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26 EXPLORING CURRENT THINKING ON PASSIVHAUS


“Who/what is driving Passivhaus uptake in the UK?”


Our survey reveals that Passivhaus could be a more realistic solution than many might assume however, enabling various sectors to drastically reduce carbon in buildings. It also shows why it’s a powerful weapon for designers to take the lead on tackling this daunting agenda.


Introduction By 2008, there were estimated to be up to 20,000 completed Passivhaus-designed buildings worldwide. The first UK Passivhaus wasn’t completed until 2009 however; a timber-framed self-build in Wales.


According to the Passivhaus Trust, part of the challenge is that architects in the UK need to adapt their approach to deliver Passivhaus, including use of the The Passivhaus Planning Package for calculating energy specs and specific design modelling. In addition to upping insulation and the spec of windows massively from ‘normal’ levels, the building fabric will need to be free of thermal bridges, air-tight, and have efficient MVHR.


This extra investment of effort, time and money has put architects as well as clients off, with only the most evangelistic eco-warriors being early adopters. Our survey of architects captured some of the reasons for the UK’s slow take-up, but also that some of the objections may be based on incorrect assumptions.


Client objections The research study looked at whether architects had detected a problematic perception among clients that Passivhaus buildings will look very different. Another common stigma is that windows cannot be opened in Passivhaus buildings, for air-tightness, with 21 per cent of architects saying that their clients believed this. One commenter said that they had been disappointed to find there was ‘zero demand’ in their local area for Passivhaus.


Our survey also confirmed that there remain other stubborn design stigmas around Passivhaus for clients. The most common was the ‘generally much more uncompromising design rules,’ according to 50 per cent of respondents. Not too far behind were ‘boxy appearance’ (42 per cent), unusual positioning or sizing of windows (41 per cent), and the need to maintain MVHR equipment (37 per cent). Other common client concerns included lack of heating, greater restriction on lifestyle, darker interiors, and apertures needing to be closed.


Cost was a further prohibitive factor for clients – and one commenter pinpointed “unknown cost, and lack of incentive,” alluding to a lack of central support which was touched on elsewhere in the responses. Other factors were a perceived lack of floor space, and large windows potentially


leading to overheating, but a “lack of understanding” was possibly a key ‘macro’ factor, as pointed out by one commenter.


Acceptance


A reassuring 85 per cent of respondents thought that resistance to the look of Passivhaus buildings will moderate as we approach the net zero deadline of 2050. Also, 28 per cent “strongly agreed” that clients had already accepted those changes in appearance. Also, according to 29 per cent of our respondents, the belief that Passivhaus buildings have to look “dramatically” different is mistaken. Only 11 per cent strongly agreed that developers had accepted the necessary changes to construction practice to achieve such high levels of efficiency, however.


Architects’ roles in projects across the board have arguably been diminished in recent decades, sometimes to a function of ‘decoration.’ However, the commissioning of more Passivhaus schemes could lead to a consolidation and extension of architects’ remit – due to designs aligning form closely with function – bolstering the profession. Passivhaus requires close integration of the services design with overall structural aspects and therefore the aesthetics, and 83 per cent of survey respondents agreed it “has restored the importance of integrated design, and will therefore help boost the professional role of architects.”


WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK


ADF MAY 2021


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