Passive House

PHI Passivhaus Logo

Passive House – the World’s Leading Building Energy Standard

Passive House is the most comfortable, economical and energy efficient building standard in the world. It aims to reduce energy in buildings by up to 90% while providing superior comfort and indoor environmental quality. It successfully insulates owners from ongoing utility costs with measurable performance.

When combined with renewable energy systems such as solar photovoltaic or solar thermal, Passive House puts true zero energy buildings and carbon neutrality within reach, making it the leapfrog approach.

The name Passive House is derived from the German term “Passivhaus”, which describes a building that is predominantly heated by “passive” means, such as passive solar, or internal heat gains, versus a “conventional” building, which is typically heated by large, “active” mechanical systems.

The basic concept revolves around 5 principles as illustrated by the graphic from the Passive House Institute.


Some of the first Passive House projects in North America can be found in Minnesota and the Midwest.

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The “Waldsee BioHaus”, the first certified Passive House in North America. Designed by Intep.
The “Passive House in the Woods”, the first certified Passive House in Wisconsin. Designed by TE Studio.

The Road to a Sustainable Future

Energy Conservation First

Heating a building by passive means is made possible by a pragmatic “energy conservation first” approach. The basic idea is to radically minimize heat loss through effective heat retention (insulation), and maximize free, passive solar and internal heat gains. In our local very cold climate, the sun can provide up to 50%, or more of the energy needed to heat a Passive House. Internal heat gains provide an additional 15%, making a traditional heating system with furnace or boiler obsolete.

Gas Mileage for Buildings

The Passive House building energy standard introduces a gas mileage for buildings. It is measured in kWh per square meter and year globally, and kBtu per square foot and year in the U.S. The limit for heating and cooling energy is 15 kWh , or 4.75 kBtu—a reduction of up to 90% over conventional buildings. Source energy accounted for at the utility company is limited to 120 kWh per square meter and year, or 38 kBtu per square foot and year. This represents on average an 80% reduction.

For its leapfrog approach to building and outstanding performance, the European Union is now implementing Passive House performance as code for its member countries.

Predictable Performance

Designs are modeled with a scientific energy modeling software called the “Passive House Planning Package”, and field-tested for various parameters during and after construction. Design and field testing are submitted to a Passive House certifier for review and building certification. Using the PHPP enables us to deliver predictable performance to our clients, which clearly sets us apart from the competition.

EnerPHit logo

EnerPHit for Existing Buildings

At TE Studio we often combine remodels, additions, and other deferred maintenance upgrades with an energy retrofit for a holistic design that brings your project up to cutting edge levels of design and performance. We use Passive House tools to generate predictable results, and take great care to enhance what’s good while solving what is not.

A comprehensive retrofit project aims to provide you with lower utility bills, a significantly reduced energy footprint, much more comfort, better indoor environmental quality, more durability and less maintenance in a functional and beautiful environment. Whether you are looking to remodel a little or go all the way, we can help you assess your current building, and work with you to arrive at a design solution that fits your needs today and in the future.

An EnerPHit building is typically about 5 times more energy efficient than a conventionally built new home.  Because the standard targets the existing housing stock, it’s entirely possible that a remodeled home will perform at 10 times its previous efficiency. EnerPHit is the official retrofit standard introduced by the Passive House Institute that we offer to our clients.

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The “MinnePHit House”, the first certified EnerPHit (Passive House Retrofit) project in a cold climate zone anywhere in the word. Designed by TE Studio.

Certified Passive House Designers and Consultants

The Passive House Standard is the most rigorous building energy standard in the world. Consultants, projects or building components that have obtained the right to carry the logo have committed themselves to design excellence and the Passive House energy performance criteria.

Passive House Explained in 90 Seconds from Hans-Jörn Eich on Vimeo.

Learn more about Passive House

View online presentations

Official Passive House Websites

PHI Passive House Institute


International Passive House Association

North American Passive House Network

View the “Active for more comfort” Passive House brochure