A Passivhaus manual for the English-speaking world has been long overdue. I am impressed by the swift uptake of Passivhaus in the UK and North America and am delighted that, in this handbook, architects, practitioners and all those wishing to build a Passivhaus will be able to find what they need to successfully carry out their projects.

As the scientific head of the Passivhaus Institut, I should perhaps highlight one point: Passivhaus is open source. Twenty-four years ago, Bo Adamson and I developed the concept and built the first prototype. This was part of a study to see just how far we could take low-energy concepts. The results were overwhelmingly positive: the building performed almost exactly as planned and, despite initial scepticism, the residents of the first terraced houses were not only satisfied but truly excited by the outcome.

We have published all principles, tools, details and design aids used, as well as all monitoring results, and worked hard to ensure the standard is accessible to all – the PHPP calculation tool, for example, is 100-per-cent transparent. Anyone may choose to build a Passivhaus, without asking permission (beyond compliance with local building codes). That said, it is important not to take the task of building a Passivhaus lightly: given that the criteria are published, the necessary planning tools are widely available and there is a diversity of functional, built examples, it goes without saying that a building really should meet the Passivhaus standard if labelled as such. Our voluntary certification scheme is there to provide this important quality assurance. This book will complement the support provided by procedures such as building certification (a step that can result in savings far beyond what the certification itself costs) and by tools such as the PHPP.

The availability of Passivhaus criteria for individual building components, especially for use in retrofits, makes it clear to the building sector which goals can be economically and sensibly achieved. Passivhaus is part of a critical paradigm shift, whereby the value once provided by oil, coal and natural gas in our buildings is instead provided by long-lasting, quality products such as windows, ventilation systems and insulation. This new form of value may be provided locally, thus offering opportunities to small businesses: Passivhaus is not only a positive contribution to the energy revolution but also to the formation of a sustainable and stable economy.

In the UK, there has been much discussion about whether a shift to a sustainable energy supply without the need for coal and uranium is even realistic. Passivhaus shows that this shift is feasible and also offers an array of further benefits, not least higher-quality buildings and improved comfort.

It is my hope that this handbook finds many readers. In turn, I wish its readers every success in carrying out their Passivhaus projects.

Wolfgang Feist

Scientific Director, Passivhaus Institut

October 2012