Affordable Passivhaus in British Columbia
Canada: Is This Building Passivhaus-Certified?
My Earth Tube Story

Alberta’s First Passivhaus?

Irish Passive House Raises Bar for Eco Design
An Irish Bungalow Gets an A1 Energy Retrofit
Ireland: ‘All New Construction and Retrofits Must Be Carbon-Neutral’

Germany’s Plus-Energy Town

New Zealand
Moving Toward Passive House in New Zealand

Russia’s First ‘Active House’ Gets a Test Drive

United Kingdom
A Passivhaus Guide for the U.K.
Giving Passivhaus a Push in Britain
The Passivhaus Component of Britain’s ‘Green Deal’

British Distributor Specializes In Passivhaus Building Materials
U.K. Builder Trying Again on Eco-Home
U.K. Builder: Airtight Construction Trumps Renewable-Energy Add-ons

Britain’s Zero Carbon Mandate
U.K.’s Architype Wins Ashden Award for Commitment to Sustainable Design
UK: An Architect, an Arch, and Passive House Performance

Remodeling a U.K. Victorian for Passivhaus Performance
Victorian Haus Party in London
U.K. Victorian Finds Its Way to Passivhaus Performance
Another U.K. Victorian Gets a Passivhaus Makeover

A Three-Home Project in Wales Aims for Serious Green
Wales’ Passivhaus Projects Measure Up

In the Forums:
Wolfgang Feist Responds to Rideau Residences Controversy
A TV news report on Alan Gibson's Passivhaus development
PHIUS lawyers accuse New York Passive House of stealing PHIUS's “trade secrets”

Dr. Wolfgang Feist posts a comment on GBA's Passivhaus reporting
Link to Dr. Wolfgang Feist dialogue
PassivHaus Discussion

"Murky" Passivhaus Discussion Continues
Can a Kitchen Downdraft Fan Be Connected To an HRV?
I'm thinking of building attached townhouses in NYC (3 or 4 floors).

HVAC For Tight Envelope House
Airtighness Goals
Passivhaus Translations

Dr. Feist Videos
Passivhaus Standards for North America?
Passivhaus Discussion

Passive House Consultant training
PassivHaus Clothes Dryers?
Hot Water for a Passive House

To those who attended the 2009 Passive House conference
Very Recent Passivhaus Article
Any Passivhaus homes built using green rough-cut lumber?

Net-zero help
Exterior doors that are well-insulated and seal well
Hudson Valley Passive House
Passivhaus Pioneer award for Amory Lovins

GreenSpec Product Guide
Pazen Fenstertechnik Windows
Serious Windows
Zehnder ComfoAir HRV

Sorpetaler Windows
Folding Glass for Passivhaus Projects
Drewexim Passive House Doors

Intus Passive House Doors

Outside Resources:
Passive House Institute US
Passive House Northwest
Passive Buildings California

Canadian Passive Building Coalition
PassivHaus Institute, Darmistadt, Germany
PassivHaus Institute, UK

Tags: , , ,

Image Credits:

  1. G*O Logic
  2. Katrin Klingenberg

Mar 9, 2010 11:09 AM ET

Either the two people in the
by Interested Onlooker

Either the two people in the photograph are very, very small or this is not a tiny building...

Mar 9, 2010 11:12 AM ET

It's 1,200 square feet
by Martin Holladay

You have a good point. It's 1,200 square feet — not as large as the typical new home, but not really "tiny." In response to your comment, I'll change the wording of the caption.

Mar 11, 2010 2:33 AM ET

Smith house
by mike

1200 sf for a 2-br house in the States is fairly minuscule.

The building appears larger than it is because the south-facing living room is a double-height space (soaking up rays and extending light into the depths of the house).

Mar 11, 2010 11:09 AM ET

Passive House
by Doug McEvers

I was in this house on the 2007 PH tour on a cool but sunny November day, it was very comfortable and got a bit warm with 30 or 40 people inside ( lots of temporary internal gain). The house feels larger than it is with the 2 story south facing living area, this home treads lightly.

Mar 11, 2010 3:43 PM ET

Extremely simple design...
by Ed Welch

Katrin's house is also a very simple design (for economic reasons) with very few windows on the colder sides, north and east. I don't think this home represents the strengths of the Passive Haus Concept. But if you read her book, Passive Houses in the US, you will get a better representation of more complex designs. I look forward to their next book when we will see more projects completed
, homes that look like all the homes we see every day.

Jan 13, 2011 11:36 AM ET

Daniel, Thank you for
by Jim Merrithew, SE Ontario, 6A

Thank you for compiling the list of links. There are several blogs and discussions I had not encountered yet. This list will simplify the search for information.

Jan 19, 2011 3:39 PM ET

Edited Jan 19, 2011 3:41 PM ET.

Just doin' my Job, Jim
by Daniel Morrison

Glad you like it.

BTW, Martin doubled the number of links on this page recently.


Jan 20, 2011 1:02 AM ET

Great Summary, BUT
by Kevin Dickson P.E., MSME

The PassivHaus (PH) standard is a great guideline and is roughly in the top three in popularity.

But here's a big caveat for especially for homebuilding novices ready to drink the PH Kool-Aid: be careful, some of the specifications are overkill for your home and your climate. By overkill, I mean they cost you more than they are worth.

Robert Riversong doesn't pull any punches in his disdain for PH. He can be brutally rude & honest, but he's still highly regarded on these forums:

"the PH standards are arbitrary and excessive and are not cost-effective to meet in an affordable home. They take a couple of good ideas (air tightness and superinsulation) to a ridiculous extreme. Extremism is never a solution, but merely creates new problems."

I'm more diplomatic: I say that if PH has caught your fancy, go for it, but be ready to jettison at least a few of its hard-to-meet requirements. If you don't know which ones they are for your project, you need to hire a good energy rater who can explain it to you. You may not even get your "PH certification" but you've saved money and headaches.

Not getting certification is no big deal, there isn't a shred of evidence that it would add to the resale value of your project.

I'm still pushing the concept of an EPA energy rating for homes that is in dollars per year. PH and LEED and Energy Star and HERS are too complicated for the average consumer. "This house will use 50% less energy than if the home were built to the minimum code that was in effect in 2006" WHAT?!? or "This house is PassivHaus certified because it uses less than 15kwh/m2/yr" HUH??!

Dec 30, 2011 12:53 PM ET

Another article
by Garth Sproule 7B

I would like to see an article discussing why so many PH designs seem to have no regard for summer shading of south facing glazing. The home pictured at the beginning of this blog is a prime example of what I am questioning...

Register for a free account and join the conversation

Get a free account and join the conversation!
Become a GBA PRO!