History of Passive House

The History of Passive House / Passivhaus

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Passive House is an internationally recognized building style that employs efficiency in all
aspects of the design process, such as with energy, lighting, and heating, and pioneered similar
building styles around the world. First exemplified in the Saskatchewan Conservation House in
1977, the concept of the Passive House was first formally created in 1996’s Passivhaus Institute in
Darmstadt, Germany by Dr. Wolfgang Feist. The building style can be recognized through its
usage of passive and active processes to help building efficiency in all aspects of daily life. From
passive solar heating and cooling, to lower lighting and electrical consumption, Passive houses in
both residential and commercial settings are used to decrease the overall carbon footprint of a
building for the occupants.

The concept of the passive house was first conceived during the 1970’s energy crisis,
with buildings such as the “Lo-Cal” house in 1976 and the Saskatchewan Conservation House
and Leger House in 1977. After the energy crisis ended, the movement was later adopted in
Germany by Wolfgang Feist in the construction of the first Passivhaus construction outside of
North America with the Kranichstein Townhouses in 1990. This preceded the establishment of
the Passivhaus Institut in 1996 in Darmstadt, and the later American counterpart of the Passive
House Institute US in 2007.

Passive House buildings require significantly less energy and water consumption than
conventional buildings and in comparison with other low-energy buildings with up to 90%
energy efficiency compared to conventional buildings, and higher than new buildings. These
buildings also use substantially more oil to heat each square metre of space than a Passive House
building would, with less than 1.5 cubic metres of oil needed per square metre of floor space.

Many of these benefits are accomplished through specific use of building materials, and through
the construction process itself.

Heating and cooling is kept to a minimum for energy efficiency through usually triple or
sometimes double paned glass windows depending on the climate of the location. Buildings
constructed in colder climates have a larger emphasis on retaining heat and insulation through
techniques such as high grade insulation for the edges of windows and doors and minimal
ventilation to prevent drafts. For buildings in warmer climates, there is an emphasis on passive
cooling techniques such as passive solar shading in warmer months, light exterior colours, less
large windows to prevent heat trapping, and minimally invasive ventilation. Ventilation systems
are designed to be mostly unnoticeable, but also capable of tackling humidity, providing fresh
air, but not disrupting temperature patterns, as well as unique designs for each room to limit CO2
levels and fresh air intake.

Passive House buildings provide an environmentally friendly structure during its lifetime,
with durable building materials, a conscious design process, unique and calculated heating,
cooling, and ventilation systems and designs, and a focus on efficiency to lower electrical, water,
and HVAC costs. This focus on efficiency results in less carbon emissions from the building
during its existing phase, while concerns regarding construction could include embodied carbon
emissions with transportation and building materials themselves or with disruption to the natural environment. In general, Passive House buildings offer an opportunity for tenants to use less energy while maintaining a more or less similar lifestyle to the conventional building tenant.


Cohen, A. (2013, May 2). History of passivhaus. Passiv Science. Retrieved March 24,
2022, from http://passivscience.com/history-of-passivhaus/
Costanzo, V., Fabbri, K., & Piraccini, S. (2018). Stressing the passive behavior of a
passivhaus: An evidence-based scenario analysis for a Mediterranean case study. Building and
Environment, 142, 265–277. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2018.06.035
Design fundamentals. Passivehouse.ca. (2019). Retrieved March 24, 2022, from
The Passive House Resource [ ]. Passipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2022, from
Zhao, J., & Carter, K. (2020). DO passive houses need passive people? evaluating
the active occupancy of Passivhaus Homes in the United Kingdom. Energy Research &
Social Science, 64, 101448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101448

Lincoln Net Zero Farmhouse – designed to Passive House standards and LEED Platinum certified retrieved August 25, 2023 from https://signaturesustainability.com/passivehaus-passive-house/

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