PHPP Illustrated: A Designer’s Companion to the Passive House Planning Package Author: Sarah Lewis, Barron and Smith Architects (part of the NPS group and AECB Member)

All architects hoping to design to the Passive House standard need to know how to use The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).

This book provides much needed supplementary guidance for purchasers of the PHPP establishing the standard within the UK context and is a concise, user-friendly, highly illustrated step by step companion for practitioners and students who want to use the PHPP as a design tool.

By improving their in-use understanding of the PHPP, this guide enables readers to fully comprehend their scheme in terms of the impact of orientation, envelope shape and ratio to floor area, fabric build-ups, fenestration ratio and shading effects on the energy balance – the essential criteria for all low energy buildings. Fully supported and endorsed by The Passivhaus Institut, the book will act as an invaluable gateway for brand new as well as more experienced PHPP users.

From the foreword by Dr Wolfgang Feist, Passivhaus Institute (PHI)

“In this much needed visual guide, clear and easy to follow descriptions lend themselves to designers, guiding them through the necessary inputs and helping them understand what the outputs mean for their buildings. This book will help further the Passive House Standard and contribute to a better built environment.”

Extract from the Introduction “What is PHPP?”

The PHPP is a vital design tool and not something to be feared. It is actually very easy to use once you get the hang of it and does not require advanced abilities in computer modelling. Complex dynamic models were used to create the PHPP, but the PHPP itself is a series of interlinked Excel spreadsheets in one workbook.

Therein lies one of the great advantages of the PHPP; the Excel workbook can be used by anyone with access to Excel or Open Office and basic Excel training, so architects can share the workbook with mechanical, electrical and energy consultants. The reliance on standardised software allows avenues for cross collaboration and encourages technical dialogues to develop. Data can also be easily and quickly extracted to provide useful graphs for clients or consultants. The PHPP has been developed for designing Passive House buildings but is also a useful tool to design other low energy buildings, providing very accurate results.

Review: Elrond Burrell

The following extract is taken from Elrond Burrells review of PHPP Illustrated: A Designers Companion to the Passive House Planning Package. To read the full review please visit Elrond’s website here.

The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) can seem like a monster spreadsheet at 30+ worksheets (tabs). And the last thing most architects would consider a design tool. However, once architects understand passivhaus and start to design passivhaus buildings, they quickly realise that the passivhaus spreadsheet PHPP is an essential element of the design process. Sarah guides the reader towards fluency with the passivhaus spreadsheet PHPP using three key tools throughout the book: 

  • Common mistakes
  • Drawings and annotated screenshots
  • The Flow Chart (as seen on the cover)

Camden Passivhaus, the first certified passivhaus building in London UK, is used throughout the book to give real-world context each step of the way. It is also a seminal bere:architects passivhaus project and one that Sarah worked on previously while as a Director of the practice.

The book starts with a brief overview of the passivhaus spreadsheet PHPP. It highlights that the PHPP, being a spreadsheet, is open and available for all to use with fairly basic software training in contrast to other energy modelling tools. Also underlined is that the PHPP is a design tool and not a compliance tool, and as such is strongly encouraged to be integrated into the design process, not contracted out.

The five chapters that follow cover specific aspects of using the passivhaus spreadsheet PHPP in depth; Getting Started, Heating Demand, Cooling, Primary Energy, and Heating Demand Details.

One of the key tools employed throughout the book is identifying Common Mistakes and highlighting them. Simple as this seems, these are incredibly powerful and useful tips. They point to crucial aspects of passivhaus design and forewarn you before you get tripped up in the passivhaus spredsheet.

This book will guide you through the process of becoming fluent with using the PHPP as a design tool. And even once you are fluent with the PHPP, this book is still a handy reference and well-illustrated guide.

Sarah’s book is available from RIBA Publishing priced at £35.00- for more information visit