LEED vs. Net Zero vs. Passive House: What's the Difference?

April 25, 2018


As different buildings require different requirements and design, it is important to consider the variations between three energy-efficient building designs to develop a strategy that fits a particular building plan. The models are current standards and are often used for energy efficiencies in homes and commercial businesses. Each standard has its own advantages, so it’s important to review the designs before making a final decision.



The United States Green Building Council created and has managed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) prototype that has been used for many buildings and homes. It is a system that rates buildings according to their environmental performance and their ability to nudge the building market toward a sustainable plan. LEED buildings have become the most popular and highest environmentally-rated constructions based on their materials and designs.

LEED-rated buildings are well-adapted for all construction types, along with community and home creation. Green homes and buildings that incorporate the highly efficient, cost-saving, healthy LEED certification are being utilized globally.


Net Zero

The Net Zero standard, also known as Zero Net Energy (ZNE) or Net Zero Energy Building, promotes construction that creates no net consumption of energy. This means that the edifice uses an energy amount approximately equal to the amount of renewable energy that the site generates.

The Zero Energy Project explains that since zero energy homes do not rely on fossil fuels, ZNE houses and commercial projects are adaptable for any setting or climate.


Passive House

Germany’s Dr. Wolfgang Feist was the first to come up with the Passive House building standard. He was interested in creating an energy-efficient, comfortable, affordable standard of construction. The concept includes:

  • a system of ventilation that provides constant fresh air,
  • small variations in internal surface temperatures,
  • efficient use of the sun,
  • and approximately 90% energy savings.

The Passive House model retains the same scientific concept wherever it is built. The principles are the same and are adaptable to varying climate zones with many changes.

As communities and cities grow and develop, the impact on the natural environment becomes greater. Green building standards, regulating construction and operation of buildings, designs, or material manufacturing, make tremendous impacts on the globe’s natural resources.

WDM Architects is committed to be a part of the green movement and dedicated to designs that will improve the quality of life for all. Contact us today to learn more about the different energy efficient standards, designs, and methodologies, and how we can work to incorporate the perfect one in your next project.