Is Cost the Barrier to Passive House Performance

A Look at First Costs for Sixteen Multifamily Buildings

A new NAPHN report by Bronwyn Barry, NAPHN Board Chair, looks at cost assumptions, barriers, and the reality of cost in achieving Passive House buildings.

“Most non-profit developers we work with are all passionately seeking ways to build better for less. In our advocacy work at NAPHN, we’ve found that these developers are most concerned with two things: first cost to build, and operating costs for their occupants. Of these two, the first cost – or construction cost – usually presents the biggest barrier. When we broach the topic of implementing Passive House, they typically have one of three reactions: the default reaction is “Well we can’t do that because it’s too hard and not cost-effective.” The second most common reaction is “Oh, that sounds interesting – tell me more” but the third reaction is our favorite: these folks tell us, “We’ve just tried that and it’s working fantastically.”

This is the story of a cohort of developers who fall into the third category, looking specifically at the costs they’ve incurred and sharing their experiences on how to build to Passive House standards. Our goal is to help remove perceived barriers and enable others to overcome their fear of first costs, in order for everyone to access the benefits of implementing this high-performance, high-quality, high-comfort approach to building design. Let’s start by digging into the data from a collection shared by Steven Winter Associates, documenting the percentage increase to the builders’ typical baseline costs required to reach Passive House performance.”