Scotland’s Passivhaus vanguard


*This article was taken from Passivhaus Trust website

A Passivhaus can-do approach is very much in evidence in the Scottish construction industry. Below we share positive industry voices and a range of case studies and training opportunities already underway.

On 10th January this year, the Scottish Government announced plans to “make subordinate legislation within two years to introduce new minimum environmental design standards for all new build housing to meet a Scottish equivalent to the Passivhaus standard”.

Alex Rowley MSP, whose Private member’s Proposed Domestic Building Environmental Standards (Scotland) Bill forms the basis of this legislation,  commented in response “It simply seems obvious to me that we should be doing this. This will help future-proof housing stock, save people money and tackle our climate emergency.’ 

Already doing it 

School buildings have been in the Passivhaus vanguard in Scotland, thanks to an innovative funding mechanism from the Scottish Futures Trust. Projects receiving funding need to meet a very clear energy target of 67 kWh/m2.yr, a comparable target with a typical new build Passivhaus school.  Funding may be reduced based on any performance gap post-completion. The Passivhaus standard effectively eliminates the performance gap, de-risking the securing of funding. It has been impressive how swiftly the industry, supply chain and clients have adjusted to delivering to the Passivhaus standard in the education sector. It is currently estimated that 35 Passivhaus schools are either underway or in the pipeline in Scotland.

“We do a lot of work in the education sector, so we needed to be able to understand Passivhaus. We looked at it and thought it was an area quite suited to both sides of our business as we’re known for the quality of our output so it wasn’t that much of a jump for us.  It has, however, really focused the mind.” 

Euan McDermott, Pre-Construction Manager, Fleming Buildings

Allan Smith, Low Carbon Manager, Morrison Construction added: “The Scottish Futures Trust funding through LEIP has really been the big catalyst for clients to look at Passivhaus as an option.  We’ve really seen the term Passivhaus explode in the last 3 years. A large part has been a shift in focus in the funding mechanism onto operational energy over the building’s lifetime. It’s helped drive the Passivhaus and quality agenda.”

Social housing providers, local authorities and self-builders have also been undertaking Passivhaus for a number of years in Scotland. In the last couple of years there has been a dramatic increase in the scale of planned projects, with sites of 100, 200 or even 400+ homes.

Keeping costs down

The Passivhaus Trust has undertaken research outlining typical Passivhaus uplift costs of between 4-8%, and also shares best practice guidance on delivering cost-effective Passivhaus. It is also setting up social housing action groups, one of which is focused on ‘Managing costs’. Simple early-stage design and a focus on good form factor and orientation are all effective ways to keep costs down.

The cost to the nation of fuel poverty and poorer performing homes, including the cost to the NHS, as well as cost of needing to upgrade the energy grid, needs to be factored into cost calculations. A 2018 Scottish Government report on fuel poverty stated: “In 2014 it was estimated that fuel poverty cost the NHS up to £80m per annum in Scotland due to the health impacts of cold, damp housing. Savings beyond those directly related to the NHS are also relevant, particularly to the public health service, such as those arising from improved mental wellbeing, increased mobility within the home, healthier lifestyles such as improved nutrition or physical activity, and greater social connection”. 

As Alex Rowley MSP set out in his proposal  “Whilst Passivhaus capital costs are higher the financial benefits over the longer term significantly outweigh the cost of initial outlay. Building a Passivhaus is the epitome of a spend to save approach. By investing now, we save both financially and environmentally over the term of the project.”


Scotland already has an outstanding training resource in existence at BE-ST (Built Environment – Smarter Transformation ), just south of Glasgow. BE-ST offers Scotland’s first national Passivhaus, retrofit and fabric first training programme and is on a mission to accelerate the built environment’s transition to zero carbon emissions. The Passivhaus Trust has a strategic partnership with BE-ST to support the delivery of its Passivhaus training.

BE-ST offers a range of training courses including its Low Carbon Learning programme, which provides Passivhaus, retrofit and fabric first training funded by Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland through the Transition Training Fund. To date, BE-ST’s Low Carbon Learning programme has supported 2500+ individuals through Passivhaus standards and retrofit training, 388 of which have been trained face-to-face. Low Carbon Learning also delivers Passivhaus training via eLearning and online workshops.

Caitriona Jordan, Head of Retrofit at BE-ST, commented in response to the announcement of a Scottish equivalent to Passivhaus:

“Although it presents a huge challenge for the sector, there is no shortage of ingenuity and capability in Scotland to be able to do this and the sector has proven it can rise to this scale of challenge. We can do this! It is possible to close the skills gap, train the workforce in Passivhaus and meet the needs for implementation of the new building regulations at scale.”

Approximately 30% of staff at Morrison Construction – Central have gone through the Passivhaus Tradeperson training. The company is also working proactively with its supply chain and has set up a test rig at BE-ST’s innovation centre as well as a group called Net Zero Partners to share quality processes needed on-site and encourage the supply chain to undertake the Passivhaus tradesperson course.


It is important to remember the support that the legislation received over the consultation period and even before that.

Climate Assembly

The Proposed Domestic Building Environmental Standards (Scotland) Bill forms was initially developed by Alex Rowley in response to the Scottish Climate Assembly’s 2021 Recommendations for Action, in which 97% of the Assembly voted in favour of the Passivhaus or Scottish equivalent standard for new build projects in Scotland.


A consultation on the proposed Bill was undertaken during 2022 and the findings were summarised. In total, 629 responses to the Bill were received. The majority of all responses (over 90%) were supportive of the proposal. Of the 78 organisations that responded, 82% were supportive of the proposal and 17% were opposed.

Support from local authorities & housing associations

The Scottish construction industry CAN rise to this challenge of the Passivhaus equivalent standards and many projects are already completed or underway demonstrating Scotland’s ability to embrace the standard. In doing so Scotland can join with other nations and regions around the world in the Passivhaus vanguard. For inspiration, Scotland can follow Vancouver’s example, where Passivhaus policies have meant construction is the only category on track to meet the city’s 2030 climate goals.

We look forward to working with the Scottish construction industry to help accelerate change and deliver the homes Scottish people deserve.


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