With the cost of living crisis, is the future of homes already here?

(As printed in The Irish News)

Many of us are facing a winter either unable to pay higher energy bills, or reluctant to spend the additional money needed to heat our homes to a comfortable level.  With many people now also working from home, the increase in our fuel bills is a given. But what can we do about it, considering the reluctance of governments to be beholden to external energy supplies again?

Recently, new building regulations, which are sub-standard in comparison to UK & ROI, have come into effect; requiring all new buildings to meet higher thermal insulation requirements.  As a result, we have just seen a surge in Building Control applications; a rush to get buildings in under the bar on the old regulations.  A push by architects and clients to build to a lesser thermal standard; setting up our housing stock, families, for future energy crises. A short-sighted approach.

Whilst this winter is a problem that can only be resolved by short-term fixes, we need to be looking for long term solutions, to prevent further energy emergencies.

A building standard coming to the fore is a German system called Passive House.

Exeter Living, in a recent study, found that a traditional build Leisure Centre had running costs of a whopping £500k/year, whereas a larger Passive House Leisure Centre had running costs of only £75k/year.


Passive House is a way of building that takes a ‘fabric-first’ approach to minimise the energy requirements of a building, reduce the running costs, and increase thermal comfort. This can be applied to both new builds and retrofitted to upgrade existing buildings.


A passive house has a stable heat, with less temperature fluctuations and a constant temperature throughout the room & house than a traditional build.

As Passive House demands excellent airtightness, there will be no draughts, which make us feel cold even when the room is otherwise warm. For healthy living, a good ventilation system is therefore a must.


Passive House buildings have lower running costs than traditional houses. The annual space heating demand is 4-8 times lower than a standard new build.


Whilst the construction cost of Passive Houses is usually a bit higher than non-passive houses, the added upfront construction costs can be offset by savings in running costs.  A recent study by Exeter Living found that with a 3% increase in build cost, huge savings in energy can be made across the lifetime of the building, crucially, with an increase in occupant comfort.

Whilst a deceiving name; Passive House Standard is not just for houses.  We must be aiming for higher standards, and lower running costs for all of our buildings – especially those that have high energy usage; like hospitals, care homes, development houses – even hotels.  In fact; the largest Passive House Premium building in the world is right here, on our doorstep in Co. Fermanagh – The Erne Centre (Southern Regional College).

When undertaking any major renovations, or building new, we would advise that you address the thermal comfort, and energy usage of your home; taking into consideration Passive House Standards; because the benefits of Passive House standards are more than lower energy bills.

If you would like to know more about Passive House, please contact us: info@MMcCArchitects.com

Martin Marshall, Passive House Designer