Passivhaus Affiliate

Acivico Passivhaus Symposium: Payback & Value

Acivico host an afternoon Passivhaus symposium in order to boost uptake in the Midlands earlier this May. PHT guest reporter, Mark Elton - Director of Cowan Eco Design, picks out some highlights:


Anyone who has witnessed, at the various International Passivhaus Conferences in Germany and Austria, local politicians and civil servants espousing the benefits that Passivhaus design standards bring to their region, will be all too familiar with the gulf in understanding and support for energy efficiency in buildings from our UK equivalents. So it is always to be applauded when events such as the recent Acivico Passivhaus Symposium are able to draw local political support for the Passivhaus design ethos, as well as the wider Birmingham design community. 

It was therefore admirable to hear Birmingham City Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Sustainability, at the introduction to the event arguing powerfully that we don’t have the time or the money to make mistakes with trialling alternative building design standards, especially with 1 in 5 Birmingham residents living in fuel poverty. 


Key highlights

Passivhaus payback

Emma Osmundsen, Housing Development Manager at Exeter City Council and arguably the closet thing we have to those German politicians, gave another inspiring overview of Exeter’s enviable portfolio of climate-change ready, biologically-healthy, Passivhaus developments. Whereas the first generation developments had an uplift of 20% over conventional build costs, their latest projects, including a large ‘extra care’ residential home and a leisure centre, were being budgeted with no uplift at all. She had important lessons that were winning over the hearts and minds of Exeter’s Councillors: growing confidence that Passivhaus performs (some social housing residents have had zero heating costs!) and a strong economic case, based on the understanding that revenue incomes would pay back capital development costs in just over a decade and that the security of low operational costs that Passivhaus delivers creates wealth for the authority over the lifespan of the building. Her willingness to share her experiences to date epitomises the Passivhaus movement, in my experience.

Knights Place, Exeter St Loyes

L - Knights Place, Gale & Snowden. R - St Loyes Extra Care, Architype.

Passivhaus Value

John Lefever, Regional Head of Development at Hastoe Housing, is a familiar speaker on their Passivhaus schemes in Norfolk and he was able to speak warmly of the positive impact that Passivhaus living has had on their tenants. With an average dual fuel bill of £1233/year across typical stock, the annual gas bill for the Wimbish Passivhaus scheme of only £120 compares well. Other tenants reported that they had been able to take their family on holiday for the first time, or that their children’s asthmas symptoms had all but disappeared – it’s always welcome to be reminded that there is more to Passivhaus than 15kWh/m2/yr.  John Lefever signed off with a plea for recognition that Passivhaus dwellings should be valued higher since the significant energy bill savings mean that mortgage repayments are more readily covered.

Wimbish Passivhaus Burnham Overy Staithe

L - Wimbish Passivhaus. R - Burnham Overy Staite

Passivhaus Primarys

A local Passivhaus success story, namely the Wolverhampton schools designed by PHT Patron member Architype, described continual refinement of construction details, with the aim of making the building easier and cheaper to build or more comfortable and controllable for the occupants. The monitoring evidence presented by researcher, Chryssa Thoua representing both Architype & Coventry University, backed up the case for chasing these incremental improvements as the performance data that Passivhaus works was indisputable. Kay Mason, Head Teacher at Bushbury Primary school, added that the building was working to the benefit of building operators, teachers and pupils and demonstrated her love of the approach by fervently resisting Council proposals for a non-Passivhaus extension that would have compromised the integrity of the energy and environmental strategy!

Architype Burry Port Primary School

L - Chryssa Thoua, Architype. R - Burry Port Primary School

What next for Birmingham?

Councillor Lisa Trickett summed up at the end of the afternoon with a challenge to Birmingham City Council that they have a responsibility to think differently – they have the land available but their greater challenge was to overcome the barrier of procurement and to redefine what makes a development affordable over its life. The inference here is that if they can’t make direct comparisons to Germany, they could look west to the pioneering approach undertaken by Exeter?

Final Panel Acivico Passivhaus Symposium


Mark Elton, Director, Cowan Eco Design.

24th May 2016

< Back To News