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

Dated: 5 February 2013


5th February 2013

4 responses to “Removing obstacles to Passivhaus in the UK”

  1. blank Ruth Jack says:

    We are timber door manufacturers and have been working with German manufacturers of Passivhaus we are very pro Passivhaus and have been trying to develop a product which will work for us in the UK. One of the biggest obstacles for us at the moment is cost. Companies will not take the financial leap to a this product without a strong incentive. This was a similar case in with Secured by Design PAS24 /23. We were the first timber door manufacturer to have Secured by Design product, but the only reason companies were buying them was because of the pressure through government bodies / councils through incentives to have Secured by Design developments and similarly with Chain of Custody more recently. Government has to get behind this to make it happen.

  2. blank jonathan Arnot says:

    I was in a large house which only requires 3kw heat input! The power used by the heat recovery extract system is 750 watts on max. This is clearly the way ahead.

  3. blank Robert Bridges says:

    I was hooked on Passivhaus several years ago when I attended a training course hosted by Bill Butcher (Green Building Store) and the Denby Dale house owner. Based on the architecture, demanding on-site building standards / details, and meticulous attention to the specifics of energy / heat conservation / ventilation etc, I’ve been an evangelist ever since.

    But I haven’t built anything comparable, and whilst I understand that B. Regs and ‘Code’ building have moved on, I lost touch whilst working in an overseas construction environment, embracing tower blocks, wastewater treatment plants, army camps and much in between – a far cry from Denby Dale.

    Therefore my question: is there a single (or more) document that clarifies and comments on different schools of mandated or voluntary practice, and differentiates between the respective merits of each, so that I can build my own house by (a) following the UK requirements and (b) be guided towards an energy-efficient design & build home.

  4. blank Bill says:


    We are not aware of a definitive document giving guidance on the merits and pitfalls of any given methodology. Building Regs and SAP may be improved but the evidence is that there still is a large performance gap between designed energy demand and the actual. PHPP modelling delivers if the building is built as designed and quality of workmanship is good. This applies to a non certifiable house just as well. PHPP gives flexibility for a designer to leave out MVHR, have less or a better standard of insulation, change the windows, etc, etc.
    Unfortunately Building Control still need a SAP report even on certified PH buildings, as PHPP does not ‘deem to satisfy’……………yet!

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