Passive housing - initial perceptions.

I am not an architect. By profession I have a Masters degree in forest management, which includes a host of skills which include not only those to do with plants and animals and the earth and geology, but with all aspects of timber properties. Part of the forestry degree included forest engineering. I understand about timber preservation and timber rot. On the way to my forestry degree I took in university training in economics, geology, chemistry and physics. I understand about heat and heat transfer - conductivity, convection, plumbing, electricity (to a small extent), and other matters likewise important in house design. I have also designed a significant extension to a house, oversaw the construction of most of it, and completed the rest myself.

For decades I have been an interested observer of house design, both from the outside and the inside. How it looks, how it interacts and copes with the environment, and how it performs as a construction intended to meet the needs of the people living in it.

I also own a house, so have some understanding about operating it and the systems within it, repair and maintenance, and running costs.

So it is with some insight that when I made the exciting discovery of passive house design and construction, not only did I try to publicise the desirability to use passive houses in Christchurch reconstruction, but I set about asking people what really is involved, what materials, what equipment, what costs, suppliers, and so on. This page is about such matters, primarily within New Zealand.

In general I found that trying to get factual information about all aspects of passive houses, from the internet, is a bit like trying to get blood out of a stone. The content of some commercial sites seems intended to obfuscate rather than to inform in a meaningful way.

The first New Zealand passive house is now completed and the happy owners are using it.
Read about it at this Auckland newspaper site Well done !!

View an Irish video - 11 minutes long - on passive houses
Passive houses in Ireland here.

The passivhaus standard.

Whether or not a passive house design meets the criteria determined for any specific locality depends on whether or not its construction data - materials used, techniques, and air-tightness meaurements - result in an acceptable outcome when entered into the interactive MS Excel computer program called PHPP.
So far I have found only one freely available version online, (PHPP2007_English_Demo.xls), and that one is very helpful.
Go to This UK site Size 3.1 MB
Probably the first port of call should be the Passivhaus Institut in Germany.

More information may be found by doing an appropriate web search for "PHPP xls", for example.
See also This document, 76kb, entitled [ Certification as "Quality-Approved Passive House", Criteria for Residential Use Passive Houses ], coming from Dr W Feist, makes it very clear what thorough documentation and recording of the site and all building components is required for a building to pass certification. Not for the faint-hearted, but worth it for a building owner. There is no opportunity for a builder to work a slinter and have it over the new owner.

Regarding training, some insight can be gained from this German-sourced 415.47kB file written in English: English Course material

Here is a training example from Norway: Linesoya PDF, 3.6 MB. It's a big building in a cold climate. See

Alternative construction techniques.
Paragraph still to come

Passive house architects.
Glenn Murdoch at Wanaka, is a major designer of passive houses.
As of May 2012, Glenn has an office in Christchurch, so is readily available to create sustainable, healthy, warm and economic houses to replace homes for earthquake victims.

Forced air ventilation equipment, suppliers, available information, apparent performance, and so on. seems to have a reasonable reputation.

Windows and doors.
This site intuswindows, based in the USA with factories in Lithuania, sources high quality components from around the world, and in the past 18 years claims to have exported more than 600,000 manufactured windows and doors all over the world.

229 Kaikorai Valley Road in Dunedin Phone: 03 453 03 40


Design and construction.

Links to pages about the seven precepts of Passive House design.


Very efficient Insulation

No thermal bridges

Air-tight construction

Great ventilation

Passive heating

High-efficiency windows

Passive solar gain

Prices / costs

Important considerations

Early perceptions

Design standards