Differences between nZEB and Passive House



Confusion and ambiguity surround the terms “nZEB” and “Passive House”, and they are often used interchangeably. It is important to know the difference between the two when building to ensure you get the most from your building.

What is nZEB and Passive House?


Nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB), by definition, is a ‘a building that has a very high energy performance where the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby’.

Meanwhile, a Passive House building, by definition is ‘a building with heating and cooling related energy savings of up to 90% compared with typical building stock and over 75% compared with average new builds. In terms of heating oil, Passive House buildings use less than 1.5 litres per square meter of living space per year.’

What’s the Difference between nZEB and Passive House?


Obviously, both building systems are heavily focused in energy conservation and high energy performance. It is easy to confuse the two, so, what is the main difference?


1)     Legal Regulations

Firstly, nZEB has become a legal requirement under the EU directive. After April 2019, all planning permission will have to be nZEB compliant. If you are unsure about these laws or the important dates, we have a separate post here.


2)     Energy Reduction vs. Creation

While nZEB houses naturally reduce energy and have an incredibly high energy performance, their objective is to produce as much energy as is consumed. This energy production is not a feature of Passive House, which focuses heavily on energy reduction and using renewable sources to fill the energy gap. For this reason, energy performance levels in a Passive House can be higher than in an nZEB house.


3)     Building Regulations

There is a slight difference in the building regulations for nZEB and Passive House due to the focus on energy reduction in Passive House.


nZEB regulations vary based on the status of the build, but generally:

This is an image of the nZEB regulations chart

Click here for more information on nZEB.


Passive House standard requirements are:

This is an image of Passivhaus Standard Chart

Click here for more information on the Passive House system.

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