Social value of building energy-efficient housing

// HA News

Passivhaus is one of the fastest growing energy standards in the world, and UK social housing providers are currently trailblazing the adoption of building low energy homes. 

Although many opinion polls seem to suggest that sustainability and low-energy homes are high on occupants’ & clients’ agendas, there is currently little market research on whether these energy-efficient buildings are commanding a premium. Hence, they are yet to catch the attention of developers driven by profit returns; But why has the Standard proven so popular with some pioneering social housing providers? 

Buildings that meet the Passivhaus Standard optimise occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating or cooling; They also add a host of social benefits:

  • Heat losses can be reduced by up to 90%. This helps eliminate fuel poverty whilst providing truly affordable homes that are fit for the future. There is a strong correlation between more energy-efficient properties having lower rent arrears and lower void rates.
  • Passivhaus offers quality assurance. They are built with meticulous attention-to-detail and undergo a rigorous certification process which guarantees building performance that goes well beyond the requirements of current building regulations.  High-quality building results in less maintenance and repair.
  • Homes are healthy & comfortable - There are no draughts, no cold spots, no mould and no condensation. Temperatures are stable all year round, and the good acoustics create a peaceful internal environment. This all means that there are fewer resident complaints.

The adoption of the Standard at larger scales could greatly help meet the 2050 zero carbon targets, providing real solutions to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, decarbonisation, and affordable living. Regional adoption has successfully been completed in Europe such as Heidelberg Germany, and Brussels. Here in the UK, there are proposals of lower mortgages connected to a buildings efficiency, research into costs & value, and growing client demand that are gradually providing the necessary evidence for mass UK viability.  As demonstrated by some of the schemes below, there are pockets of municipal Passivhaus champions, largely due to the commitment from select local authorities & housing associations who recognise the benefits of striving for low-carbon communities.

Saffron Acres

Saffron Acres in Leicester, an estate of 68 Passivhaus homes, is currently the largest residential Passivhaus scheme in the UK. Leicester City Council made Passivhaus certification an essential planning requirement and it was a condition imposed by the council when it sold the land for £1 to Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council. Homes can be heated for as little as £13/ year, helping eliminate fuel poverty. The development includes an adjacent permaculture farm which will provide education on food growing, cooking and healthy eating, an allotment, beehives and a full-time debt and welfare support officer.

Carrowbreck Meadow

Award-winning affordable rural housing scheme in a Greater Norwich woodland setting consists of 14 certified Passivhaus homes. The development is another step-change in scale for the delivery of the Standard in the UK. The positioning and orientation of the homes maximise the access to solar gain in winter and prevents overheating in summer. The Architect, Hamson Barron Smith, is providing soft landings and will share energy & comfort performance with an advanced web-based monitoring system. This is one of several Passivhaus schemes in the area.

St Loyes Extra Care Homes

Extra Care housing provides independent living in self-contained apartments for older people who have a range of care needs, with varying levels of support as and when residents need it. St Loyes Extra Care Scheme is a new £9.8 million development by Exeter City Council. The project started at the end of 2016 and the 5-story block consists of 53 x 1-2-bedroom affordable apartments. Stable temperatures & highly comfortable internal conditions all year round, are often critical for the health of older people, which is a key reason the client opted for Passivhaus certification. The fully inclusive, dementia friendly scheme allows older residents to retain their independence as well as remain firmly connected to their local community.

241 Special Offer

Those working in local government or for housing associations, that are contemplating or in the process of implementing Passivhaus to their schemes, are eligible for a 2 for 1 discount ticket to the UK Passivhaus Conference.  Join us on the 24th October in London to discover more about the keynote projects of 2017 mentioned above. The event will include seminars targeted specifically to social housing providers and those working to design, develop and deliver these schemes.

A dedicated seminar stream will explore policy and procurement, examine what is happening with current UK policy, financial frameworks, de-risking procurement routes and the options that have been tried and tested. Learn about the benefits of building to Passivhaus such as the superior indoor comfort, high quality, performance and operational cost savings.

These seminars expand upon the Trust's Passivhaus Social campaign aiming to help Housing Associations & Local Councils implement Passivhaus projects on their own land. Discover how to successfully adopt Passivhaus for your local green agenda and low carbon targets.


  • Discuss the importance of energy efficiency, particularly in homes, in the wider global context and to examine the role of Passivhaus within a low carbon future.
  • An opportunity to network with UK Passivhaus professional and ask questions about leading case studies.
  • Policy and procurement seminars, highlighting how Government and clients are encouraging uptake of Passivhaus around the UK.
  • The Passivhaus futures sessions will focus on “Health & wellbeing in Passivhaus buildings” and “Embodied carbon and Passivhaus”.

To view the full programme & for further information:  #UKPHC17

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