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Passivhaus is gaining ground

The strongest argument in favour of Passivhaus is its guarantee of performance, writes Hattie Hartman

The fourth annual UK Passivhaus conference took place last week in Milton Keynes. Despite lean times, the 250-capacity event sold out, signalling continued high interest in the German low-energy standard.

Certified Passivhaus buildings in the UK now number about 250, including 15 non-domestic and a number of multi-unit residential projects, with many more in the pipeline. New build housing schemes with planning permission include the 150-unit Archihaus by Architype in Hereford and 240 units for the Broadlands Housing Association in Norfolk, while SustainablebyDesign has a multi-unit residential retrofit under way in London, as does ECD in Portsmouth.

 Archihaus by Architype in Hereford

Archihaus by Architype in Hereford

Among the few glimmers of inspirational Passivhaus design at the conference was the Ravensburg Art Museum by German architects Lederer + Ragnarsdóttir + Oei.

Dieter Herz, of Passivhaus consultant on the project Herz and Lang, who has designed or advised on more than €400 million-worth of Passivhaus projects, stressed the critical importance of certification as the only way of ensuring performance, even in Germany. Certification means that consistent robust checking takes places throughout construction to ensure that projects are built as designed and that quality is maintained.

The strongest argument in favour of Passivhaus is its guarantee of performance. Echoing the view of many Passivhaus advocates, SustainablebyDesign’s Mark Elton sees the German standard as ‘the only credible path to net zero energy buildings’.

This boils down to quality assurance, reiterating a theme that emerged at the AJ’s Bridge the Gap roundtable in August. If full compliance with Building Regulations were properly enforced, this would go a long way towards addressing the performance gap.

The excellent results for occupant satisfaction and comfort coming through on the recent BUS survey for Ecoarc’s Lancaster CoHousing are another plaudit for the Passivhaus approach. Also worth noting, Architype and Plymouth-based WARM: Low Energy Building Practice report success in negotiating the replacement of a planning condition for BREEAM or a percentage of renewables with the Passivhaus standard.

The upcoming UK Passivhaus Open Days on November 8-10, organised by the Passivhaus Trust, offer an opportunity to visit more than a dozen projects from as far afield as Fife or Somerset. Book your place at www.passivhaustrust.org.uk.

Passivhaus AJBL

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