A-Z Popular Blog Architecture Search »
Simplicable Guide

Design: Passive vs Active

 , May 27, 2016 updated on June 04, 2017
Passive design is a system or structure that directly uses natural energy such as sunlight, wind, temperature differences or gravity to achieve a result without electricity or fuel. Active design is a system or structure that uses or produces electricity.
The term passive design is most often used with respect to architecture and infrastructure. For example, a building may have wide windows that automatically let in more light when the building needs heat and automatically shade when the building is too hot.
Another common area of passive design is wet infrastructure such as drainage systems that generally often don't consume power but use gravity to move water.
Most devices and infrastructure have an active design as they use electricity. The term is typically only used in comparison to passive designs. For example, solar panels that produce electricity are often referred to as active solar as a comparison to using solar passively for heat or to grow plants.

Passive Benefits

Passive designs are often valued for their simplicity and aesthetic appeal. They also tend to have zero operational costs. As they often contain no moving parts, passive designs potentially last for centuries.
Electrical components are valued for their accuracy and functionality but may need to be regularly maintained and replaced. They may also have a higher operational cost and environmental impact.
Passive Design vs Active Design
Passive DesignActive Design
DefinitionInfrastructure, architecture and devices that achieve a result by directly using natural forces without first converting it to electricity.Infrastructure, architecture and devices that use or produce electricity to achieve a result.
ExamplesPassive Heating
Passive Cooling
Green Roofs
Rain Gardens
Solar Panels
Wind Turbines
District Heating
Deep Water Cooling


This is the complete list of articles we have written about cities.
Activity Center
Air Rights
Bicycle Boulevard
Blue Space
Business Cluster
City Branding
City Culture
City Issues
Cosmopolitan City
Creeping Normality
Cycling Infra.
Deep Water Cooling
District Heating
Emergent Cities
Fashion Capital
Fashion Week
Genius Loci
Ghost Spaces
Green Facades
Green Roofs
Green Walls
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Human Factors
Human Scale
Induced Traffic
Living Street
Natural Surveillance
Night Architecture
Night Economy
Play Street
Public Infrastructure
Public Space
Quality Of Life
Rain Garden
Resilient Cities
Robot Highways
Slow Cities
Smart Cities
Soft Engineering
Sponge City
Street Canyon
Tactical Urbanism
Transition Design
Urban Agriculture
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Planning
Vertical Cities
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.


An overview of architecture with examples.

Architectural Technology Examples

A list of common architectural technologies.

Night Architecture

An overview of night architecture.

Passive Design vs Active Design

The difference between active and passive design.

Universal Design

A definition of universal design with examples.

Passive Light

The common types of passive lighting.

Architectural Acoustics

The common types of architectural acoustics.

Parti Pris

An overview of parti pris in architecture with an example.

Genius Loci

A definition of genius loci with examples.


An overview of massing in architecture.

Compressive Strength

A definition of compressive strength.

Urban Design

A few common urban design terms.

Green Walls vs Green Facades

The difference between a green wall and green facade.

Sustainable Urban Design

A list of sustainable urban design techniques.

Street Canyon

How a street canyon changes an urban environment.

City Issues

A list of common city issues.

Community Problems

A list of common community problems.

Things In Cities

An a-z list of things in cities.

City Types

An list of the common types of city.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map