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Mon Jun 6, 2016







What motivated you to become a
Passive House designer?

We were already involved and interested in sustainable architecture and had delivered a number of schemes under the Code for Sustainable Homes. However we felt this didn’t address some fundamental issues of operational energy and fuel poverty, whereas Passive House absolutely does.

In addition, the constraint of designing an energy efficient building is something we find invigorating and the additional challenge serves to make our buildings generally better considered.


Why, in your opinion, should architects work to Passive House standards?

See above! The rigour of considering eventual energy use at pencil sketch stage raises design decisions above the merely aesthetic and defines an additional purpose for the building, providing yet another challenging constraint or opportunity.

 

What sort of Passive House projects have you worked on?

We have delivered over 50 Passive House units now, most of which have either been for affordable housing, where the issue of fuel poverty is paramount, or for individual clients where comfort is also a significant driver.

 

Which of these projects are you most pleased with, and why?

I think Ravenscroft at Wimbish (below) will always be a favourite simply because it was our first certified affordable housing scheme and we learnt so many lessons on it. For example, we now realise that, whilst solar orientation is generally helpful, there is no need to go overboard with south facing windows. It risks overheating, adds cost and doesn’t add much else. We also learnt a lot about the importance of bringing in mechanical design early to integrate that into the whole process. The scheme was  monitored independently for over 2 years and has been shown to be tremendously effective at delivering low fuel bills and an excellent comfort standard.



What in your view are the main challenges for the Passive House movement going forwards?For example, the issue of value engineering?


Well, I think you’re right. We need to reduce the price people are paying for it. We are working hard to properly value engineer our Passive House schemes, insofar as we make early cost decisions where they can be most effective, as against ‘cost cutting’ which is what that process is called when it’s done after the design.  I think that is the fundamental rule when it comes to Passive House – it is all about exploring the options at the design stage.  Passive House is a comfort standard – you can’t start cutting or swapping our options at the last minute as it will have a big impact on the indoor environment! I actually don’t think the cost is as high as people quote but, as an industry we haven’t really worked out how to remove the risk premiums from UK procurement practices.

 

What do you think about the Government’s decision last summer to scrap the zero carbon buildings targets it had previously committed to? What impact do you think this will have on the take-up of New Build Passive House?

We are experiencing significant demand for more energy efficient buildings from the ground up, so I think scrapping Zero Carbon just illustrates how out of touch government is with the reality of the market. The problem is that industry needs certainty in order to invest in products and services and we need a consistent legislative framework for that to happen.


What’s the Passive House project you most admire, and why?

I think the work Architype have been doing with primary schools is fantastic. Improving the environment for learning whilst reducing running costs, and all without increasing build costs is such an obvious use of the methodology that I can’t understand why other education authorities aren’t following it up. They’re all good but for me, the aesthetic of Wilkinson Primary School works well.

 

Do you live in a Passive House? And if so, what is the best thing about living there

Unfortunately not. I am secretly retrofitting my house to the standard, but don’t tell the wife!





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