In this post ‘Differences BREEAM, LEEDs, Passive House’, I tell you the differences between these 3 certificates for sustainable buildings.

I will tell you the advantages and disadvantages of them so you can choose the best for your sustainable home.

In case you still don’t know us, let me introduce our studio: we’re ERA architects, the English speaking green architecture studio to call in Barcelona.
Actually, I’m Esther Rovira, an architect in Barcelona and a passive house designer for new sustainable builds and big green renovations in Barcelona and Catalonia.
In this post you’ll find all the essentials from our professional point of view.
I hope this helps you!

I hope this post helps you!



The Breeam certificate comes from England and is the oldest (1990s).

Therefore, it’s the one with the largest global extension and has the most buildings with its seal (in Spain it has 725 associates).

It consists of analyzing the impacts of the design, construction and use phases of buildings.


This is achieved by accounting for 10 aspects: management, improvement of health and well-being, energy efficiency, transport, water (savings), use of materials, waste (management), land use, innovation and pollution.


It’s not the most mathematical, since it gives a final score that takes into account very diverse aspects.

This has given cases of buildings without much energy efficiency that have given a good final value by combining exterior elements such as bicycle parking or exterior landscaping with native plants.

Let’s say that it gives a general value of the building and its surroundings, but it does not focus on the building having a very low consumption.



This American certificate (also from the 90’s) is highly valued globally.

It evaluates 5 main aspects: location, energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, use of materials and natural resources, and indoor air.


It is very flexible for three reasons: it is applied to new or refurbished construction, the housing or equipment sector, and it has 3 levels of certification (gold, silver, platinum).

This certificate can guarantee energy savings of up to 60%.

It is widely used in office buildings (in 2020, 63% of LEED certified buildings in Spain were offices).


In 2020, despite registering 910 buildings, approximately half were certified (the majority in Madrid and Barcelona).


3) Passive House

This European standard founded in 1996 by a German physicist, focuses on defining the maximum values ​​to be met by a highly efficient building.

These values ​​define the maximum levels of: energy consumption in air conditioning (heating and cooling), primary energy (counts how much the house will consume by counting appliances, lighting and machines), hermeticity (absence of leaks) and air renewals (air renewed every 20 minutes).

All this is summed up in applying a hermetic building design and construction, with good insulation, without thermal bridges and with double-flow controlled mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (and if you want with an enthalpy membrane to retain viruses).

In Spain there are almost 896 associated with this German standard (October 2021).


Thanks to these key points; Up to 80% energy savings are achieved compared to conventional buildings.

It is undoubtedly the most demanding and complex certification that ensures maximum savings in energy consumption.

It is apparently flexible and can be applied in new construction and renovation, housing and the tertiary sector (but in reality its super-calculator-simulator is very complex in its variants) and has 3 levels (Classic, Plus, Premium).


The only drawback of this certification is that it does not take into account the use of natural materials or water management.


4) Others

There are other quality seals in energy buildings that we do not value in this post.

Such as the GREEN, the NetZero Energy Building certification, the Swiss Minergie and the WELL among others.


 My professional recommendation:

In our Architecture studio in Barcelona we recommend the Passive House certificate for homes.

The reason is that it is the most demanding and ensures great energy savings during the use of the building.

In order not to double efforts (and service fees), I recommend that you look for an architect who:

– be Passive House designer

– has certified a home in the last year

– have contact with more than one certifying entity (there is not much variety of certifiers in Spain and they are expensive)


You may also be interested in:

Our other post: Passivhaus classic, plus or premium housing

Or know that if you subscribe to our newsletter of recommendations for your passive house or positive house; You will receive useful information and you will be able to opt for discounts on our services.

And of course you can unsubscribe whenever you want!


I hope this post ‘Differences BREEAM, LEEDs, Passive House‘ will help you.
Best of luck on this adventure.
See you on the next post,


Founder of ERA architects 

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