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How Passivhaus Principles Improve Ventilation Efficiency

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How Passivhaus Principles Improve Ventilation Efficiency

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jan 08, 2024

Passivhaus design represents a pinnacle in sustainable and energy-efficient building practices. Originating from the German Passivhaus standard, this approach focuses on creating structures that minimise their environmental impact while maximising energy efficiency

One of the key elements of Passivhaus design is the focus on ventilation systems, which play a crucial role in reducing the need for mechanical heating and cooling. This article explains the fundamental principles of this form of building design, in particular highlighting how Passivhaus ventilation contributes to lower energy consumption and better indoor air quality.

What is Passivhaus design?

Passivhaus design is the concept of achieving a high level of energy efficiency through a combination of insulation, airtightness, and ventilation. Unlike conventional buildings that heavily rely on mechanical heating and cooling systems, Passivhaus aims to maintain a comfortable and consistent indoor environment using passive means. These include high-performance ventilation, quality insulation and airtight construction that minimises heat loss.

The origination of the Passivhaus

Passivhaus, originating from Germany, has international recognition for its effectiveness in energy conservation. While the UK doesn't have a specific Passivhaus ventilation requirements standard, various certifications and regulations promote energy-efficient construction practices to create sustainable and eco-friendly buildings.

UK Building Regulations set standards for energy efficiency, and compliance with these regulations is mandatory for all new constructions. Passivhaus principles can align with these regulations, offering a way to reduce energy bills.

The key elements of Passivhaus design

There are three key aspects of Passivhaus design which combine to deliver an energy-efficient building:

  1. ventilation
  2. insulation
  3. airtight construction


Ventilation in Passivhaus design is a carefully planned and important part of the overall build. The Passivhaus ventilation system focuses on providing a constant supply of fresh air while efficiently recovering heat from the outgoing air. This not only ensures a healthy indoor environment but also contributes to the reduction of energy consumption.

Passivhaus projects   require the use of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems. These systems consist of a network of ducts that supply fresh outdoor air to living spaces while simultaneously extracting stale air. The heat exchanger within the MVHR system captures the heat from the outgoing air and transfers it to the incoming fresh air. This heat recovery process significantly reduces the energy needed to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Good to know

A minimum of 75% of heat expelled in a Passivhaus is recovered as fresh air using a heat exchanger.


Insulation is essential for Passivhaus design. By employing highly efficient insulation materials and techniques, the Passivhaus concept creates a thermal envelope that significantly reduces heat transfer between the interior and exterior environments. This insulation ensures that the indoor temperature remains stable, reducing the need for mechanical heating or cooling and allowing the Passivhaus ventilation system to do its job.

Airtight construction

Airtightness is another critical aspect that supports Passivhaus ventilation. Passivhaus properties are sealed to prevent unintended air leakage. This not only enhances energy efficiency but also contributes to the overall comfort of the occupants. The airtight construction minimises drafts and ensures that the Passivhaus ventilation system work effectively.

Creating energy-efficient homes for everyone

Energy efficiency is essential to ensure the future of our planet. It’s no longer a future concept but something that’s happening now. This applies to building design and improving ventilation, hence why Passivhaus design is becoming more and more popular.

Integrating smart technology with ventilation systems is another approach to enhance energy efficiency in buildings. By employing sensors and automated controls, smart ventilation systems can adapt to real-time occupancy and air quality conditions, optimising airflow where and when needed. 

Good to know

Passive houses can save up to 90% on energy bills on an existing building and more than 75% on a new building. This is important to understand when considering changing to an improved ventilation system and calculating the savings it will make.


Energy-efficient residential ventilation and commercial ventilation design hinges on a combination of planned strategies. First, incorporating high-quality insulation and airtight construction minimises the need for excessive heating or cooling. To support this, implementing mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery ensures a constant supply of fresh air while recuperating the energy from outgoing air. 

Building design will continue to incorporate these elements to support the environmental protection of the world we live in. By embracing Passivhaus design principles, UK architects and builders can contribute significantly to creating buildings that are not only energy-efficient but also provide a healthier and more pleasant living environment.