Lake District passivhaus

Staveley Passive House 2

Following on from the series of articles in previous issues of ‘Green Building’ (Lancaster Cohousing certified Passivhaus project for 41 houses), Andrew Yeats and Vincent Fierkens from Eco Arc have worked with a local couple to build the first timber frame Passivhaus in the Lake District National Park. It is interesting to review this project and to compare the two types of construction; masonry versus timber, to reach the same Passivhaus end goal.

Tim and Sarah Goffe moved to Staveley in the summer of 2010 when Sarah was appointed to a teaching post at John Ruskin School in Coniston. They had been living in rented accommodation in Staveley village, but had not found anything tempting to buy. When Middlefell, a dilapidated falling down substandard bungalow, became available on the edge of the village, they jumped at the chance to demolish it and start the process of building a Passivhaus. Tim and Sarah are supporters and members of the local Sustainable Energy Network Staveley (SENS) organisation and have friends at the Lancaster Cohousing Passivhaus project 30 miles down the road.

The couple have a long-standing interest in sustainable, low energy ‘green’ buildings, having been frequent visitors to Scandinavia and experienced the ‘norm’ of the highly insulated comfortable homes there. They were excited by the opportunity to build one of their own. Tim and Sarah were keen to build and live in the most energy-efficient house yet to be constructed in the Lake District and work with Eco Arc Architects with our track record of innovation in low energy Passivhaus sustainable housing. It also helped that our office is just 4 miles from the site.

In response to the challenges of Climate Change and the depletion of fossil fuel reserves, Tim and Sarah where motivated to demonstrate alternative design and construction solutions that support the shift towards low-carbon lifestyles and provide a possible new vernacular model for future affordable housing in the protected National Park.  It was equally important to Tim and Sarah not to create a lavish building, but to ensure the design concentrated not only on energy efficiency and sustainability, but cost-effectiveness.

Having experienced friends struggling through the inevitable delays during long cold winter months building the traditional wide cavity masonry built Lancaster Cohousing Passivhaus project, Tim and Sarah decided, from the outset, that they wanted to go for the efficiency and speed of a part off-site, prefabricated, super insulated timber frame construction to achieve the Passivhaus standard.

Tim and Sarah set the project aims to demonstrate best practice in home energy conservation, renewable energy use, water conservation, waste reduction and home food production.

Principles of design and construction

It was agreed from the outset that the project aims would be achieved through the application of super high levels of insulation, minimizing thermal bridging, excellent airtightness and heat recovery ventilation, natural daylighting, passive solar gain, renewable energy (solar hot water and photovoltaics,) use of recycled materials and recycling of rainwater along with local resourcing of materials and labour.

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