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Passive house (German: Passivhaus) is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.  A similar standard, MINERGIE-P, is used in Switzerland. The standard is not confined to residential properties; several office buildings, schools, kindergartens and a supermarkt have also been constructed to the standard. Passive design is not an attachment or supplement to architectural design, but a design process that is integrated with architectural design.  Although it is mostly applied to new buildings, it has also been used for refurbishments.

Estimates of the number of Passivhaus buildings around the world in late 2008 ranged from 15,000 to 20,000 structures. As of August 2010, there were approximately 25,000 such certified structures of all types in Europe, while in the United States there were only 13, with a few dozen more under construction. The vast majority of passive structures have been built in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia.

The Passivhaus standard originated from a conversation in May 1988 between Bo Adamson of Lund University, Sweden, and Wolfgang Feist of the Institut für Wohnen und Umwelt (Institute for Housing and the Environment, Germany) Their concept was developed through a number of research projects, aided by financial assistance from the German state of Hessen.

First Examples

The eventual building of four row houses (terraced houses or town homes) was designed for four private clients by the architectural firm of Bott, Ridder and Westermeyer. The first Passivhaus residences were built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990, and occupied by the clients the following year.

Further implementation and councils

In September 1996 the Passivhaus-Institut was founded, also in Darmstadt, to promote and control the standards. Since then, thousands of Passivhaus structures have been built, to an estimated 25,000+ as of 2010. Most are located in Germany and Austria, with others in various countries worldwide.

After the concept had been validated at Darmstadt, with space heating 90% less than required for a standard new building of the time, the Economical Passive Houses Working Group was created in 1996. This group developed the planning package and initiated the production of the innovative components that had been used, notably the windows and the high-efficiency ventilation systems. Meanwhile, further passive houses were built in Stuttgart (1993), Naumburg, Hesse, Wiesbaden, and Cologne (1997).

The products developed for the Passivhaus standard were further commercialised during and following the Europea Union sponsored CEPHES project, which proved the concept in five European countries over the winter of 2000–2001. In North America the first Passivhaus was built in Urbana, Illinois in 2003, and the first to be certified was built in 2006 near Bemidji, Minnesota in Camp Waldsee of the German Concordia Language Villages
The first US passive retrofit project was certified in July 2010: the remodeled 2,400 sf craftsman O'Neill house in Sonoma, California.

Ireland's first Passive House was built in 2005 by Tomas O'Leary, a Passive house designer and teacher. The house was called 'Out of the Blue'. Upon completion, Tomas moved into the building.

The world's first standardised passive prefabricated house was built in Ireland in 2005 by Scandinavian Homes, a Swedish company that has since built more passive houses in England and Poland.

Present Day

Estimates in 2008 of the number of passive houses around the world ranged from 15,000 to 20,000.  The vast majority have been built in German-speaking countries or Scandinavia. The first certified passive house in the Antwerpen region of Belgium was built in 2010.  In 2011 the city of Heidelberg in Germany initiated the Bahnstadt project, which was seen as the world's largest passive house building areas.  A company in Qatar is planning the country's first passivhaus in 2013, the first in the region.

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