Removing obstacles to Passivhaus in the UK

Bill Butcher, Director, Green Building Store

Bill Butcher, Director, Green Building Store

NHBC Foundation report

The NHBC Foundation has recently published a report on  Lessons from Germany’s Passivhaus experience, which has has identified a number of socio-political-economic factors hindering the rise of Passivhaus in the UK. Although Passivhaus is gaining in popularity in the UK, the report has suggested that  it could struggle to follow Germany’s lead and build large numbers of Passivhaus homes because of its different social, political and financial drivers and general attitudes.

Obstacles to Passivhaus in the UK

However, this is not a reason to give up or throw up our hands in despair – none of the problems or factors that have been identified are insurmountable. This is about the ability of the UK construction industry to deliver truly low-energy buildings that perform as designed. We must address this challenge. The NHBC report highlights the urgent action needed to remove obstacles to Passivhaus low energy building.

Costs of compliance

A particular factor identified in the report is the additional cost and effort needed in the UK for Passivhaus homes to achieve compliance with both building regulations and Passivhaus standards. Passivhaus homes in the UK have to verify compliance with building regulations as well as the high Passivhaus standard. In Germany the Passivhaus certification automatically confirms compliance with building regulations. The report notes that this is less of a problem in Germany because the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP) software also produces an energy compliance report in line with Germany’s national building regulations (EnEV).

‘Deemed to satisfy’ within Building Regs

A simple way that Passivhaus could be supported, that would be relatively easy for politicians to implement, would be by recognising the exemplar quality assurance that Passivhaus certification offers, through ‘deemed to satisfy’ status within the Building Regulations. This would be a good start to give the Passivhaus approach to low energy building the boost and kick-start it so urgently needs.

The Passivhaus standard and methodology offers a robust and effective approach to tackling fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions. We now need legislation and support to enable the UK to follow Germany’s example and achieve truly low energy construction.

Bill Butcher, Director, Green Building Store

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