When a HAUS isn’t a HOME

Drew Barker
Posted July 27, 2023

You could argue that, over the years, the term ‘Passivhaus’ (or ‘Passive House’) has actually become a bit of a misnomer. Although the concept was originally conceived to improve the energy efficiency of domestic homes, the 5 principles of the Passivhaus standard can just as equally be applied to a whole host of other buildings besides residential housing.

The benefits of building to the Passivhaus standard are universal and just as compelling for educational, industrial, commercial and recreational buildings as they are for homeowners and housing providers. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the Passivhaus standard can be applied to non-residential buildings as we look to transition towards a more energy efficient and sustainable approach.

Education: energy efficient and sustainable classrooms

The cost of heating UK schools is absolutely astronomical.

Inefficient schools are a major drain on public funds. Schools built to the Passivhaus standard, however, are typically around 75% more energy efficient than traditionally built classrooms and 90% more energy efficient than most temporary classrooms.

Incorporating the Passivhaus standard into the design of UK schools, colleges and universities has many advantages. First and foremost, energy efficient buildings reduce operational costs, allowing schools to allocate more resources to educational programmes and staffing. Moreover, pupils learn better in comfortable environments. Passivhaus buildings provide consistent temperatures and better air quality – improving comfort and concentration in the classroom.

Studies show that air quality in UK schools can be poor and classroom temperatures fluctuate throughout the year. In recent years, the COVID pandemic has also highlighted the importance of a good ventilation strategy in communal buildings. Research conducted by the University of Reading found that the temperature and air quality in classrooms was inadequate for 35% of school hours, and many pupils are regularly exposed to unacceptable levels of CO2 in the classroom.

Passivhaus ensures exceptional levels of interior air quality and thermal comfort throughout the year, with a substantial reduction in CO2 levels. Excessive noise can interfere with learning just as much as extremes of temperature in the classroom. Passivhaus has a noise dampening effect, due to the high levels of insulation and triple glazed windows, which further improves the environment for pupils.

Our founder and managing director, Ron Beattie, has spoken at length about the benefits of Passivhaus and how it can help schools save money and achieve net zero for operational carbon. Watch our webinar ‘Net Zero Modular Schools and Classrooms’ to find out more.

Commercial buildings: leading the way in energy efficiency

On average, we typically spend around 90% of our time indoors. Unfortunately, many of our workplaces are not optimised for our health and wellbeing. The phenomenon known as ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ serves as one of the most extreme examples of the negative impact poorly designed indoor spaces can have on human health.

Sick building syndrome is the term used to describe the symptoms you get while you’re in a particular building. It usually happens in an office, but you can get it in any building.
NHS, 2022

People that spend prolonged periods of time in schools, commercial offices and other communal buildings with high occupancy rates are vulnerable to Sick Building Syndrome. However, the major risk factors, such as elevated temperatures, inadequate lighting and poor ventilation, are all directly addressed and resolved by the Passivhaus standard.

Just like schools, there are many benefits associated with adopting Passivhaus for commercial buildings.

  • Energy efficiency
  • Comfort and concentration
  • Improved air quality
  • Noise reduction
  • Sustainability (Net Zero)
  • Enhanced brand image
  • Futureproofing
  • Improved profitability

Passivhaus ensures an energy efficient, comfortable and sustainable working environment that is healthy for employees and the company’s bottom line. Through rigorous design principles, Passivhaus workspaces need less energy for heating, cooling, and overall operation, resulting in significant cost savings and a reduced environmental footprint. For staff, Passivhaus promises consistent indoor temperatures, excellent air quality, and superior sound insulation, fostering a healthier and more productive work environment. Its emphasis on longevity and durability translates to reduced maintenance costs and a longer-lasting office space.

Incidentally, another potential danger, radon, is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is known to cause lung cancer. Found in various concentrations in rocks beneath ground foundations, radon is implicated in around 1,100 deaths per year in the UK. To protect from the effects of radon exposure, no matter how small the readings, we always fit a protective radon membrane as standard in all our buildings.

Recreational spaces: eco-friendly leisure

Recreational buildings, such as leisure centres, sports complexes and entertainment venues, often operate around the clock, consuming a lot of energy. By embracing the Passivhaus principles, these facilities can reduce their environmental impact, while maintaining optimal indoor conditions for visitors and staff alike.

Last year, Exeter City Council opened the doors to St Sidwell’s Point, the UK’s first Passivhaus leisure centre. It claims to need up to 70% less energy than a conventional pool and leisure centre. And according to the Passivhaus Trust, ‘the payback period is just eight or nine years.’

Another recent initiative is the £9 million sustainable SportPark Pavilion 4 project on LUSEP, Loughborough University’s Science and Enterprise Park. Loughborough University is committed to decarbonising its estate to meet the Government’s net zero target by 2050. Officially certified to Passivhaus Classic standard, the SportPark has triple glazed windows, a thermally efficient airtight building envelope, external solar shading and a highly efficient heat and ventilation system. The entire roof space is fitted with solar panels to further reduce energy consumption.

In summary

The Passivhaus standard extends far beyond residential homes and has significant advantages for educational, industrial, commercial, and recreational buildings. The universal benefits of reduced operational costs, improved indoor comfort and carbon-saving makes Passivhaus equally compelling for non-residential buildings. By embracing the Passivhaus standard, we can take a step toward a more sustainable future.

For all enquiries, call Beattie Passive on 01953 687332 or email