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Passivhaus Social Housing

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The cost-of-living crisis and concerns about energy security have sharpened the focus on the pressing issue of fuel poverty. Uninsulated and poorly ventilated buildings result in hard-to-heat homes prone to suffer from damp and mould issues. Fuel bill hikes result in some residents being unable to afford to heat their homes to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of 18°C. These conditions can exacerbate residents' ill health, and cold homes are becoming as big a killer as deaths associated with smoking & alcohol abuse

High-quality, well-designed housing that addresses the issues of fuel poverty and resident health while also reducing rental voids and maintenance costs sounds like an impossible dream. Passivhaus is proven to deliver on all these fronts. All whilst significantly reducing carbon emissions

Passivhaus Social is an ongoing campaign run by the Passivhaus Trust to assist Local Authorities (LAs) and Housing Associations (HAs) in adopting and implementing the Passivhaus Standard.

Passivhaus is a whole-house approach with clear measured targets focused on high-quality construction, healthy indoor environments & low fuel bills. So far, the campaign has identified several successes and key issues that LAs and HAs need to address to build Passivhaus dwellings. Discover more in the guide below: 


Passivhaus Social Housing: What is Passivhaus?


Why Passivhaus is a perfect fit for social housing?

Passivhaus may seem too costly or high-risk for those who have never built one before - but business as usual also involves its risks, such as non-performance, overheating & the requirement for future upgrades. It is crucial to understand the value & sound business case for building to the Passivhaus Standard; it is much more than just energy efficiency and thermal performance. There are several interconnected benefits – creating a catalyst for positive effects.


BILL BUSTING: Heating needs can be reduced by 90%, which translates into VERY low fuel bills. Social housing providers can guarantee energy security and affordability, and eliminate fuel poverty. Life-changing savings on energy bills improve quality of life and means more spending power for residents, which is put back into the local economy.


REDUCED RENT ARREARS: Thanks to drastic reductions in energy bills, residents can afford to live more comfortably, which leads to improved customer experience, fewer complaints, and reduced rent arrears. In addition, void periods where homes are unoccupied are lowered, which maximises annual rental income. Savings are made on lower void management & re-let costs, also avoiding legal costs. It has a significant impact on long-term viability.

Erneley Close occupant quote:


HEALTHY HOMES: The lack of draughts, cold spots, mould and condensation create comfortable temperatures and clean internal environments in both winter and summer, particularly beneficial for more vulnerable residents.    

Continuous fresh air provided by the ventilation system (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) provides excellent indoor air quality. Many Passivhaus residents have reported it has helped alleviate allergies such as hay fever and respiratory problems associated with air pollution and mould.

Thanks to high-quality construction & triple glazing, a Passivhaus creates a peaceful sound-proof environment. There are fewer resident complaints about noise issues, and they can confidently be built next to loud busy roads. 

Akerman Road occupant quote: You could hear the raspiness in my baby daughter’s cough, and a constantly runny nose. She doesn’t suffer from that anymore since we’ve been here, she doesn’t cough in the night.


DURABILITY & FUTUREPROOFING: Passivhaus projects are proven to perform, on average, exactly as modelled and have over 25 years’ worth of research & data. Invest in quality and value now to save on costly repairs later - The 2019 report, UK housing: Fit for the future?, highlights the average home would require an additional upfront cost of £5k to meet efficient heating demands close to Passivhaus standards. Whereas, subsequent retrofit costs & remedial work may cost up to £26,500 per home. The quality assurance process helps eradicate shortfalls in performance and creates resilient buildings with lower maintenance. 


CLIMATE ACTION: According to the latest International Parliamentary Committee for Climate Change (IPCC) report, we now only have a few years left to reduce emissions enough to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. The UK has set targets to reduce total emissions by 78% of 1990 levels by 2035 and to net zero by 2050. This is unattainable without decarbonising our buildings. Passivhaus offers the most robust & cost-effective route to net zero for the building sector.

Carrowbreck Meadow: Passivhaus is a good way of building because it both helps with fuel poverty and is aligned with the Council's climate change agenda through carbon emissions reduction. Andrew Turnbull, Senior housing development officer, Norwich City Council

This message is reflected in many new regional policies going beyond building regulations. As investigated in our report ‘Passivhaus, the route to Zero Carbon?’ better building fabric performance is imperative to meeting zero carbon targets and Passivhaus, coupled with a small number of renewables, can achieve this.

Discover much more in the Passivhaus benefits guide which identifies almost 50 benefits categorized into 6 key areas, and backed by several references.

Passivhaus Benefits Guide

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This is not efficiency, this is Passivhaus efficiency!

There is a growing number of large social & affordable housing developments in the UK. Goldsmith Street is one of the most recognisable Passivhaus social housing schemes after winning the 2019 UK RIBA Stirling Award. Below is a selection of certified schemes displaying a range of constructions & contexts.  Browse more examples in the Project Gallery 

Goldsmith Street: Rod Edwards Photography
Burnham Overy Staithe Rayne Park, Norwich City Council
Wimbish Passivhaus, Parsons + Whittley for Hastoe HA
Wilmcote House Step by Step Retrofit
Ackerman Road for Lambeth Council
Primrose Park in Plymouth Callaughtons Ash. Image Credit: Architype Carrowbreck Meadow ©Jefferson Smith
Knights Place, Gale & Snowden Sarn social housing project for Powys County Council Agar Grove 1B. Image credit Michael Mersh



There has been a huge increase in the number of social housing providers adopting Passivhaus. Several Councils are leading by example with exciting & sizeable 100+ home developments. The map below highlights all the large scale Passivhaus social housing projects currently in development throughout the UK.  Looking for a completed project? Have a look at our Passivhaus Trust UK Certified Project Map here.


For examples of other civic buildings such as libraries, leisure centres, and fire stations, browse the civic & cultural Passivhaus projects. Do not miss the UK's first Passivhaus leisure centre & public pool aiming for Passivhaus certification, St Sidwell's Point. Browse more examples in the Passivhaus project sectors.



Passivhaus is not just for new build, and many social housing providers are seeking improvements to their existing housing stock. Discover more about Passivhaus retrofit and watch a free introduction video. The Trust is researching retrofit construction costs which we hope to share soon. 

Erneley Close, 2E Architects
Carlton Chapel House
Renfrewshire housing. Image credit: Renfrewshire Council Niddrie Road, Image credit: John Gilbert Architects

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Social housing providers who have delivered Passivhaus homes

Is your council building to Passivhaus standards?

Is your council building to Passivhaus standards? If not, why not! Download a list of local authorities & housing associations who have built Passivhaus homes in the UK here to help spur your own local authority. More information on regional policies citing Passivhaus or similar can be found on our Passivhaus and planning page. 

We will be exploring a range of funding and procurement models through our Passivhaus Social Housing roundtables, running throughout 2023. Please contact for more information.


Learn. Understand. Get ahead

FREE TRAINING:  Learn more about the Passivhaus process. Take advantage of Passivhaus guidance, from introductory tips to best practice guides. There are several resources available. Many on-demand courses offer free access to local authorities & social housing providers:

Introduction to Passivhaus Large & Complex Passivhaus Masterclass Series
Passivhaus Social Housing: Maximising benefits, minimising costs
PHT Primers Technical Guidance - How to Build a Passivhaus: Good Practice Guide Passivhaus Benefits: Research Summary Guide, 2021
Getting to Net Zero Passivhaus Retrofit Masterclass lecture series


SITE VISITS: Experience & feel it yourself. Site visits offer you a chance to speak to occupants and those involved with delivering the building. Get out and visit as many as you can. Several large-scale residential Passivhaus developments have been built across the nation. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the UK, look further afield... It’s an international standard!


PREVIOUS EVENTS: Regional events have been held by the Passivhaus Trust in Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol, Yorkshire and London over the past few of years. They unearth how some forward thinking councils have succeeded and identify potential common barriers that may have so far hindered adopting Passivhaus into green agendas and policies. Where permission has been granted, previous presentation slides are accessible via the links below:

Cardiff - May 2019    I    Glasgow - May 2018   I   Birmingham - September 2017

Bristol - July 2017  |  Passivhaus Social Housing webinar series - 2023


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What's on now

Passivhaus Social Housing | Handover, maintenance + Passivhaus living Passivhaus Social Housing | Passivhaus + Net Zero
Passivhaus Social Housing | Passivhaus + summer comfort Passivhaus Social Housing | Passivhaus costs

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Find an advisor

PHT members directory

Finding the right team at the right price can be difficult. Everyone involved needs to get on board and understand the key Passivhaus concepts or be willing to learn. Previous experience clearly offers an advantage, however what is more important is a culture of quality. Check the key teams involved with the case studies above.

Grow your networks & hear directly from those that are already implementing the Standard. Learn from their key success factors & how to avoid common mistakes. Take a look at our members directory of UK Passivhaus professionals who may be able to help. Or better yet, join the Trust as members.


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#PHsocial @PassivhausTrustFurther Information

Passivhaus Social Housing 2024 webinar series

Passivhaus Cost Benefits

Passivhaus & Planning

Passivhaus & Net Zero

Previous PHT story: London housing projects loom large - December 2022

Previous PHT story: Midlothian Council walks the walk! - 29 June 2022

Previous PHT story: Local Passivhaus Policies - 8 May 2022

Previous PHT story: Social housing championing Passivhaus at scale - 12th May 2021

Previous PHT story: Appetite for Passivhaus in Scotland - 8 June 2018 

Previous PHT story: Passivhaus Social Housing – Cost Research – 29 June 2017

Why more housing providers should be building to Passivhaus Standard – 24 Housing: 16 March 2017

Previous PHT story: Greens call for Passivhaus standards on council owned land - 28 July 2015

Learning from Greenhaus - a Passivhaus case study

2019 Passivhaus Construction Costs

Net Zero Carbon Toolkit

Shelter's report on building a better future for social housing

Touching the voids - Sustainable Homes

Climate Action Co-Benefits Toolkit - Ashden

Fuel poverty, air quality and the shift to a low-carbon economy: the real-life impacts - Ashden

UK Climate Emergency Network

Climate protection at municipal level: ten-point plan for the building sector 



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