Passivhaus Affiliate

Exemplar local policies

England      |     Scotland     |     Wales     |     Northern Ireland

At a UK national level, effective policy development to support Passivhaus is slow: the recent UK Energy Security Strategy fails to include the energy efficiency policies hoped for to help reduce energy demand and tackle the climate crisis and the much-anticipated Government Future Homes Standard is still being deliberated and is unlikely to be published until 2024. However, local, regional and devolved administration Governments have been much more proactive on the Passivhaus front.

Goldsmith Street, Image credit: John Fielding


In December 2019, the Trust compiled an overview of regional & local planning policies that include Passivhaus or equivalent; In the two and a half years that have elapsed, there have been some exciting policy developments. Support for Passivhaus (and healthy competition between Councils) is beginning to snowball, which we hope will help Passivhaus transition into the mainstream. Below we round up some of the latest updates.



Closeburn John Gilbert Architects Image credit: Tom Manley Photography

Scotland’s recent Climate Assembly, set up by the Scottish Parliament,  presented its Recommendations for Action in which 97% of the Assembly voted in favour of the Passivhaus standard for new build projects in Scotland. ”Update building standards to ensure that, within the next 5 years, all new housing is built to Passivhaus standards (or an agreed Scottish equivalent), to create healthy homes for people while also taking into account whole life carbon costs and environmental impact” (page 16).

In response to the Climate Assembly recommendations a Scottish MSP Alex Rowley is proposing a private member’s bill calling for all new homes to be built to the Passivhaus standard. The private members bill will be going before the Scottish Parliament in Spring 2022. 

We are experiencing a perfect storm where Scotland has not met its greenhouse gas emissions targets and the rise in gas prices is expected to plunge another 150,000 Scots into fuel poverty. Delay and dither will further exacerbate the climate crisis and leave too many of our fellow citizens struggling to heat their homes.  
My proposal is a straightforward one - we should ensure that we future proof all new-build homes by constructing them to the highest possible energy efficiency standards. Adopting the Passivhaus standard for all new housing would not only deliver better housing and improved energy efficiency, it would also create new skilled jobs and economic benefit. The Scottish Parliament has the power to do so, we should get on and do it. I hope there will be cross-party support for this bill.

Alex Rowley, MSP for Fife

Maybury Primary School & Health Centre. Image: Architype

A very positive development in Scotland has been the funding criteria recently established for the Scottish Futures Trust’s (SFT) Learning Investment Programme. Projects receiving funding need to meet a very clear energy target of 67 kWh/m2.yr, comparable with a typical new build Passivhaus school. In addition, funding is reduced based on any performance gap post completion. The Passivhaus standard eliminates the energy performance gap, de-risking the possibility of any funding loss. The SFT funding criteria has already led to a greater uptake in the Passivhaus standard in Scottish educational buildings.

Local authorities

Edinburgh City Council: PHT Patron Edinburgh City Council has adopted Passivhaus for its Future Schools programme.  The Council has also announced plans to carry out a targeted energy efficient retrofit of the Council’s operational buildings and commit to Passivhaus Standard as the default standard for all Council newbuilds across the operational estate”.

Glasgow City Council: PHT Patron Glasgow City Council has set ‘The Glasgow Standard’ as a minimum standard for housing in Glasgow funded through the affordable housing supply programme. Passivhaus certification is deemed an acceptable route towards achieving the ‘Gold’ level within the standard (Option 2). Gold level compliance has been required for new developments from 1 September 2018 onwards. Numerous social housing schemes within Glasgow have achieved Passivhaus certification, including Newfield Square and Cunningham House.

Midlothian Council: The Council’s newly-published (March 2022) Net Zero Housing Design Guide seeks to address operational energy and the performance gap in new build projects, as part of the council’s ambitious aspiration to become net zero by 2030.  It sets ambitions for the Passivhaus standard for new council buildings from 2022, with Passivhaus Plus being adopted in 2024 and Passivhaus Premium in 2028. The design guide is a briefing document for all council new build residential projects and is a reference base.

Midlothian Council Passivhaus policy

Perth & Kinross: PHT member Perth and Kinross Council is embracing the Passivhaus standard as “a key industry standard for delivering high quality, low energy buildings”. The Council has several Passivhaus projects in different stages of development, including new primary and secondary schools as well as a Passivhaus swimming pool and ice rink.  

Newfield Square, Nitshill. Image credit: Mast Architects Cunningham House, Glasgow. Image credit: John Gilbert Architects Niddrie Road EnerPHit. Image credit: John Gilbert Architects. Currie Community High School, Edinburgh City Council. Image credit: Architype

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The Welsh government has issued a new standard for social housing; Homes built under the Welsh Development Quality Requirements (WDQR) 2021 must meet an efficiency equivalent to an energy performance certificate (EPC) of A, using a fabric first approach. Crucially, social housing providers do not have to use SAP; other metrics, such as Passivhaus certification, are also permitted, and requirements will apply to all publicly funded affordable housing. 

Sarn social housing project for Powys County Council

The Welsh Government recently announced that all new school and college buildings, major refurbishment and extension projects will be required to meet Net Zero Carbon targets from January 2022.  Buildings will be required to be Net Zero Carbon in operation, producing zero or negative carbon emissions as part of their in-use energy.

Published guidance is due soon, but it is anticipated that Passivhaus will be heavily featured, reflecting the plethora of Passivhaus-certified schools already built in Wales.

Burry Port School. Image credit: Architype

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One positive recent development has been the Government's reiteration in January 2022 that local authorities in England still retain powers to set local energy efficiency standards in Local Plans that go beyond the minimum standards set through the Building Regulations (Recommendation 7a). A number of councils are currently working on integrating Passivhaus into their Local Plans and we will be sharing more on this shortly. 

St Sidwell's Point Leisure Centre, Exeter. Image credit: Exeter City Council

Local authorities

Exeter: Exeter City Council is a pioneering local authority embracing Passivhaus, from newbuild social housing, mixed tenure and extra care facilities to its flagship St Sidwell’s Point project  – the UK’s first Passivhaus leisure centre and public pool. The Council has established Exeter City Living a profit-for-purpose limited development company that helps deliver healthy and climate-resilient certified Passivhaus homes. Exeter City Living develops multi-tenure and affordable housing; Profit is re-invested into Council services. 

Herefordshire Council: In a UK first, Herefordshire’s Future Homes policy has committed all new council housing to achieving the Passivhaus Plus standard.

Net Zero Toolkit for local authorities: The Net Zero Carbon Toolkit is a practical, easy to follow guide to help plan a net zero housing project and includes Passivhaus advice and guidance. Developed for West Oxfordshire, Forest of Dean and Cotswold councils and funded through the Local Government Association (LGA) Housing Advisers Programme, the guide has been produced by leading technical experts from the Passivhaus Trust, PHT members Etude & Levitt Bernstein, and Elementa Consulting. The Toolkit has now also been adopted by West Somerset and Taunton Council, to augment their Climate Positive Planning statement and other guidance.  Folkestone & Hythe District Council has commissioned a similar Toolkit.

London Plan: New largescale developments in Greater London are subject to additional energy efficiency requirements, beyond current building regulations, a requirement which is helping drive an increasing uptake of Passivhaus in London.  As part of the Mayor of London’s 2021 London Plan a minimum on-site energy efficiency reduction of at least 35% beyond Building Regulations is required for major developments. Residential development should achieve 10%, and non-residential development should achieve 15% through energy efficiency measures.  The Mayor of London has also set out environmental standards for developers wishing to use City Hall funds to build affordable housing. Although Passivhaus is not specified within the requirements, the handbook for the Mayor’s Delivering Quality Homes Action Plan references Passivhaus liberally.  

York City CouncilYork has adopted the Passivhaus standard for its new homes delivery programme. As outlined in its Design Manual , the council commits to “Adopt a fabric first approach by developing all new build housing to certified Passivhaus standards”. Plans for 600 new homes to the Passivhaus standard are currently underway.

York City Council Passivhaus programme. Image credit: Mikhail Riches Greenhills Centre Newham Council/Greenhill Centre Passivhaus development for Newham Council. Image credit: HaworthTompkins Rayne Park, Norwich City Council Agar Grove Phase 1 Camden Council. Image credit: Jack Hobhouse

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Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive published its New Decade New Approach commitment in January 2020 to tackle climate change head on with a strategy to address the immediate and long-term impacts of climate change, along with the introduction of legislation and targets for reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Accord.  Current Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 are in the process of being updated, and the Passive House Association of Ireland is advocating leadership which reflects the New Decade New Approach commitments.

Erne Campus South West College

The exemplar South West College Erne Campus in Enniskillen is the world’s largest building - and the first educational building - to be certified to the Passivhaus Premium standard.

The college is developing into a centre of excellence for energy efficiency and is currently offering fully funded Passivhaus designer and tradesperson training from the Department of the Economy’s skills development programme. 

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Retrofit policies

The worsening climate and fuel bill crises mean that retrofitting the UK’s existing building stock is an imperative. Read the Trust's response to the Government's recent UK Energy Security Strategy which highlights the missed opportunities regarding retrofit and energy efficiency. We will be undertaking a round-up of the current state of play of the UK’s retrofit policies and campaigns soon, including recent exciting retrofit policy developments in Ireland. In the meantime, read our Passivhaus Retrofit page to understand more on Passivhaus approaches to retrofit and for inspiring exemplar projects. 


Further information

Passivhaus & Planning

Passivhaus Social

Passivhaus Educational Buildings

Passivhaus Retrofit

Previous PHT story: The UK's first Passivhaus Leisure Centre makes a splash 25 March 2022

Previous PHT story: Scottish Schools lead large scale Passivhaus 8 April 2022

Previous PHT story: Council adopts Passivhaus Plus for all future homes 21 February 2022

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

Previous PHT story: Passivhaus ambitions progress in the city of York 27 January 2021

6th May 2022

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