How-To Guide: Kāinga Ora Case Study

How Kāinga Ora used the Passive House standard to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

Who is this guide for?

Clients or consultants interested in hints and tips around adopting the Passive House standard or similar standards to improve the environmental outcomes of their residential housing construction project.

Plan for relevant standards and ratings

Before starting the design phase, consider the environmental outcomes you want to achieve and the rating tools, standards or ways of working that will enable your desired outcomes. You can add standards like the Passive House standard partway through the design stage, but be aware that this requires additional costs, time and can be unsettling for some consultants.

Build a team that challenges, collaborates and buys in

As a client, you need to be patient and create a collaborative culture. If you decide that the Passive House standard is the right one for your project, hold regular meetings to drive collaboration with the design team and consultants, and encourage transparency, joint problem solving and identify how to overcome challenges.

Encourage the design team to challenge each other with the question: Is this a nice-to-have or is it the best/necessary solution? Will this help us achieve the Passive House standard or not? It's important that everyone understands that achieving the standard is pass or fail – there are no partial credits like other building certification frameworks. There are also several minimum requirements that must be met to achieve certification and the design and build team need to be aware of these from beginning.

Understand necessary products and systems

Make sure you allow enough time to research the suitable products and solutions that you need to meet the Passive House standard. These can be climate-specific and may vary depending on where in the country your project is located. Prepare the information for the design team and share these, along with any modelling and calculations, to drive evidence-based outcomes.

Consider building a library of relevant details to reduce research time for future projects. Green technologies and materials are constantly innovating, so keep exploring local and international solutions even after you create your library.

Share pilot learnings

When you are starting a series of Passive House buildings, or if you are building one project that uses the Passive House standard, document your learnings and share information with others. There are many resources from New Zealand and overseas that can help you and it's important to share some of your own learnings with the wider industry.

In the pilot stage, you'll usually spend more money and face more hiccups compared to sticking with the status quo. If the learnings are recorded and embedded into future projects, you will see productivity gains and recover the additional costs of the pilot over time – especially if you focus on whole-of-life costs rather than just the upfront construction costs.

Apply learnings and advice from others

The construction sector needs to band together to reduce carbon emissions and create warmer and more energy efficient homes for New Zealanders. If you’re interested in using the Passive House standard for a future project, you don't need to start from scratch. Below are some useful starting points, including some of the research that Kāinga Ora used.

Passive House Institute New Zealand

A charitable trust advocating for healthy, energy efficient homes and public buildings in New Zealand.

Resources, case studies and the High-Performance Construction Details handbook(external link) -

The Passivhaus Trust

An independent industry leading organisation that promotes the adoption of Passivhaus in the United Kingdom.

Resources and examples of social housing built to Passivhaus standard(external link) -

The Passive House Institute

An independent research institute that has played a crucial role in the development of the Passive House concept. It describes the Passive House standard as "the only internationally recognised, performance-based energy standard in construction".

Resources, literature, and tools(external link) -

The Building Research Association of New Zealand

An independent research organisation that uses an impartial evidence-based approach to improving the performance of the New Zealand building system.

Resources, educational fact sheets and helpful articles(external link) -

Last updated: 25 August 2022