Department of the Environment’s passive house objection unsupported by facts



The Department of the Environment’s contention that local authorities who impose the passive house standard will cause increased construction costs is not supported by the facts, the Passive House Association of Ireland has stated.


In a submission on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown’s draft count development plan – which proposes to make the passive house standard mandatory for all new buildings – the department makes the claim that the proposal “is highly likely to lead to additional costs for housing in DLR.”

However recent evidence indicates applying the passive house standard may in fact reduce construction costs.

The latest issue of Passive House Plus magazine includes several examples which appear to contradict the increased construction cost claim – including a block-built passive house in Co Kildare estimated by builder Pat Doran Construction, a CIF member, to have cost €20,000 less to build than the department’s own suggested specification from its regulatory impact analysis on the 2011 changes to Part L of building regulations. Cork-based builder Magner Homes – who favour traditional cavity wall construction state that passive houses cost no more than those constructed to the current building regulations and have built four passive houses for under €100 per sq ft. Indeed, CIF member Michael Bennett & Sons is currently offering 1160 sq ft three-bed semi-ds built to the passive house standard in Enniscorthy for an asking price of €170,000. The timber frame homes will have an estimated combined annual space heating and hot water cost of €200.

In direct contradiction to the assertions of both the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government and the Construction Industry Federation, the documented experience of Brussels Region has shown that Passive House is absolutely no impediment to expanding housing supply.

The department has chosen to call for only minimum standards to be applied for dwellings, when better solutions are available at no cost or time penalty.  The passive house standard provides for the delivery of quality assured, low cost, healthy housing and is rooted in building science. This is supported by 25 years worth of evidence including a wealth of monitoring studies proving its efficacy in terms of energy performance, comfort, and indoor air quality. No such evidence exists to demonstrate whether homes built to meet minimum standards under building regulations will actually perform as well.  The PHAI calls on the department to withdraw its objections, and to embrace an evidence-based approach to producing buildings that are energy efficient, comfortable, healthy and move us towards eliminating fuel poverty.

Chairman of the Irish Passive House Association, Dr. Shane Colclough, points out that “Although passive house buildings offering a tried and tested method to achieve the desired low-energy building stock now mandated across Europe by the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, uptake of passive house is being opposed by our own Department of the Environment. This is despite the fact that according to experienced builders, passive houses cost no more than houses built to the current building regulations.”

Former EU President Pat Cox learnt about the passive house standard when building his own house in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and has become a strong advocate for it. At a recent low energy building conference, he called for the many advantages of the Passive House standard to be supported:

The time has come in Ireland for passive house standards to move from the margins to the mainstream, for building policy and its energy efficiency to become more active by becoming more passive.”

The city of Brussels has made the passive house standard mandatory for all buildings – both new build and retrofit. Over 1 million square metres of passive house projects have been completed in Brussels to date, with many of those costing less than conventional construction. NYC is also moving rapidly in the direction of passive house, with a draft bill currently before the council proposing the adoption of this proven standard.

Ireland is already a leading light in the passive house movement. As we start to build again – having learnt from our mistakes from the last building boom – it seems unfortunate that the department wants to deny the people of Dublin access to the best in their future building stock – especially given that it’s so affordable,”

said Colclough. He added that

Today 1 in 5 have difficulty in paying their electricity bills. The Passive House Standard will deliver much lower energy bills. This is not a standard that should just be kept for ‘lucky people’ with the means to commission their own Passive House. Passive House is a standard that can be made available to all of the People of Dublin now and hopefully Ireland in the very near future. The savings that people make on their energy bills will not only help them but it will help the economy overall putting more money back in people’s pockets and the economy as a whole.”

The Passive House Association of Ireland is a not-for-profit voluntary organisation whose mission is to promote and develop a strong identity, understanding and demand for the Passive House concept.

For more information on passive houses and The Passive House Association of Ireland, visit


Fig 1

The graph below was produced by the office of the Brussels Region Minister for Housing, Quality of Life, Environment and Energy. It demonstrates very clearly that despite the fact that both the population and commercial output of Brussels region has been continuously increasing since 1995, there has been a significant drop off in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions since commencement of their exemplary building programme.

Brussels demonstrates growth in housing in parallel with NZEB standard DH