Passivhaus Affiliate

UK Passivhaus Conference 2021: Delivering Net Zero through Passivhaus highlights

We’re catching our breath after a lively and thought-provoking online UK Passivhaus conference. A big thank you to all our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making it a knowledge-sharing success. Here we share our highlights and some of the big themes which emerged from the discussions.

UK Passivhaus Conference 2021

Running a pared-back event following the big-picture climate emergency highlighted at COP26, the Trust opened proceedings with the importance of Passivhaus in achieving net-zero. Jon Bootland reinforced that the move to largescale electrification of heating will not be possible unless energy efficiency measures, to Passivhaus levels, also take place.


Passivhaus going large

A key theme was how Passivhaus is becoming more mainstream.

Day 1 explored large and complex case studies - From high-rise student accommodation in Battersea - to estate-wide EnerPHit programmes for social housing. A stand-out fact shared by Tomas O’Leary was one entire high-rise block of the Palmerston Court 315-room student accommodation will be heated by a single 38 kW boiler. An equivalent size boiler heated the bungalow that Tomas grew up in. 


Passivhaus from the start

One persistent message throughout the conference was that shoehorning Passivhaus into existing designs is much more challenging than starting from scratch. 

It is easier & cost-effective to address orientation and form factors at an earlier stage rather than try to adapt a project that has already received planning. Both the Hull Maritime Museum and the Lancaster Park developer-led housing were adapted from designs that had already received planning permission. This made achieving the Passivhaus standard on those projects more challenging.

Hull Maritime Visitor Centre, Image credit: Purcell

Fraser Millar Homes shared a private developer’s perspective on the challenges of adopting high-performance buildings & raised interesting discussions on costs and performance targets. They believe starting with slightly lower standards such as PHI Low Energy Building Standard is an attractive stop-gap to move the wider industry on its urgent ascent to delivering higher-quality buildings.


Passivhaus projects can be delivered for a comparable cost to standard construction if the right decisions are made at the right time. 

 Eoin O’Neill, Faithful + Gould


Easy wins: Form factor

Achieving a good form factor makes a project considerably easier to deliver. The favourable form factors of Battersea high rise flats and the Entopia EnerPHit meant that the levels of required wall insulation were reduced. PHT member QODA’s Joel Callow suggested that the form factor is a fundamental design decision-making tool that early on decides on the viability of achieving Passivhaus certification. Joel argued that projects with a good (low) form factor like blocks of flats had the best Passivhaus potential and should be prioritized.

Entopia Building EnerPHit, Image credit: Soren Kristensen


Cost & Value

Day 2 of the conference was more granular, looking at technical aspects in more detail, such as improving ventilation to reduce the risk of COVID transmission. The myriad benefits of Passivhaus were explored, as a precursor to the launch of the Trust’s forthcoming benefits guide, as well as looking at positive studies of the whole-lifecycle VALUE of Passivhaus.

Moving away from solely focusing on the costs and return on investment strengthens the business case for Passivhaus to take off in the UK. Duncan Smith, Renfrewshire Council, reinforced that this equally applies to retrofit. He argued that cost considerations should be supplemented with questions of ‘worth’ in terms of climate, poverty, a sustainable economy, and health and wellbeing.

Cost & Value of deep retrofit, Image credit: Duncan Smith


The vital role of legislation

A thread running through the whole conference was the need for legislative changes and Government support to help upscale Passivhaus in the UK. The Trust will continue to lobby local and national policies to adopt Passivhaus. There are very positive noises coming from the Scottish Parliament regarding changes to building regulations more in line with Passivhaus, which builds on the momentum of recent Passivhaus requirements for schools from the Scottish Futures Trust.

It was also inspiring to hear Passivhaus strongly advocated by Councils, such as Renfrewshire and PHT Patron City of Edinburgh Council.



The closing conference session gave a whistle-stop overview of how to upscale Passivhaus in the UK, from training to the supply chain, unearthing what is needed to overcome obstacles. It ended with a call to action from PHT Patron WARM’s Sally Godber for the Passivhaus community to get more involved in training and sharing its knowledge and expertise with the wider construction industry. Greater collaboration can also be more fun - and is crucial to upscale Passivhaus in the UK. 

Going forward, the Trust will seek to grow training opportunities across all levels and expand the UK Passivhaus community.


PHT Patron WARM's Sally Godber: Technical & Training Challenges


Our concerns of fatigue post-COP26 vanquished by the appetite seen at this virtual conference, hosting over 200 engaged delegates each day. There is still much work to be done! Join us again next year.


Further information


2021 UK Passivhaus Conference

Passivhaus at COP26

17th December 2021

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