Passivhaus Affiliate

Turbo-charging Passivhaus social housing

We were delighted to welcome over 500 delegates from across the UK to our Passivhaus Social Housing event on 18 January 2023, where we explored why Passivhaus and social housing work brilliantly together, tackling fuel poverty, occupant health, and the climate emergency all at the same time. There has been an explosion of interest in adopting the Passivhaus standard for social housing, from Midlothian to CaerphillyHounslow to HerefordshireIt was also inspiring to share the recent news from Scotland on Passivhaus equivalent legislation.

Passivhaus social housing event: 18 January 2023

The event kicked off by outlining ways that the Passivhaus Trust aims to support social housing providers to deliver Passivhaus projects and overcome any challenges or 'pain points'. We heard multiple perspectives on the impact of early design decisions, key challenges, and managing costs.

If you are a social housing provider, please sign up to join one of our social housing action groups.

Key take-aways

Passivhaus crucial to the move towards net zero

Sarah Lewis, Research & Policy Director at the Passivhaus Trust, spelt out the urgency of the task of getting buildings (and everything) to net zero and argued: "This is no time to reinvent the wheel. The Passivhaus standard provides the solutions we need to the current hurdles to achieving net zero in the UK." She flagged up the dramatic carbon and energy bill savings to be had from buildings that perform as designed and avoid the ‘performance gap, to address both the cost of living and climate crises. Lastly, she pointed out the benefits that come when we do it right, when buildings perform, when bills are low, & when the spaces where people live, work & play are healthy & joyful to be in.


Occupants love living in a Passivhaus

Chris Meadows, Regional Development Manager at PHT Patron Hastoe Group, shared over a decade of the rural housing association’s experience of delivering Passivhaus social housing, with over 13 completed Passivhaus projects. It was invaluable to learn from an independent 10 year review of the performance of its first Passivhaus social housing project at Wimbish. Main findings include:

  • The primary objectives of a Passivhaus are being maintained
  • That comfort levels remain good overall
  • Gas consumption for heating and hot water has remained low in most properties, far below national averages, resulting in low bills
  • That the air quality remains good, although the ventilation systems are working a bit harder than they ought

It was especially reassuring to see occupant feedback from the study, showing the Passivhaus is performing as expected, with considerably lower energy bills as a result.

Hastoe Housing resident quote: It’s so much comfort to know I can be warm, and keep my baby warm, without having to sacrifice other things because of the price difference

Certification offers 'golden thread' of quality and assurance

Joel Callow, Founding Director at Beyond Carbon Associates gave a tour-de-force on the importance and quality assurance offered by Passivhaus certification. Sharing useful visual examples of the ‘performance gap’ in action, where there is a disconnect between what is in the designer's head & what happens on site, due to buildability and a number of other factors.

Joel went on to outline the 'golden thread' of quality and assurance that the Passivhaus certification process offers, contrasting it with other approaches such as Passivhaus principles or self-certification. The comparison between the different approaches made the point that the only way to guarantee that the building will perform at 15 kWh/m2/ year is the certification route. He made the analogy of asking whether we would we risk buying eggs that don’t have the Lion mark standard? Passivhaus certification radically reduces risk.and adds little to the overall costs of construction and yet ensures you are getting what you are paying for. 


Good design can save money!

Clare Murray, Head of Sustainability at Levitt Bernstein & Thomas Lefevre, Director at Etude, were drawing on their extensive experience of collaborating on Passivhaus social housing schemes to address the cost implications of early-stage design decisions.. They queried how significant Passivhaus uplift costs were and what baselines it was being compared with. As they said: “In the current economic climate, Passivhaus adds to the challenge, but is not the main one”.

Using examples of projects they had worked on, they demonstrated the powerful impact of early stage decision-making, such as around orientation and form factor, could have on overall Passivhaus project costs.Clare made the case for how good design can ultimately save money on Passivhaus projects.

Slide from Passivhaus Social Housing event - Levitt Bernstein

In addition, Clare also argued that late stage RIBA Stage 4 changes to omit Passivhaus don’t deliver commensurate cost savings. Thomas highlighted the whole life costs of the project, with the small initial construction uplift for Passivhaus compared with the long-tem energy bill savings for residents: "Value engineering decisions to omit Passivhaus and downgrade performance...will be paid for by residents".

Repeatable solutions & early stage design helps contractors

George Mikurcik, Senior Architect & Passivhaus Designer at Architype & Iain Clark, Head of Design at Collida (a Willmott Dixon company) shared details of their collaboration to develop repeatable Passivhaus offsite steel frame manufacture. It was good to understand the importance of early design stage decision-making processes were essential for when developing a  cost-effective manufacture system. Iain shared lessons for for largescale contractors working on Passivhaus projects and stressed the importance of repeatable solutions, continuous improvement, an aligned supply chain, and consistency of consultancy partners.


Councils are thinking big!

Ashmi Thapar, Senior Architect at Bell Phillips Architects, shared an inspiring overview of Hounslow Council’s Convent Way Masterplan , which is looking to deliver up to 967 Passivhaus homes.

Slide from Passivhaus Social Housing event - Bell Phillips Architects

Ashmi shared useful  examples of the importance of early stage decision-making, in terms of form factor, orientation, window design and more. She concluded her talk with strong advocacy for designing and building to the Passivhaus standard for social housing: "Passivhaus reduces inequality & without Passivhaus, how are we going to deliver net zero?".


A huge thanks to all our speakers.

Passivhaus Social Housing 2023: Speakers


Poll results

We undertook surveys during the event to gauge the level of Passivhaus experience of participants and also the types of barriers that there might be for social housing providers to deliver Passivhaus.

Passivhaus experience

Considering a Passivhaus project


Project in planning & design stages


Multiple Passivhaus projects underway/ completed


Project on site


Project Passivhaus certified


Project completed but not certified





Lack of training


Making the case for Passivhaus


Conflicts between the standard and policies        


Something else



* Interestingly, this figure fell from 53% at the beginning of the session to 41% when asked again after the presentations.

Invitation to participate

The Passivhaus Trust is on a mission to understand any‘pain points’ or obstacles for social housing providers to deliver Passivhaus, and to explore opportunities, such as collective procurement and support networks, to help overcome these obstacles. If you are a social housing provider, please sign up to join one of the following social housing action groups using this form.

  • Managing costs
  • Passivhaus training and education
  • Making the case for Passivhaus
  • Evidence of benefits of Passivhaus and case studies

Get in touch at if you have any questions or feedback for us.

2023 Passivhaus Social Working Groups: Register interest

Now on-demand

For those that missed the event or want the chance to watch it again at your leisure, it is now possible to catch up on-demand.

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Check out the Passivhaus Social Housing Campaign for more must-read resources, videos, & case studies. 

Passivhaus Social Housing: Resources


Further information

Passivhaus Social Housing Working Groups

Passivhaus Social

Passivhaus Net Zero Primers

Passivhaus Benefits Guide & costs research 

Claiming the Passivhaus Standard

18th January 2023

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