Cost Optimal UK Deployment of the Passive House Standard

Shane Colclough, Martin McWilliams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Low-energy building standards are now required in a growing number of countries, with the EU mandating that all buildings are built to the near Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB) standard from 2020. The Passivhaus (PH) standard has been in existence for over 25 years and has been demonstrated to offer a tried and tested method of achieving low energy/nZEB at no extra cost in some jurisdictions.

There is currently a lack of clarity surrounding the building regulations in the UK caused by Brexit, with consequential concerns in relation to the UK lagging the best practice exhibited in other jurisdictions.

This paper takes the approach of quantifying and analysing what (if any) additional costs are associated with building to the international low energy passive house standard in the UK, by considering the worst case scenario of the UK region with the least stringent building regulations i.e. Northern Ireland.

A multidisciplinary team comprising academic researcher, architect, passive house designer, quantity surveyor and two developers was assembled to determine the cost optimal low energy and PH designs and quantify the minimum cost of deployment.
Costs are analysed for two case study 3 bed dwellings. One is a social house of masonry construction which uses gas central heating and is at planning stage and the other is a commercially developed timber framed dwelling using oil fired central heating which is currently for sale.
It was found that extra costs (compared with building to the minimum building regulations) include increased airtightness and insulation levels, a heat recovery and ventilation system and higher performing windows and doors. Cost reductions are achieved in the elimination of the traditional heating system, chimney stack and reduced site overheads.
A major policy related finding is that upgrading NI dwellings standards to the PH standard rather than a standard equivalent to the minimum English building regulations (at a cost of £3,104), is a more attractive option as it would result in additional annual space heating energy consumption reductions of 79% for an extra once off expenditure of £1,984, with simple payback less than six years. This highlights the opportunity of avoiding locking in energy loss is the new build is, avoiding potentially expensive retrofit costs in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’19)
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN (978-1-912532-05-6)
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Mar 2019
EventThe International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’19) - UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, OXFORD, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Mar 201915 Mar 2019
Conference number: ISBN (978-1-912532-05-6)


ConferenceThe International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’19)
Abbreviated titleIAPE'19
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Applied Energy,
  • nZEB,
  • Passive House,
  • passivhaus,
  • financial analysis


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