Architype, Bere Architects and Parsons+Whittley scoop top prizes at the UK Passivhaus Awards
Initiated by the Passivhaus Trust, the first Passivhaus Awards attracted entries from across the country spanning a wide spectrum of building typologies. Organised into categories of residential, non-domestic and retrofit projects, shortlisted entries included primary schools, a social housing scheme, a community centre and a rural agricultural college.
Despite being slow off the blocks in comparison with mainland Europe, Passivhaus accreditation is quickly gaining credibility in the UK as the building sector becomes more conscious of sustainability.
The event commenced with introductions by Jon Bootland, Chief Executive of the Passivhaus Trust, followed by Hattie Hartman’s video message, before an address by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passivhaus Institut. He expressed his delight in witnessing the upcoming abundance of excellent Passivhaus schemes in the UK, saying that ‘UK practitioners are leading the way on Passivhaus retrofit projects and have much information and experience to share with project teams elsewhere.’
Each shortlisted practice gave a 15 minute presentation explaining and reflecting on their schemes, before the final decision went to an attendee vote.
This 14 dwelling social housing development completed last year boasts Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4, Secured by Design and Lifetime Homes standards in addition to Passivhaus accreditation. The scheme sits consciously in its setting mimicking the local vernacular, while exhibiting a bold, modern colour palette.
Attention is played to passive thermal design, with careful consideration of the scheme’s orientation and shade cast by angled ground floor louvres promoting solar gain during winter. Tenants report biannual energy bills as low as £30, helping to alleviate fuel poverty in the area.
The larger of the two Architype education projects featured in the non-domestic category, Oak Meadow holds the title of the first UK Passivhaus primary school. Heat-recovery ventilation systems pump fresh air into the new-build, a great improvement to the hot stuffy classrooms of the previous school building.
The clients noted their inspiring new environment gave them the confidence to achieve a ‘good’ Ofsted rating, with the light airy spaces allowing children to concentrate better during afternoon lessons. An innovative kitchen design incorporating electric cooking (with less excess heat and fumes alongside incorporation into the space heating system) has lead to the school catering firm adopting this method in all their outlets, driving forward efficient design.
Utilising the existing shell of the old tram station, Bere Architects have created new community centre premises promoting regeneration and re-use. Key features of this transformation include internal floor re-organisation for maximum useable area and rainwater harvesting from the zinc roof for flushing WC’s. The ‘intuitive usability’ of the design resulted in minimum building controls and a smooth handover. The scheme slots into a possible wider regeneration of the surrounding area, with Bere Architects’ new premises set to occupy the basement space.
Quality and investment in good design was seen across the board, helping to quieten pre-conceptions that achieving Passivhaus accreditation leads to a specific architectural aesthetic. Instead, practices noted they focussed on simplification of key details, giving a strong foundation to then challenge design approaches and create beautiful external and healthier internal environments.
All projects supplied costs per square metre as part of the judging process, highlighting a Passivhaus scheme can be achieved at the same initial financial investment as a non-Passivhaus build, before factoring in reduced life-cycle and occupancy costs.
Dr Wolfgang Feist (Founder, Passivhaus Institut)
Nick Grant (Technical Director, Passivhaus Trust)
Hattie Hartman (Sustainability Editor, The Architects’ Journal)
Sofie Pelsmakers (Co-founder, Architecture for Change)
Inaugural Passivhaus Awards celebrate UK’s sustainable building pioneers