German-Style Passive Houses: Super-insulated Homes

German-style Passive Houses (PassiveHaus) are super-insulated and extremely airtight buildings, mostly designed for cold and mixed climates.

Because of their extreme air-tightness and massive thermal insulation, they only require small heating systems.

Note: Do not confuse Passive Houses (PassiveHaus) with Passive solar design.

Building a Passive Solar House, image from


How do passive houses get their heat?

The levels of insulation and airtightness, the floor plan, the shape (compact homes, are easier to heat), the materials, the glazing areas, the ventilation systems and many engineering features of Passive Houses should be properly planned for maximum energy performance. They follow strict construction standards.

In cold climates, passive houses are built in order to have the least possible heat loss and to benefit from winter solar heat gains and internal sources of heat - people, baths, laundry, appliances…

This allows small mechanical heating systems.

See: Passive Houses Heating

Engineer standards

Passive houses require strict engineer standards.

They should be designed by a qualified passive house technician, and obey to energy calculations and strict standards. Construction details are extremely important for performance.

See, for information:
Passive House Institute US
PassivHaus Institute (German)
PassivHaus UK
Passive House Solutions UE PDF

Super-insulated homesPassive houses vs. other Low-Energy homes

Principles such as very high levels of insulation, airtightness and high-performance windows, properly located and sized, are not exclusive to the PassiveHaus concept, and are common to all the types of energy-efficient buildings and to the green building concept.

The Zero Energy House concept shares a large set of standards and principles with the PassiveHaus approach.


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