Passive House or Passivhaus – What’s the Difference?

Abel Hinchliffe

If you’re looking to build an eco-friendly home, then you might have heard of the term “passive house”, also known as passivhaus. But what do these terms mean and how do they differ?

And, more importantly, how can building a passive house benefit you and the environment? Read on to learn more...

Passive house or passivhaus?

So, what exactly is the difference between these two terms? Well, they actually have the exact same meaning. “Passive house” is simply the translation of the original German term “passivhaus”.

Passivhaus is a construction concept that is used to plan and create new homes that are both energy-efficient and eco-friendly, without cutting back on comfort and affordability. It also refers to the set of building standards that need to be followed to produce these uber enviromentally-friendly properties.

The requirements for an eco passive house

To be classed as a passive house, your new-build home will need to meet these set criteria:

Space heating

The energy required to heat (or cool) the rooms should not exceed 15 kWh/m2 per year within the living space. This is also limited to 10 W/m2 at peak demand.

Primary energy

This should be renewable, with the total energy for domestic applications (hot water, heating and domestic electricity) not exceeding 60 kWh/m2 per year within the living space.


Passive houses should be extremely airtight, limiting the number of air changes within the living space by a maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals of pressure.

Thermal comfort

Passive homes need to be comfortable to live in through all the seasons. So, the living spaces should not exceed 25°C for more than 10% of the year.

Passive house construction – how does it work?

Whether you’re interested in small passive house plans or a giant passivhaus construction, there are five key principles that should be incorporated into the design...

High-quality thermal insulation

The insulation in a passive house should allow the property to hold in as much heat as possible. This means that all the opaque components of the property’s exterior should be covered in the insulation, without interruption, where possible.

Eliminate thermal bridging

Thermal bridges should be avoided. These occur where one of the external materials is less well-insulated than the rest. Special care should be taken with any corners or edges of the property.

Energy-efficient windows

Windows with high energy-efficiency should be used, as windows are often a point of weakness for letting out heat. Using windows with low-e glass coatings can help to reduce heat transfer.


Airflow between the interior and exterior of the property should be minimised during the construction of the property.

Heat recovery ventilation

With all the careful insulation, your energy-passive house will need to keep its air fresh through ‘mechanical ventilation’. This involves using a heat recovery ventilator to draw out old air and bring in fresh air, as well as an exchanger to extract heat from outgoing air to warm incoming air.

You can learn more about the specific requirements of the passivhaus principles on the Passivhaus Institute website.

Build an eco-friendly home with a passive house architect

If you want to build a passivhaus that suits both you and the environment, then you need a passive house architect with extensive experience to guide you through the process.

Whether you have questions about the cost of a passive house or simply want to discuss your plans, get in touch with our experienced team at CODA Bespoke. Or take a look at our extensive portfolio of self-build properties to get a feel for what we create.

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Abel Hinchliffe

With a wealth of experience Abel heads up CODA Bespoke, specialising in luxury residential developments both large and small. Recently entrusted with the responsibility of also heading up Studio 4 which is currently delivering numerous office to residential developments. Connect with Abel Hinchliffe on LinkedIn >

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