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Does Passivhaus constrain design?


[UKPHC Part 2] This was the great debate question raised at last week’s Passivhaus Conference, here architects and Passivhaus enthusiasts give their view.

Nick Grant, Elemental Solutions:

‘Yes. Passivhaus standards are a constraint, but nature has incredible constraints and we do not say nature is dull or boring. Intuitive design doesn’t get us to Passivhaus standards.

‘To a trained eye a Passivhaus building will always look like a Passivhaus but if you are serious about sustainability then you have to design to constraints.’

Richard Hawkes, Hawkes Architecture:

‘Passivhaus is a tool and it can become intuitive the more you use it. But I don’t design using PHPP.’

John LeFever, Hastoe Housing:

Customers of housing developers want brick and stone, surely that is more of a constraint to design than Passivhaus principles.’

Fran Bradshaw, Anne Thorne Architects:

‘Passivhaus is just another tool in the book. It can do both design and energy efficiency. It is a bad idea to look at it as a constraint.

Some buildings will just not work for a sustainable planet

‘Some buildings will just not work for a sustainable planet. For example, I love Zaha’s work but I would love to challenge her to design in that way but to Passivhaus standards – is it achievable?’

Sarah Lewis, bere: architects:

‘Passivhaus opens up the possibilities of design rather than closes them down. It allows us to use PHPP to design better, more energy efficient buildings.’

Jonathan Hines, Architype:

‘Passivhaus is just the logical next step on the journey to creating a rigorous design discipline for sustainable architecture. It frees up the architect to create sustainable well designed buildings’.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Interestingly lack of constraints should lead to better design (ignoring function which is a huge constraint) but the opposite seems to be true.

    As someone said, if you want to double creativity, halve the budget. That should make me popular here!

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  • We shall start by emphasising that PH Standard does not constrain the amount of energy not used and certainly none of the levels of health, wellbeing and comfort - and then we can think of "making it nicer".

    In general the times when humans’ egocentric and random understanding of freedom was declaring this a preferred tradition and that the mainstream’s design will have to become history pretty fast. Freedom will have to be ruled as anything else by what sustainability allows as we will be able to host +7 billion people and more, only, if we arrange ourselves with what is a finite planet! PH Standard will be(come) one part of this arrangement and as such it is much more than just another regulation.


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  • Creativity loves constraints? Maybe in poetry, but haven't some of the most jaw-droppingly beautify architectural achievements in recent years been achieved because of a 'money no object' attitude and the seeming insanity of building on unsuitable plots, where groundworking, pile sinking and shoehorning buildings into London's few remaining bit of unbuilt-on land, simply because the plots are wholly impractical... the buildings which result are practical; utilitarian.

    Is it creative, to simply achieve something which is optimal for an awkward plot, or actually the very opposite: it's just efficient design, not creative design.

    I'm really just here to put a link to my blog anyway because I share Nick Grant's name and this site popped up: http://www.manicgrant.com

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