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All New Homes in Scotland to be Built to Passivhaus Equivalent Standard From 2025

Get ahead of the curve and understand what the new building regulations mean and how you can build a compliant, future-proofed Passivhaus home.

Two builders install a window in a half-built home.

All new build homes in Scotland will need to be built to a “Scottish equivalent” of the Passivhaus standard from 2025.

Passivhaus (or Passive House in English) is a science-based, building quality standard with a track record of delivering the finest, ultra-low-energy homes across the world. Developed in Germany over 30 years ago, it reduces a home’s energy bills by up to 75%, lowers carbon emissions and improves the comfort and health of its occupants.

Announcing the new building regulations in Scottish Parliament in January 2023, Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings said: “Scotland should have been building highly energy-efficient homes for decades and if we had done what some other northern European nations have done, our retrofit challenges now would be far more manageable.”

The new legislation will cover custom and self build homes, as well as social housing. A cross-industry working group is currently developing Scotland's Passivhaus equivalent standard, with a 'thorough' consultation on the proposals due to begin in 2024, and then formally implemented by 2025.

Ahead of the changes coming into affect, we explore what the regulations mean, why it's a positive step and how Coldwells Build is in a strong position to help you build a home which complies with the new legislation.

Why is Scotland introducing Passivhaus equivalent legislation?

How we heat our buildings contributes significantly to climate change. Around 23% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from heating the spaces where we live, work and play. Soaring energy bills have also forced a quarter of Scottish households into fuel poverty.

The easiest way to cut both carbon emissions and the cost of living is to improve the performance of Scotland's homes and buildings, reducing their overall energy consumption and ending their reliance on fossil fuels.

To tackle this, the Scottish Government has set an ambitious target to become a  net zero society by 2045. By changing the way new homes and buildings are built and mandating the use of Passivhaus principles, Scotland is taking a giant leap towards achieving its goal. 

You can watch Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings discuss this at the October 2023 UK Passivhaus Conference.

How will Scotland’s new homes be built in the future?

The Scottish Government has confirmed it will introduce its own 'Passivhaus equivalent' rather than adopting the existing Passivhaus standard, for the reason that it's essentially owned and defined by an independent, external body. "It's not something that the Government defines," said Patrick Harvie MSP. "As the Scottish Government is responsible for building standards, it is important for us to set our own definition."

So while it’s not yet known how a Scottish equivalent to Passivhaus will work in practice, we do know the new legislation aims to develop a building standard similar to Passivhaus, which is already widely used in Northern Europe and exploding in popularity here, with 1650 certified Passivhaus buildings now in the UK.

Passivhaus concentrates on reducing the amount of energy required to operate a home. It takes a ‘fabric first’ approach to energy efficiency, meaning the home's materials and components (the building fabric) do all the hard work, without the need for expensive bolt-on eco technologies. 

Passivhaus buildings must incorporate the following five main principles, and it's likely Scotland's homes of the future will need to include most - if not all - of these:


Higher-quality and far greater levels of insulation

This reduces heat loss and makes it possible to warm a home without a traditional heating system. It also keeps the house cool in summer, which translates to big energy savings.


High performance, triple-glazed windows

Windows can be a weak link in a home, either through heat loss or solar gain. Therefore, energy-efficient windows are vital to achieving the Passivhaus standard.


Airtight construction

Passivhaus focuses on creating an airtight home. Precautions are taken to tape and seal all gaps around doors and windows, electrical outlets, pipes and lights. Essentially, anywhere an air leak could occur, Passivhaus makes the extra effort to plug it. Airtight design limits heat escape, cuts down on energy demand and promises superior comfort levels for occupants, with no draughts, condensation, or cold spots.


Mechanical ventilation with a heat recovery system (MVHR)

Because Passive Houses are airtight, a MVHR flushes stale air out and replaces it with fresh, filtered and temperature-managed air, creating excellent indoor air quality.


No thermal bridges

These are weak spots in insulation, which form a ‘bridge' between the inside of a home and the outside world, where heat can escape and be wasted. Passive Houses are carefully designed to reduce gaps in insulation.

A bedroom with a bed in the foreground. White sheets and pillows are on the bed, with a beige throw at the foot of the bed. A long, rectangle window sits above the bed head, revealing bare trees outside and a rural landscape.

Thinking of building? How you can prepare for the regulation changes

Building a Passivhaus home now is a smart investment. It will save you money and put you a step ahead of big changes to come.

As Scotland strives to meet its 2045 net zero target, all Scottish households will be required to cut their energy use by improving their state of repair, enhancing their insulation and installing appropriate heating systems. These energy improvement works are known as ‘retrofitting’.

The Scottish Government estimates it will cost £33 billion to retrofit and decarbonise the country's current housing stock. Homeowners will likely shoulder some of these costs, whether they’re compelled by legislation to adapt their homes, or through increased taxes.

Even the vast majority of new homes built in Scotland today aren't energy efficient enough, and will require converting.

However, Passive Houses are optimised for net zero. Designed for longevity, they’re fit for the future and will require little to no upgrading as Scotland moves to becoming a net zero society.

Highly energy efficient properties, like Passive Houses, are also starting to see a cost premium when valued for the market, with recent prices showing buyers are paying almost 16% more. Buyers also recognise that due to their exceptional build quality, Passivhaus homes have significantly lower maintenance costs than conventional buildings.

How can I build a Passivhaus home in Scotland?

At Coldwells Build, we are collaborating with leading Passivhaus designers, John Gilbert Architects, to develop a collection of pre-designed, prefabricated, turnkey Passivhaus homes - the first of their kind in Scotland. 

Launching in 2024, the six low-energy homes have been specially designed to work on almost any site in the country and will include Passivhaus certification. This is important to us, because an independently certified Passivhaus home is the highest mark of construction quality and occupant comfort. 

The homes will be predesigned, but offer the flexibility of choice. You can select from a carefully curated range materials, kitchen and bathroom options, colours, external cladding and doors. 

Passivhaus demands exemplary craftsmanship to ensure a home’s high performance, and as one of the only specialist Passivhaus builders in Scotland, our team is qualified and committed to building to this world-leading standard.

We are proud to be early adopters of Passivhaus in Scotland, creating homes fit for the future, where people can retreat comfortably and consciously. 

Final word - a greener future for Scotland's new build housing 

Introducing Passivhaus equivalent legislation presents a significant opportunity for Scotland's construction industry to build the skills and knowledge required to meet demand for high-quality sustainable homes. It's an important step towards achieving a net zero society and will benefit the country, the environment and most importantly, our future generations.

Read Time: 2 minutes Type: Passivhaus, Advice - Author: Clare Booth, Director Share:

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