Roger Léron Award 2019 Nominee



Jessica graduated with a Master’s degree in physics (MPhys) from the University of Sussex in England. She is a senior scientist who recently joined the management board of the Passivhaus Institut. Jessica Grove-Smith joined the scientific research team of the Passive House Institute in 2008 and has helped develop the Institute as an independent, interdisciplinary research institute for highly efficient energy in buildings. Jessica’s work at the institute has played a crucial role in developing and providing quality assurance for the Passive House concept – a clearly defined and internationally recognised performance-based energy standard, taking into account comfort, air quality and economic viability. Her areas of expertise include energy efficient building solutions in different climate conditions, climate data for energy modelling, interrelations between efficiency and renewable energies, deep energy efficiency for indoor swimming pools, as well as Passive House training. Jessica is the Passive House Institute’s new head of International Relations, directing PR, advocacy and policy work in Europe and at large.

She frequently participates in conferences internationally on technical and policy related topics with regard to high performance buildings. In her scientific role, Jessica conducts scientific studies on:

– Energy efficient construction in various climates

– Renewable primary energy / assessment criteria for sustainability (PER)

– Dynamic simulations & energy balance calculations (PHPP) including tool development and validation

– Heat and moisture transport calculations of building components

– Evaluation of monitoring data

– Energy efficiency and PH concept application for swimming pools

– Climate data analysis

– Introductory and specialised presentations in various international contexts All of which helps develop the possibilities of the Passive House Standard further.

In her role as Head of International Relations, Jessica promotes the Passive House as a pathway to “Net Zero Energy Buildings” (nZEB), noting that Passive House buildings allow for space heating and cooling related energy savings of up to 90% compared with typical building stock and over 75% compared to average new builds. Passive House buildings use less than 1.5 l of oil or 1.5 m3 of gas to heat one square meter of living space for a year “substantially less than common ‘low-energy’ buildings”. Vast energy savings have been demonstrated in warm climates where typical buildings also require active cooling, thanks to research Jessica helped conduct.


Jessica has been instrumental in the development of guidelines for Passive House swimming pools, a particular challenge in building physics due to the water heating requirements and air moisture levels among other things. She has also helped develop a tool to evaluate the energy efficiency of buildings in entire districts, which of particular use to policy and decision makers. Currently, she is working on projects to improve the uptake of the Passive House Standard in high rise projects and conducting climate data analysis to strengthen the Institute’s research on Passive House in hot climates and the summer months – an increasingly significant topic due to climate change.


Jessica supports the uptake of Passive House internationally, promoting it not only through her research and academic publishing efforts, but also through her talks and training abroad to reach a larger, international audience. Through her dedication, the Passive House movement has grown throughout Europe and reached North America and Australasia, where she regularly presents.

Given each Passive House building has a heating/cooling demand of only 15KWh/m2 annually, this worldwide growth is important: within the last several years, Passive House has rapidly increased in popularity, with over 20,000 units certified according to the strict Passive House Institute certification criteria representing a total floor area of almost 2,000,000 m² (as of 05/2019). This growth has also led to growth at the institute, which now counts over 60 staff members, a significant growth from the small team back in 2008.


Co-writing a paper with the Wuppertal Institute, Jessica published an academic paper entitled “Standards and policies for very high energy efficiency in the urban building sector towards reaching the 1.5°C target”, which noted the need for Passive House buildings to meet our 1.5 degree Celsius target.

Since then, Jessica has actively promoted advocacy and policy work from the institute, noting that the science must be made policy in order for us to meet our climate goals. She also actively encourages younger and/or female staff to take the lead on projects, aware that women are often underrepresented in the STEM, architecture and construction industries. Half the staff at the Passive House Institute are women, an example for the Passive House movement and the industry at large. With women represented at all levels, in all departments – from research and monitoring to communications and certification – the gender diverse environment is critical to the success and the advancement of the Passive House Standard.


Jessica is an inspirational leader for many reasons: she is the first to put her hand up when there is a difficult task to be completed, she stays until the work is done, she listens and offers support when colleagues need help, she donates her free time to community urban gardening projects, stands by her sustainability principles not only at work, but also in her private life by living conscious of the environmental impact of her choices. As a senior scientist she motivates the junior scientists to pursue a career in building physics and, perhaps more importantly, environmentalism.

By involving international partners in research and projects, Jessica promotes international cooperation, sharing of data and information and studies across a variety of climate zones. Her passion for energy efficient buildings and the role they play in sustainability is infectious, inspiring others to join the global Passive House movement, making her not only an excellent scientist, but also an excellent Head of International Relations.