The rigorous Passive House building standard just got a major update: It will now recognize net zero buildings and buildings that generate more energy than they consume as “Passive House Plus” and “Passive House Premium”, respectively. Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany, just announced these updates at the North American Passive House Network meeting in Portland, Maine.

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Now projects that go above and beyond the minimum Passive House Standard will be recognized for their extra efforts. “The ability to acknowledge surplus energy generation in highly efficient buildings will provide incentives for owners and developers. They can get credit for efforts that go well beyond code minimum targets for efficiency,” said Ken Levenson, President of New York Passive House. The Passive House Institute will release an update to their software, the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), in early 2015, which will enable architects, designers and builders to design to these new standards while still optimizing the efficiency of their designs.

Related: Passive House Debate Heats Up on the Future of the US Standard

Some industry professionals have raised concerns that these new designations will shift the emphasis of the Passive House Standard from energy efficiency to renewable energy. But the Passive House Institute stands behind its philosophy that efficiency and reducing energy demand is more fundamental to smart building design than renewable energy. In a recent statement, Dr. Feist said, “a building that produces an energy surplus only in summer doesn’t necessarily have a good energy balance. Photovoltaic systems typically yield little energy in winter, which is exactly when we have peak loads from heating. But there is good news: It can work with a reasonable amount of storage, it can be sustainable – but the heating energy demand itself also has to be very low. The primary consideration with respect to energy will always be: efficiency first. The Passive House Standard is the appropriate solution for this approach.”

+ Passive House Institute

Photos by Michael Adams (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons and by Jeangagnon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons