Passivhaus firsts

Passivhaus, a stringent energy efficiency standard for buildings, originating in Germany, is being implemented across the UK in ever growing numbers, and for good reason. With heating and electricity bills rising for all of us, an approach that leads to energy bills reduced by 80-90% is bound to be gaining in popularity.

Here we feature two recent schemes and the architect's practice, a Sustainable Change Co-operative associate, that led on the design.

File 148July 2011 saw the completion of a new Passivhaus building (awaiting certification) in the region, The Green Base in St. Helens (see images). The building will be a home for Helena Partnerships' Green Space Service and act as a horticultural resource centre for training and education of volunteers, apprentices and trainees. Helena Partnerships is a housing association with around13,000 homes on 50 estates across St Helens, Merseyside. The Green Space Service, established January 2010 and featured in detail at Neighbourhoods Green, aims to deliver a better standard of landscape maintenance and ongoing improvements to the landscapes on Helena's estates to make them more sustainable, attractive, biodiverse and useable for a variety of activities. The Green Base will act as a centre from which this work is disseminated, showing best practice in landscape management and how underused and uninspired spaces can be turned into useable and attractive places.

File 147Simmonds Mills architects won the tender to design the new building in the heart of one of Helena's housing estates. The site consisted of underused open areas and derelict land-locked backland areas. With Passivhaus design being a key focus for the practice, and the Helena Partnerships team keen to innovate, it was agreed that the Passivhaus Certification was a desirable goal. The single storey building covers an area of 225m2, with a public reception, offices, kitchen and servicing facilities, as well as a large multi-purpose room. More detailed technical information on the build is likely to be available in the near future.

File 150Simmonds Mills has been championing Passivhaus and leading the way in the UK on design that meets the standard for a number of years. Recent examples where the standard has been achieved include the Centre for Disability Studies in Essex. Grove Cottage (see images), a residence in Hereford, is now the first Passivhaus Institute EnerPHit certified refurbishment project in the UK.

File 149

The technical EnerPHit Certification Criteria have been developed with the difficulties of refurbishing old properties in mind and are not quite as stringent as those for Passivhaus. Examples of EnerPHit schemes and other innovating retrofit projects can be found on the Retrofit for the Future database.

Images: Paragon Construction Ltd (project partners), Simmonds Mills.

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