Energy Standards Review - Scottish Passivhaus Equivalent Working Group minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the working group on 21 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division

  • Steven Scott, Building Standards Division

  • Vikki Bell, Building Standards Division

  • Daniel Foulds, Building Standards Division

  • Antonia Georgieva, Heat in Buildings

  • Sandy Robinson, Planning, Architecture and Regeneration

  • Stephen Good, Built Environment - Smarter Transformation

  • Julio Bros-Williamson, The University of Edinburgh

  • Cassandra Dove, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

  • Steven Earlie, Offsite Solutions Scotland

  • Steve Fawcett, Homes for Scotland

  • Jocelyne Fleming, Chartered Institute of Building

  • Ron Fraser, Construction Scotland

  • Jamie Goth, Scottish Futures Trust

  • Jonathan Hines, The Passivhaus Trust

  • Caitriona Jordan, Built Environment – Smarter Transformation

  • Lindsay Lauder, Wheatley Group

  • Mike Leonard, The Building Alliance

  • Stuart MacPherson, Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers

  • Alan McAulay, Local Authority Building Standards Scotland

  • Michael McGurk, Scottish Property Federation

  • Colin Sinclair, Building Research Establishment

  • John Smith, Structural Timber Association

  • Chris Stewart, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

  • Peter Tait, Federation of Master Builders

  • Paul Tuohy, The University of Strathclyde

  • Robert Toomey, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

  • Frank Clifton, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

  • Patrick Brown, City of Edinburgh Council

  • Paul Keepins, Building Regulations, Wales

  • John Burke, Building Regulations, Northern Ireland

  • Jack Guise, Building Regulations, Department For Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

  • Henry Turner-Chambers, SAP Technical Lead, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero


  • Mark Wilkinson, Construction Products Association

  • Caroline Ainslie, SP Energy Networks

  • Victoria Tink, Building Regulations, Health and Safety Executive

  • Bryan Leask, Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Brief introductions were provided by those present and apologies noted.

Working group (WG) members were requested to provide a short outline paper setting out the opportunities and challenges their organisations consider this review to present.

Ministerial commitment to a Passivhaus equivalent standard

Reference was made to document WG 01 (23).

Officials presented a summary of the ministerial commitment and confirmed that the regulatory implementation timetable would be driven by the detail of proposals and level of change, as developed during 2023.  Consultation on proposals is anticipated to be launched in spring/summer 2024, followed by laying of amending regulations by mid December 2024.

WG member noted that from a (public sector) client perspective the Passivhaus route has been simple to adopt and offers guaranteed performance outcomes but acknowledged the challenge posed by the rigorous certification process.

Terms of Reference

The Passivhaus Trust presented a short summary setting out the origins of the Passivhaus standard, its fundamental principles and the key performance outcomes delivered.

Reference was made to document WG 01 (23).

The co-chairs confirmed that role of the WG is to act as a ‘critical friend’, offering advice and expertise where necessary to assist the Scottish government in understanding how best to deliver a Passivhaus equivalent standard.  Not to deliberate whether a Passivhaus equivalent standard should be implemented.

Officials confirmed a number of stakeholder engagement sessions had taken place in early 2023, with the information/feedback gathered to date from these informing the discussion topics for the WG.

WG papers and presentations are being shared in confidence.  However, the intention is to publish information (via the Scottish government website) throughout the review process, including meeting minutes. We will report meeting minutes under the Chatham House rules. Working group members are free to share relevant information with their organisations to encourage wider engagement.

WG members are requested to notify building standards division (BSD) of any concerns regarding conflicts of interest arising from the topic of the review.

The output from the WG process will be reported back to Ministers as it is progressed, with the intent of developing a consultation for publication in spring/summer 2024.

Substitute representatives are welcome where WG members are unable to attend future meetings. Relevant contact details should be forwarded to BSD in advance of meetings.

WG members are invited to forward details of any additional organisations they consider could usefully contribute to the review.


Reference was made to document WG 02 (23).

The post-December 2024 programme will be developed over the coming months.

Sub-groups will be formed of themed discussions reporting back to the main WG.  Officials welcomed input from WG members on how these could be managed.

Officials confirmed it was the intent to incorporate any developed standard within section 6 (energy) of the building standards but noted it would encompass broader considerations such as requirements of section 3 (environment), and futures board workstreams related to compliance and certification.

A draft Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) will be published alongside the consultation. The BRIA will include assessed costs and benefits related to the proposed options for regulatory change.

Schedule of meetings

Reference was made to document WG 03 (23).

Feedback was requested on the proposed schedule of meetings with the WG free to contribute to a set of discussion topics within our overall framework.

The WG indicated that it would be difficult to consider topics in isolation such as quality assurance processes, supply chain development, the inter-dependency between planning and building standards, as well as possible impacts on housing delivery more generally.

WG members suggested that it would be useful to draw upon lessons from experience of the February 2023 energy standards as well as live projects such as the Edinburgh Homes Demonstrator. In addition, consideration should be given to the work of the Future Homes Hub (FHH) and Construction Leadership Forum (CLF) , as well as from Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) regarding upskilling of supply chains.

BSD officials will update the review programme to allow interrogation on key topics.  Wider discussion outside the main and sub-group meetings was encouraged.  The use of existing groups and networks is encouraged to feed into the topics the WG identifies.

WG members were also asked to note relevant groups delivering very low energy developments within their outline papers (see action point 1).

WG members were also asked to suggest appropriate routes to gather data on buildings currently being designed to the February 2023 standards.

The WG suggested the allocation of some further diary spaces to accommodate any future meeting opportunities/discussions that may be identified.

The WG was encouraged to consider the early development of working group papers in parallel so that topics are discussed across themes.

The WG was asked if there was a preference to have future meetings online, hybrid or in person.  Members were requested to add this into feedback sheet, noting we have representatives from across the UK.

Energy Review Objectives – Terms of reference scope

Reference was made to WG 01 (23)

Officials confirmed a submission to the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights was produced in May 2023 which highlighted a number of themes coming out of the early stakeholder sessions.  This led to the development of the two main themes and the other important considerations indicated in WG 01 (23).

Officials indicated that a key early piece of work is establishing where the 2023 standards currently sit in terms of calculated energy outcomes. This will provide context on the current level of challenge and where opportunities for further action should now focus.

WG member suggested that the two themes are clear and interrelated and can’t be separated as they both rely on each other.  On quality assurance, it is important to develop an evidence-led approach.  Scottish Futures Trust’s approach to enforcing the learning estate investment programme was highlighted.

WG member indicated that it is important to not lose sight of the Passivhaus approach putting health and wellbeing of people to the fore.

WG members noted some concerns regarding Passivhaus certification and compliance noting pre-existing third party certification schemes and querying how an equivalent standard would operate in practice.

WG member suggested that there are still misunderstandings of how the energy performance of buildings is represented and what related issues are adequately covered (particularly with non-domestic tools).

WG members were advised that assessment and certification elements of Passivhaus have been discussed between BSD and the Passivhaus Trust previously.  Discussions involved a tailored version of the Passivhaus planning package (PHPP) assessment tool alongside the potential use of existing BSD certifier processes.

WG member noted the role of certifiers of design for section 6 at present.

WG member offered a view that a new standard will add to the cost of delivering buildings, with costs in the islands already unaffordable in many cases.  The economic aspects of delivery is a much wider issue.

WG member suggested that the effort and cost for a ‘Passivhaus’ route could potentially be more but the benefits justify the approach.  The cost of retrofit is far more challenging, so sensible to build new work to the best standard possible.

WG member indicated that there is a need to avoid reduced delivery of homes if development is not viable.  At the moment Passivhaus is not delivered at scale.  Consumers need to have homes that they can use and live in without difficulty.  Some issues have been identified via the FHH work due to occupation of lower infiltration buildings.

WG member indicated that any change has a chance of cost increases but this can be minimised by an informed approach.  Regulation will create a level playing field and drives a degree of upskilling to reduce the cost of change.  The reductions in running costs also need to be considered.

WG member asked what are the elements of a Passivhaus equivalent we want to recognise and develop and that there would be a need to move away from a ‘label’.  Also suggested that there are some unintended consequences to consider such as embodied carbon and indoor air pollutants.  There may be an opportunity to look at other parts of the regulations which are also programmed for change.

Officials indicated that the terms of reference provides a summary of what is covered in this review and what isn’t - embodied carbon is not being covered in this review.  It was also indicated that the WG can make recommendations on other related work to be considered.

WG member noted that a number of Passivhaus units are currently being completed with modern methods of construction.  WG member asked for advice on what members can say about this work?

Officials indicated that a webpage will be set up to provide information on the review and a link will be shared once published.  Officials are happy for this to be shared wider to encourage open and effective dialogue throughout this review.

A summary note of the meeting was provided.

Summary of views and actions

  • WG members to provide a short one-page summary after the meeting (within seven days) setting out their view on opportunities and challenges of this review.  This should also capture examples of current relevant work

  • BSD will prepare and circulate a response sheet for WG members to complete the one page summaries

  • WG members to offer thoughts on who could usefully contribute insight and thoughts for BSD consideration alongside other feedback on the terms of reference document

  • BSD will circulate minute of meeting for comment

  • BSD will develop a more detailed programme of meetings and set out proposals for a wider engagement process via member sub-groups including some hold sessions

  • BSD will set out a note on gathering early information on candidate 2023 designs

  • BSD to set up a webpage related to the next energy standards review

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