Energy Standards Review – Scottish Passivhaus Equivalent: Working Group - terms of reference

Terms of reference for the working group.


Following the introduction of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and our new system of building standards in May 2005, energy standards within section 6 of the Building Standards Technical Handbooks were reviewed and improved in 2007, 2010, 2015 and 2023.

In December 2022, a further review of the energy standards was announced to make regulation by December 2024 to deliver “a Scottish equivalent to the Passivhaus Standard”.

This was in response to Mr Rowley MSP’s final members’ bill proposal, lodged on 16 November 2022, seeking to set “new minimum environmental design standards for all new-build housing to meet a Scottish equivalent to the Passivhaus standard, in order to improve energy efficiency and thermal performance”.

This review also responds to the commitment within the Shared Policy Programme on “explicit support for passivhaus and equivalent standards” and the recommendation from our Climate Assembly “to ensure that, within the next five years, all new housing is built to Passivhaus standards (or an agreed Scottish equivalent)”.

To support this commitment, the Scottish Government will work with the construction industry (and other key stakeholders) to identify and support good practice which will help to inform the development of this standard.

The Scottish Government’s approach to this work will, initially, comprise the following:

  • initial stakeholder engagement sessions have been held
  • set up working group for the energy review, the Passivhaus Equivalent Standard
  • commission research
  • agree and confirm energy standards and assurance improvement options
  • public consultation
  • cnsultation analysis
  • deadline to lay enabling regulations for the Passivhaus Equivalent Standards, 15 December 2024
  • note: implementation timetable beyond December 2024 will be determined during the review

Working group remit and governance 

The group will offer advice and expertise as necessary to support the Scottish Government in developing the next energy standards review. The group will act as a “critical friend” as the Scottish Government continues towards understanding how an equivalent to the Passivhaus standard will look in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has already held a number of informal stakeholder sessions at the start of 2023 and these will continue alongside the working group to help inform the content of the energy standards review consultation.

During the review process, you will have access to confidential policy documents (marked ‘OFFICIAL’) and be involved in discussions that may lead to the Division developing recommendations to ministers. Material generated by the working group should remain confidential while these discussions are ongoing, until the publication of a consultation document.

It should be highlighted that information and the notes of proceedings will fall subject to the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Therefore, it may be appropriate to release notes of meetings. These meetings however are conducted under the 'Chatham House Rule'. Records of meetings will not attribute comments or advice to particular members. This is to encourage openness and the free exchange of information amongst participants.

Should you find that a conflict of interest arises between your business/work interests and your role on the working group, we would advise that it is incumbent on you to identify such to Building Standards Division. Officials can provide further guidance if required. Otherwise, we would simply reiterate the need to maintain confidentiality on relevant matters.

Should members wish to contact the Scottish Government regarding aspects of the review they should email Daniel Foulds or Steven Scott in the first instance. Contact details are provided.


The working group will make recommendations to assist the Building Standards Division in providing advice to Scottish ministers on what changes should be considered for inclusion in consultation the energy standards, the Passivhaus Equivalent Standard.

A public consultation is planned to take place in the spring of 2024.


Membership is at the invitation of the Scottish Government.

Members will approve and communicate regular feedback from their organisations.

Members will ensure regular communication with the working group and other relevant stakeholders.

Members may co-opt other colleagues where necessary to provide representation, informing the Scottish Government in advance of any working group meeting.

A public sector group, comprising relevant Scottish Government policy leads, will also be established to oversee the alignment of various existing policy and delivery interests on energy and environmental standards.

Working group members are encouraged to convene a small group of experts within their own organisation to discuss and feedback comments on review proposals. As with the main working group, papers and output must be treated as ‘in confidence’ and communicated only within each group and to the main working group until the review moves to public consultation stage.

Meeting papers are issued to building regulations policy colleagues in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with an invitation to attend meetings as observers where there are areas of shared interest.

Working group membership 

  • Built Environment – Smarter Transformation
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Offsite Solutions Scotland
  • Homes for Scotland
  • Chartered Institute of Building
  • Construction Scotland
  • Scottish Futures Trust
  • The Passivhaus Trust
  • Wheatley Group
  • Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum
  • The Building Alliance
  • Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers
  • Local Authority Building Standards Scotland
  • Scottish Property Federation
  • Building Research Establishment
  • Structural Timber Association
  • Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Federation of Master Builders
  • The University of Strathclyde
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Construction Products Association
  • Scottish and Southern Energy Networks
  • Scottish Power Energy Networks
  • Welsh Government
  • Northern Ireland Executive
  • UK Government
  • Health and Safety Executive


This energy standards review will respond to Mr Rowley’s final members’ bill proposal and the Scottish Government announcement to deliver “a Scottish equivalent to the Passivhaus Standard”.

Recognising the level of standards already delivered by the energy standards and work on compliance within Building Standards, the current programme of work is seeking to focus on two key themes:

Key theme one

A package of measures that use reliable solutions to optimise building fabric and service performance, reduce delivered energy demand and provide a healthy indoor environment.

One of the key outcomes sought by Mr Rowley MSP during the Members’ Bill process was assurance that new homes do not contribute further to the levels of fuel poverty experienced in Scotland. We must continue to develop standards which are effective in reducing the amount of energy drawn from utilities, with a focus on building performance and optimising insulation levels from day one.

Key theme two

The design and construction of new buildings must be supported by quality (compliance) assurance and verification processes that result in buildings which meet the high standards set.

This is needed to improve assurance of compliance with regulations and to deliver better performance in practice. This should align with our broader ‘Compliance Plan’ approach and build on the best practice already being implemented by the construction sector. This will require action by the construction sector in response to a more evidence-led building standard process, delivered via informed designers and contractors and effective project communication.

The following tenets will be taken into consideration:

  • the level of ambition must consider the scale of implementation
  • verification though the building standards system without the need for third-party certification
  • development of options based on a clear understanding of what the 2023 energy standards deliver in reported outcomes compared to other best practice standards
  • agreement of the means by which we define targets and measure success and on the level of prescription or flexibility which will support successful building outcomes
  • recognition of the need for early identification of risks and interdependencies

The working group will help to identify any potential unintended consequences as the energy standards review develops. It is possible that these could sit out with the scope of this review and will be discussed when identified. An example is a concern over a potential increase in embodied carbon as lower energy building targets are approached.

Work is ongoing within Scottish Government to consider how regulating for reporting of embodied carbon might sit within the Building Standards system, however, this will fall outside the current scope of this review.

There may be consequential changes required to the Sustainability Standard (Standard 7.1), significant review to that standard and its scope is not planned as part of this current programme.


The Scottish Government will provide the secretariat support at working group meetings. 

Building Standards Division
20 June 2023

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