Is it too expensive to build to Passivhaus Standard?

As global temperatures steamroll toward 1.5°C and beyond, we must ask, can we afford not to build Passivhaus homes?


The Passivhaus Standard sets clear measured criteria, making it simple for all involved to understand whether a project is compliant.

Independent certification and quality-assurance methodology ensures building performance that slashes energy use and delivers comfort and health benefits.

New analysis, comparing several multi-home developments of various construction types, shows extra costs associated with building to Passivhaus in the UK have reduced over recent years.

As of 2018, best-practice costs were around 8% higher than comparable non-Passivhaus projects.

Considering further development of construction skills, expertise, supply-chain maturity, and full-scale adoption, it can be expected that extra costs may fall further to 4% or lower.

This is a minor uplift for a superior product.

Scientists are warning that we may have already passed crucial tipping points to avoid global temperatures rising above 1.5°C. In the UK, buildings are a key culprit – accountable for almost 40% of the country’s total carbon emissions.

The burning question we should be asking is, can we afford not to build to Passivhaus?

Every building built today that is not a Passivhaus is an expensive retrofit tomorrow.

The Committee on Climate Change report UK housing: Fit for the future? indicates that the additional cost of aiming for ultra-high levels of fabric efficiency, like Passivhaus, is approximately £5,000 per home when included at the start.

Retrofitting homes to the same standard after they are built would cost £27,000.

It is not uncommon for new-builds to suffer from defects and require substantial upgrades within five to 10 years.

Clear evidence proves the actual energy performance of new-build homes does not match the design; the average home is likely to use 60-80% more energy than predicted.

The Passivhaus methodology provides a rigorous quality-assurance process that eliminates this performance gap, and buildings require less maintenance and repair.

What is the cost of cold, damp homes that are expensive to heat?

These poor living conditions can exacerbate respiratory problems, mental health issues, and anti-social behaviour.

Passivhaus standards will improve living conditions and could save the NHS £14bn in first-year treatment costs alone.

It is useless talking about upfront capital costs without considering long-term ‘whole-life’ costs. The Passivhaus Trust’s cost-benefit guide, which is currently under development, aims to fill this gap by quantifying benefits and assessing these whole-life costs.

There is an argument that we need to be doing more than Passivhaus, simultaneously tackling energy and resource efficiency, embodied carbon, biodiversity, and more.

That argument isn’t wrong: In a climate emergency we must do all we can, because the consequential cost of inaction will be insurmountable.

Yogini’s piece appeared in our January edition of the magazine, officially launching our Green Campaign for 2020. 

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