Recommended Books

Below are a small number of recommended books on high performance building design. The titles usually suggest they are about energy but all are about delivering buildings that deliver excellent comfort and health for the occupants.

I also recommend downloading the free guides from the UK Passivhaus Trust. These excellent guides cover Passivhaus basics as well as best practice guidance on many aspects of high performance building design.

I strongly recommend subscribing to Passive House Plus Magazine. Free copies are available but quality journalism is worth supporting so please subscribe or donate if you find it useful.

Passive House Plus Magazine 

Energy Efficient Architecture: Basics for Planning and Construction. Karl J. Habermann, Roberto Gonzalo

Energy efficient building designI am usually disappointed by books on energy efficient buildings. Typically they are full of nice pictures of supposedly low energy buildings but with no analysis or numbers to back up the claims. I read this book from cover to cover a few years ago and regularly dip into it for ideas. The case studies at the end are inspiring although it is a bit depressing to see that the UK examples of supposedly low energy buildings use about 10x the energy of the German and Austrian examples!

Passive House Design, Roberto Gonzalo, Rainer Vallentin

passive house design bookThis is a great introduction to Passivhaus design that compliments Gonzalo’s other excellent work reviewed above. The publisher, Detail, always delivers in terms of presentation but in the past I have found the details in their books to be disappointing in terms of thermal performance. This book combines technical rigour with extremely deep and intelligent discussion of the whole design process. Even if you are undecided about the Passivhaus approach, the physics and principles can be applied to any building. Gonzalo and Vallentin are free thinkers and quietly challenge a number of Passivhaus clichés.

A Catalogue Of Ecologically Rated Constructions: Details For Passive Houses. Walter Pokorny, Thomas Zelger , Karl Torghele

I have purchased many detail books over the years and have always been disappointed. Either the details are not very applicable to UK methods or if UK orientated, the thermal and air-tightness details leave a lot to be desired. The range of construction methods in this book is impressive and it is good to see low cost build-ups suitable for self builders using local timber rather than the more typical manufactured I joists. Every detail includes a conventional and ‘alternative’ build up using more ‘eco’ materials. A simple ecological evaluation is also presented. This is never an exact science but this feels transparent and useful. Often the ‘eco’ option is not much better than the conventional one so effort and cash can be directed to where the differences are greatest. The introduction includes background on the Passivhaus approach and discussions on building physics including moisture and mould. Don’t wince at the price (around £80), this is excellent value, if you only use one detail it has paid for its self.

AECB Passivhaus/Gold Standard Design GuidanceAECB Gold Standard design details

This excellent document includes sample construction details, plus commentary and thermal modeling images, for all key building elements and covering three main construction methods, to jump-start design of ultra-low energy building envelopes. Volumes 4&5, Design Guidance are available as free downloads to AECB members only. Members, please log in. Non-members, you can join the AECB online here for instant access.

Heat Pumps for the Home, John CantorHeat pumps book

A great no nonsense, warts and all introduction to heat pumps by an expert with over 30 years of practical and theoretical experience. Easy to read with clear illustrations and accessible for laypeople and professionals alike. John is a friend and colleague of 30 years so I might be biased so check out the reviews on Amazon!

The Passivhaus Handbook. Janet Cotterell and Adam Dadeby.Passive House handbook

This is a really good introduction to Passivhaus with the sort of insights you only get from practitioners rather than journalists or academics. As well as being a great introduction it also includes more technical details and building physics than many Architects would be familiar with. As with John Cantor, Janet and Adam are friends and colleagues so check out Amazon for more independent reviews.

PHPP Illustrated: A designer’s companion the the Passivhaus Planning Package, Sarah Lewis.PHPP Illustrated Sarah Lewis

This book is a superbly written, and a clearly illustrated guide to using the PHPP energy model – but is also so much more. If you are involved in building design and don’t yet use the PHPP then read this book and find out why it is the tool of choice for a growing number of professionals and self-builders alike. Unlike many energy models, PHPP is transparent with all the calculations and assumptions on view.

This book explains the essentials of building physics whilst leading the reader through the process of using the PHPP spreadsheet. Despite being a long-term user of PHPP, this book will be kept close to hand for regular reference. I am in awe of what Sarah has achieved and hope that this book inspires designers to embrace physics as an integral part of design.