Simon Devitt Photographer

Rafe Maclean Architects have completed in 2015 the first Certified Passive House in the South Island of New Zealand.


A Certified Passive House is quality approved and certified independently to meet a certain energy use level by a Passive House Certifier, authorised by the Passivhaus Institut, Germany.

The 'Passive House' name comes from german  'Passivhaus', with the 'haus' meaning 'building', so 'Passive House' is not only a 'house' building standard but can be used for all types of building.

A Passive House is a building that due to its excellent design and construction, stays at a comfortable temperature year round with minimal energy inputs, no matter the climate or geographical region. To give you an idea of the level of efficiency, a certified passive house with 200m2 floor area would require less than a 2kW heater to maintain 20C internal temperature all year round.

Passive House buildings make efficient use of “passive” sources, such as sun and heat recovery to cover remaining needs, and use similar techniques such as shading to keep them comfortably cool. A Passive House therefore consumes around 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings and about 75 percent less than an average new build.

The first Passive House was built 25 years ago in Darmstadt-Kranichstein, Germany. Since the first families moved in in 1991, it has stood as the global pioneer project for the Passive House Standard. In the spring of 2016, building physicists undertook intensive studies on this first building to find the building was still performing as designed and that the low heating energy demand remained.

Meanwhile, there are Passive Houses buildings of all types worldwide. In addition to
residential and office buildings there are also kindergartens and schools, hospitals, sports halls, swimming pools and factories as Passive House buildings. Worldwide, since 1991 over 60,000 Passive House projects have been built.
The interest in Passive House is increasing. Considering the resource consumption of the industrialised countries and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new building or retrofit to the Passive House Standard appears increasingly as an attractive alternative for municipalities, businesses and private individuals


A Certified Passive House has excellent thermal insulation and optimised connection details with respect to building physics. High thermal comfort during the summer is considered and heating demand or heating load is limited to 15kWh per m2, or 10W/m2 respectively. A highly airtight building envelope, which elimates draughts and reduces heating demand and a controlled ventilation system with high quality filters, highly efficient heat recovery and low electricity consumption, ensuring excellent indoor air quality with low energy consumption.


If you would like to know more about Passive House, here is a pdf link to an introduction to Passive house, published by the International Passive House Institute.


Active for more Comfort: Passive House (9Mb)

Sanctuary_modern green homes #37 Summer 2016/17_Passive Pioneer article (pdf)

Below is a short clip made by the owners of the George House here in Wanaka

© 2016-2018 Rafe Maclean Architects

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