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Passive House at the crossroads: The past and the present of a voluntary standard that managed to bridge the energy efficiency gap


  • Müller, Liana
  • Berker, Thomas


Improving energy efficiency in dwellings is generally seen as the low-hanging fruit of climate change mitigation. In particular decreased heat loss through better insulation is suggested as one of the most cost-effective means to achieve the ambitious national and international goals of climate gas reduction. However, the literature shows that a profitable technological solution is not sufficient to reach the energy goals. Aspects such as a lack of information, unobserved costs, and heterogeneity among users can compromise the success of technical innovation. Still, there are successful concepts that drive the technological development in the construction sector. The Passive House is an example for such innovations that manage to bridge the energy efficiency gap. This paper addresses the Passive House concept and standard as a success story of technological innovation. With Bruno Latour's Science in Action (1987) as a starting point, we describe the conditions under which the standard was created, the role of the network built around the Passive House Institute, and the consequences of exporting the standard. We identify success factors that have supported the diffusion of the Passive House standard and concept and discuss its possible development in the current situation which is characterized by its wide-spread adoption.

Suggested Citation

  • Müller, Liana & Berker, Thomas, 2013. "Passive House at the crossroads: The past and the present of a voluntary standard that managed to bridge the energy efficiency gap," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 586-593.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:60:y:2013:i:c:p:586-593
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2013.05.057

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mlecnik, Erwin & Visscher, Henk & van Hal, Anke, 2010. "Barriers and opportunities for labels for highly energy-efficient houses," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4592-4603, August.
    2. Chai, Kah-Hin & Yeo, Catrina, 2012. "Overcoming energy efficiency barriers through systems approach—A conceptual framework," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 460-472.
    3. Weber, Lukas, 1997. "Some reflections on barriers to the efficient use of energy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 833-835, August.
    4. Jaffe, Adam B. & Stavins, Robert N., 1994. "The energy paradox and the diffusion of conservation technology," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 91-122, May.
    5. Aune, Margrethe, 2007. "Energy comes home," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 5457-5465, November.
    6. Phillips, Yvonne, 2012. "Landlords versus tenants: Information asymmetry and mismatched preferences for home energy efficiency," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 112-121.
    7. Shove, Elizabeth, 1998. "Gaps, barriers and conceptual chasms: theories of technology transfer and energy in buildings," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(15), pages 1105-1112, December.
    8. Daan van Soest & Erwin Bulte, 2001. "Does the Energy-Efficiency Paradox Exist? Technological Progress and Uncertainty," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 18(1), pages 101-112, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Olsthoorn, Mark & Schleich, Joachim & Faure, Corinne, 2018. "Exploring the diffusion of low energy houses: An empirical study in the European Union," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S16/2018, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    2. Henshaw, Victoria & Guy, Simon, 2015. "Embodied thermal environments: an examination of older-people's sensory experiences in a variety of residential types," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 233-240.


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