Climate-Specific Passive Building Standards

Graham S. Wright and Katrin Klingenberg
Created: 4/27/2020 -


In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized the value of performance-based passive building standards when it joined with Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) to promote DOE’s Challenge Home program in tandem with the PHIUS+ Certification program. Since then, the number of passive building projects that have been certified under the partnership has grown exponentially because of some synergy. Passive building represents a well-developed approach to arrive at the envelope basis for zero energy and energy-positive projects by employing performance-based criteria and maximizing cost-effective savings from conservation before implementing renewable energy technologies. The Challenge Home program evolved into the Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program in a move toward 1) attaining zero energy and 2) including active renewable energy generation such as photovoltaics (PV)—toward the zero energy goal.

This study has two objectives:

  • Validate (in a theoretical sense) verifiable climate-specific passive standards and space conditioning criteria that (1) retain ambitious, environmentally necessary energy reduction targets and (2) are economically feasible. Such standards provide designers an ambitious but achievable performance target on the path to net-zero energy.
  • Develop simplified formulas for inclusion in a design and verification software tool that allows custom criteria to be generated based on specific climate and energy cost parameters for any particular location.


PHIUS (Passive House Institute US, Inc.) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. PHIUS trains and certifies professionals, maintains the PHIUS+ climate-specific passive building standard, certifies and quality assures passive buildings, and conducts research to advance high-performance building. Buildings that meet the PHIUS+ standard use 40-60 percent less energy for space conditioning than conventional buildings.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material. Its responsibilities include the nation's nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production.


Sector Addressed
Transportation / Infrastructure
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
North America
United States