Godden Sudik Blog

Passive House – The New Gold Standard of Sustainable Architecture
Godden | Sudik Architects - March 2, 2021

March 2, 2021

As a proud member of the community and built environment we strive to make every project meet the standards of modern sustainable best practices. In the United States, LEED is a common gold standard that architecture firms aim to uphold in their projects hoping to protect the natural environment and reduce impact. LEED is a national organization that rewards a project with a sustainability certification based on a wide variety of factors from materials used, construction practices and even occupant experience. 

Passive House

Some practices aim to go even further, if not obtaining a completely “Net-Zero” household. Net-Zero implies that a building produces as much energy as it consumes, making its impact on the environment extremely limited. Net-Zero research was pioneered in the United States during the Oil Crisis of the 1970s. Then shortly thereafter Europeans continued to refine the practice of net-zero building, leading to the creation of the Passivhaus Institute in Germany. The United States adopted the principles of Passivhaus to create Passive House Institute United States (PHIUS). The US version adjusted the standards and criteria to fit the many different climate conditions of North America. 

The Principles

The standard outlined in the PHIUS+ 2018 Passive Building Standard – North America describes the principles a Passive House building should follow. Following these principles a building can be extremely efficient and sometimes even achieve Net-Zero emissions. 

Generally buildings will contain these five building-science principles:

  • Employs Continuous insulation throughout its entire envelope 
  • The building envelope is extremely air tight, Prevent infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.
  • Employs high-performance windows and doors – solar gain is managed to exploit the sun’s energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season.
  • Uses some form of balanced heat and moisture recovery ventilation
  • Uses a minimal space conditioning system

These principles can be applied to all building typologies and is not just limited to small single family structures. 

The Benefit

Ultimately, following the gold standards outlined in PHIUS+ 2018 is not only good for the environment by reducing reliance on non-renewable resources, but it will also provide exceptional comfort and cost savings for the occupants. Building air tight also significantly improves air quality with proper mechanical ventilation systems. 


With climate change at our doorstep, and provided that building systems take up a Signiant portion of energy consumption, its clear that following the principles set forth in Passivhaus are soon to be a necessity. Although right now meeting these standards proves to be a difficult task, even for the determined, we hope to see more projects take on the heroic task of becoming net-zero.

Interested in learning more about PassivHaus? Visit phius.org.

junior graphic designer at award winning architectural firm Godden Sudik Architects

Owen Railey

Junior Graphics Designer

Originally from the northeast and an Auburn University Alumni, Owen headed west to pursue his passion for art and design in architectural graphic design, and to get a healthy dose of extreme outdoor activities.