As the number of UK Passivhaus buildings looks set to treble, a lack of financial incentives is still holding the movement back

The uptake of Passivhaus principles in the UK is still a recent development. The first British houses built to the standard only began construction in 2009 and four years later a mere 36 housing schemes have been realised.

However, as Wolfgang Feist’s comments this week suggest, the movement is now at a point of dramatic expansion, with a likely trebling in the number of completed Passivhaus buildings in the next 12 months.

Among these are two projects in London — Cartwright Pickard’s Sulgrave Gardens and Rick Mather’s Chester Balmore — of a significantly larger scale than any undertaken here previously. The hope is that major inroads into the volume housing market might quickly follow.

The work of the Passivhaus Trust is proving crucial to the process of education and monitoring that is helping Feist’s thinking take hold in the UK. As well as contractors, clients and environmental engineers, it now counts more than 50 practices among its membership — among them a number which have developed a commitment to the cause that is little short of evangelical.

However, as last week’s NHBC report points out, a number of impediments remain, not least the absence of the kind of reduced interest rate loans and grants that have supported the development of Passivhaus construction in Germany. 

Passivhaus thinking has a major contribution to make to the UK’s efforts to meet its zero carbon targets but the financing issues need to be resolved before it fulfils that potential.