Passive Design

Designing the building and the spaces within it to benefit from natural light, ventilation and even temperatures.

Passive House

The Passive House standard is a rigorous, systems-based approach to closing the gap between the anticipated and actual performance of buildings. The first certified Passive House home in Aotearoa New Zealand was completed in Auckland in 2012. Many have followed since.

The idea is to construct buildings that are healthy and comfortable year-round, while needing very little energy to operate. This is achieved through a quality assurance regime that starts with the design and ends with the as-built certification.

Use of interconnected spreadsheets known as the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) allows the building’s performance to be accurately modelled before construction.

While certified Passive Houses differ significantly in appearance and typology, they all perform within a narrow band of performance indicators:

  • An annual heating/cooling demand of not more than 15 kWh/m² per year OR a peak heat load of 10 W/m²
  • There must not be more than 0.6 air changes per hour at an indoor/outdoor pressure difference of 50 Pa during a test.

In addition, there are limitations for primary energy renewable demand and, for some certification classes, also requirements to generate renewable energy on site.

The energy efficiency of Passive Houses is recognized in legislation – Passive House certified dwellings are exempt from the healthy home standards requirement for fixed space heaters in each living room.

While the first New Zealand homes built to the international Passive House standard were detached houses, other types of building have since followed. The first Passive House co-housing project in New Zealand, in Dunedin, was completed in 2021 and features 21 apartments.

Kāinga Ora, the crown agency that provides rental housing for people in need, has built a 3-storey, 18-home block In Māngere, Auckland, that is on track to achieve Passive House certification. Kāinga Ora has a further seven Passive House projects (all 3-storey) in the design phase.

There are also plans for New Zealand’s first Passive House subdivision in Halswell, Christchurch, with the intention that 52 homes will gain certification.

Certified Passive Houses have been built in all climate zones, from very cold to very hot.  With New Zealand's overwhelmingly temperate climate, the targets are far easier to meet than in countries with more extreme climates.


Updated: 20 October 2023