How does Passive House compare with other high performance building standards?

While every high performance or ‘green’ building standard has positive attributes, Passive House Institute (PHI) standard presents clear, easily achievable pathways to achieving net-zero and nearly-net zero in both new builds and retrofits.

Passive House Classic, Plus, and Premium are tiers of the Passive House Institute standards that outperform other standards in relation to high energy efficiency, comfort, and overall building safety.
 


Nearly Net Zero Building Standards

As analysis of Passive House’s classic tier in comparison with other nearly-net zero standards, PHIUS core and LEED, reveals clear distinctions between the standards. While this comparison does not factor in some of the unique characteristics of these other standards – such as LEED’s treatment of water, for instance – its focus on energy efficiency, air quality, and durability presents a stark picture of overall building performance in relation to building comfort, quality, and safety, and additionally points to the versatility and long-term cost savings in relation to building performance.

Criteria for Nearly Net Zero Builds LEED PHIUS CORE PASSIVE HOUSE CLASSIC
NET-ZERO READY – Built to high energy performance, this criterion provides owners with an achievable first step towards a net-zero building.
ABSOLUTE PERFORMANCE TARGETS – In contrast to relative performance targets – which work with a baseline that can be manipulated, leading to inconsistent results – absolute performance targets are clear, established and must be met.
90% REDUCTION IN RESIDENTIAL HEATING ENERGY USE
70% REDUCTION IN RESIDENTIAL ENERGY USE OVERALL
AIR TIGHTNESS IS TESTED AND VERIFIED – Air tightness ensures that air does not leak, which cuts heating and cooling costs and ensures the building remains at a constant and pleasant temperature.
(limit: below 1 [email protected])
JUNCTIONS MODELED TO ENSURE MOISTURE CONTROL AND DURABILITY – Meeting points, such as where the wall meets the floor, are constructed for airtightness and moisture control, lengthening the durability of the building.
CONTINUOUS FRESH AIR SUPPLY WITH HEAT RECOVERY – By ensuring a steady stream of fresh air, buildings are healthier and air quality is greatly improved.
BALANCED FRESH AIR VENTILATION THROUGH ONSITE COMMISSIONING – This criterium refers to testing that ensures the proper amount of air is delivered to each room, and secondly, that building is not pressurized, which could push moisture into the walls – affecting the building’s durability.
WHOLE BUILDING COMFORT REQUIREMENT – The building envelope and mechanical system must work together, creating ambient year round comfort throughout.
CLIMATE RESILIENCY AND THERMAL SAFETY – The building maintains a safe range of temperatures and comfort levels during extreme climate events and power outages – without reliance on mechanical systems.
BUILDING STANDARD APPLIES TO RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL, AND INSTITUTIONAL BUILDING TYPES – A standard that is widely adaptable to all building types.
PHASED RETROFIT PLANNING AND CERTIFICATION – Standard certification is available for each phase of renovations.
TOTAL COST OF BUILDING OWNERSHIP – Cost of ownership recouped within an average of 3 years.
In a side by side comparison of the lowest tier of ‘green’ building standards, LEED, PHIUS Core and PHI Classic illustrates the overall energy efficiency and performance of buildings. (Accurate as of November, 2022)

 


Net Zero Building Standards

To achieve a truly net zero building, building must be able to reduce to ‘zero’ both operational and embodied carbon emissions – without relying on offset carbon or add-on renewable energy sources for buildings, such as solar panels.

For the following comparison, we examined several ‘net zero’ tiers of leading ‘net zero’ building standards (CHBA Zero-energy, CAGBC Zero Carbon Design & Performance, Living Building Challenge – Zero Carbon, and PHIUS Zero) against Passive House Institute’s top two tiers, Passive House Plus and Passive House Premium.

Read more about the energy and modelling requirements for the three PHI standard tiers.

What emerges is a picture of high performance ‘green’ building standards that underperform across various criteria, from energy reduction to climate resiliency and thermal safety so crucial for individuals and families to withstand the impacts of climate change and severe weather events.

Criteria for Net Zero Builds CHBA ZERO ENERGY CAGBC ZERO CARBON – DESIGN & PERFORMANCE LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE – ZERO CARBON PHIUS ZERO PASSIVE HOUSE PLUS PASSIVE HOUSE PREMIUM
EFFICIENT PATHWAY TO NET ZERO – Building standard provides the most efficient and cost-effective pathway to net zero.
90% REDUCTION IN RESIDENTIAL HEATING ENERGY USE
70% REDUCTION IN RESIDENTIAL ENERGY USE OVERALL
ENERGY COMPLIANCE – Provides an efficient pathway for energy compliance with other standards.
RENEWABLE ENERGY GENERATION – Requires the creation of additional generation capacity of renewable energy (Green power products/ RECs/carbon offsets not allowed).
NET ZERO (OPERATIONAL CARBON) – Operational carbon refers to the footprint created by heating, cooling and maintaining a building.
NET POSITIVE – Produces more energy than consumed.
EMBODIED CARBON – Standard can employ tools to calculate embodied carbon – the amount of carbon released from the materials used to build. Not required but can be calculated using PHRibbon Not required but can be calculated using PHRibbon
NET ZERO CARBON (OPERATIONAL AND EMBODIED) – Standard can employ tools to calculate both embodied and operational carbon. Not required but can be calculated using PHRibbon Not required but can be calculated using PHRibbon
AIR TIGHTNESS IS TESTED AND VERIFIED – Air tightness ensures that air does not leak, which cuts heating and cooling costs and ensures the building remains at a constant and pleasant temperature. (limit: below 1 [email protected])
JUNCTIONS MODELED TO ENSURE MOISTURE CONTROL AND DURABILITY – Meeting points, such as where the wall meets the floor, are constructed for airtightness and moisture control, lengthening the durability of the building.
CONTINUOUS FRESH AIR SUPPLY WITH HEAT RECOVERY – By ensuring a steady stream of fresh air, buildings are healthier and air quality is greatly improved.
BALANCED FRESH AIR VENTILATION THROUGH ONSITE COMMISSIONING – Refers to testing that ensures the proper amount of air is delivered to each room, and that the interior air is not pressurized, which could push moisture into the walls – affecting the building’s durability.
WHOLE BUILDING COMFORT REQUIREMENT – The building envelope and mechanical system must work together, creating ambient year round comfort throughout.
CLIMATE RESILIENCY & THERMAL SAFETY – Building maintains a safe range of temperatures and comfort levels during extreme climate events and power outages – without reliance on mechanical systems.
BUILDING STANDARD APPLIES TO RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL, & INSTITUTIONAL BUILDING TYPES – Widely adaptable to all building types.
PHASED RETROFIT PLANNING & CERTIFICATION – Standard certification is available for each phase of renovations.
TOTAL COST OF BUILDING OWNERSHIP – Cost of ownership recouped within an average of 6 years.
Passive House Institute’s higher tiers, Plus and Premium, are here compared here against well-known net zero carbon building standards (Accurate as of November, 2022).