LEED Professionals Should Pay Attention to Passive Haus

Sarah Ward's picture
Sarah Ward
June 4, 2014

Last month’s Passivhaus International Conference hosted some of Europe’s most innovative green building thinking – and exhibited a new 3D modeling tool that you might appreciate too.

Example of a single family passive house in Austria.
Example of a single family passive house in Austria.
Credit: Tonu Mauring via Flickr

LEED certification is about designing buildings that perform better than code in terms of energy efficiency, and with an overall reduced impact on the environment across a range of important categories. However, the Passivhaus (or Passive House in the U.S.) movement takes this concept to another level, aiming for net zero impact through a variety of innovative and high-performance building resources. The recent International Passive Haus Conference, held in Aachen, Germany, shed light on a variety of building designs and products that LEED buildings, too, may strive to incorporate across the board.


Passive House


More than a hundred lectures were given over the course of the four-day event, with topics ranging from energy efficient windows suitable for arctic climates to the economics of building a passive house. A special workshop focused on step by step retrofits to existing building.

What was particularly exciting, however, was the release of designPH, the new planning plugin for software SketchUp that allows for 3D input of energy-relevant design data. It works collaboratively with the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) to provide automatic analysis of 3D models on areas, windows and shading. In other words, it quickly and effectively facilitates an energy balance assessment of a model in a visual medium.

If you’re interested in learning more about the plugin, they will soon be offering a free version with limited design scope (the pro version is available now). You can find a free version of SketchUp here.

The Passive House Institute (PHI), which hosted the event for the 18th year, is an independent research organization designed to further knowledge of green building innovation. Led by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, they’ve put forth a significant body of literature related to passive house design that any LEED engineer or contractor might be interested in perusing. The PassiveHaus Institute is also actively promoting efforts, such as the European Buildings Directive, which states that all buildings in Europe should be designed as "nearly zero energy buildings" as of 2021, as it believes that such directives can be easily met through the application of passive house techniques and renewable energy.

The 9th annual United States conference for PHI will be held from September 10-14 in the San Fransisco Bay area. If academia is your thing, they’re currently accepting papers for presentation. Otherwise, keep an eye out for registration opening later this summer.

Photo credit: Tonu Mauring via Flickr


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