Passive house or passivhaus?
Hervé Abbaie/Karawitz Architecture

Passive house or passivhaus?

Readers of Passive House Plus will probably have noticed that we use the English 'passive house' rather than the German 'passivhaus'. Though it might seem like a pedantic grammatical issue, we actually put a lot of thought into this before launching the mag.

There are a few reasons we went with the English spelling, the most obvious being that it's in our first language. But there are others too — we feel it offers more clarity, and that using the English version makes it more obvious what the term actually means.

But there are arguments on the side of 'passivhaus' too. For one, it doesn't include 'house', which makes writing about non-dwellings a lot easier: 'passivhaus school' looks fine, but 'passive house school' is clumsy and confusing.

Using 'passivhaus' also make it clear that one is referring to the original, German standard rather than to some of the looser meanings that some people give to passive house. And there are plenty of German words that have almost become synonyms for quality in the English-speaking world — Mercedes for example.

Still, for us the advantages of the English spelling won the day: clarity is everything in journalism, particularly technical journalism.  Others, like the UK Passivhaus Trust, have gone with the German spelling.

The use of alternative spellings might not bother those of working in this sector who come across both terms all the time, but could it be confusing to those outside the trade who we're trying to educate about the standard?

When we were first thinking of changing the name of the magazine from Construct Ireland to Passive House Plus, I asked friends what they thought. Most were perplexed, and those who didn't know what the term 'passive house' meant had negative associations with the word 'passive': they saw it as meaning inactive, lifeless, compliant. Why would you want that in a magazine title, they asked me.

That perception didn't matter too much when we rebranded, because the people we most want to reach are those in the trade, and educated self-builders and consumers — people who, in the vast majority of cases, have already at least heard the term, and who see it as a mark of quality.

But if we want to spread the word about passive house beyond the trade, is it important that we finally settle on one term or the other?

Please, let us know what you think in the comments below!

Last modified on Sunday, 22 September 2013 20:53

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