Passivhaus Myths & Misconceptions

Drew Barker
Posted August 07, 2023
Passive house standard farmhouse gallery image 1

There are plenty of myths out there about Passivhaus – and most of them are just plain wrong! In our latest blog post, we’ll dispel some of the most common misconceptions. By separating fact from fallacy, we can appreciate the true benefits of Passivhaus design and construction…

Myth #1 Passivhaus is only for domestic homes

This is a common misconception that we discussed at length in a recent blog post.

You only need to look at some of the leisure centres, schools and hospitals that have been built to Passivhaus standard to know that this is absolute nonsense. While it’s certainly true that the concept was originally devised to improve the energy efficiency of domestic homes, the principles can be applied to almost any building.

Myth #2. You can’t open the windows

Surprisingly, we still hear this a lot.

Yes, you can open the windows in a Passivhaus. There is absolutely nothing in the Passivhaus standard that says windows must be kept shut. And at Beattie Passive, we even let you open the doors too!

All joking aside, most people open the windows in their home for fresh air and ventilation. But with a Passivhaus, this is provided by the ventilation system. What’s more, incoming air is filtered and warmed (via a heat exchanger), so the indoor air quality is much higher than a traditional home. The ventilation system in a Passivhaus removes pollutants, particulates, allergens and odours.

Myth #3 Passivhaus is too expensive to build

One of the most persistent myths about Passivhaus is the cost.

While it can, in some cases, cost slightly more to build to the standard initially, Passivhaus buildings consume up to 90% less energy for heating and cooling, making them significantly more cost-effective in the long run.

One of the major benefits of the Beattie Passive Build System is that it simplifies Passivhaus, removing both cost and complexity. With proper planning and design, it is entirely possible to achieve Passivhaus standard on a reasonable budget.

Myth #4 Passivhaus is a one-size-fits-all approach

Some sceptics believe that Passivhaus follows a rigid, standardised design, limiting architectural creativity. On the contrary, Passivhaus is a performance-based standard, not a specific architectural style. Architects and designers have the flexibility to incorporate various styles and materials, while adhering to the energy efficiency principles of Passivhaus.

The key to achieving Passivhaus certification lies in optimising the building’s energy performance, including insulation, airtightness and ventilation, rather than its appearance. Passivhaus buildings can be just as diverse and aesthetically appealing as any other method of construction.

Myth #5. They don’t need any heating

Unlike traditional buildings, which require a conventional heating system, a Passivhaus (as the name suggests) is primarily heated and cooled by passive sources, such as sunlight and shading.

The key principle of a Passivhaus is to minimise heat loss and optimise energy efficiency to the point where a traditional heating system, such as a boiler, is not required for day-to-day comfort. The goal is to create a building that remains comfortable throughout the year without relying heavily on active heating or cooling systems, thereby reducing energy consumption and environmental impact.

A Passivhaus may need a supplementary heating system every once in a while. However, the heating load in a Passivhaus is so diminished that a small heat source is often sufficient to meet this occasional demand for extra warmth.

Myth #6: Passivhaus buildings are hot and stuffy

Passivhaus buildings have multi-room ventilation systems that deliver a constant supply of filtered fresh air, while efficiently recovering heat from the outgoing air. This results in a healthier indoor environment with minimal draughts and a consistent temperature throughout the building.

In addition to being an energy efficiency standard, Passivhaus is a rigorous comfort standard. The comfort level inside a Passivhaus is exceptionally high. The design benchmarks ensure that occupants experience minimal temperature fluctuations, no cold spots, and a pleasant living environment throughout the year.