Passivhaus Affiliate

Better buildings by design

Back in June 2018, Nick Grant and Sally Godber delivered a Passivhaus Masterclass to an audience keenly engaged by the question of how to make better buildings by design – and within budget. Delegate included architects, low energy building consultants and local authority representatives. 

Sally Godber and Nick Grant talking to participants at PHT Masterclass: Design Optimisation

Passivhaus Masterclass: Design Optimisation

With their depth and breadth of experience in Passivhaus design and consultancy, both speakers were able to draw on a wealth of real-life examples, including the Hereford Archive and Records Centre, Goldsmith Street, Fairglen, Primrose Park, Hope View House, and Old Holloway, among others – the latter are 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards finalist & winner.

Primrose Park photo Will South Old Holloway interior Juraj Mikurcik
Goldsmith Street photo Mikhail Riches


Value of constraints

How to build a Passivhaus: Rules of thumbA couple of themes echoed some of those raised in the previous high-rise Masterclass: the question of how best to manage glazing was a prominent part of the discussion, as was the value of constraints to design – as Charles Eames said, “I have never been forced to accept compromises but I have willingly accepted constraints”.

A common constraint is cost, and research has shown that low budgets can boost creativity The Trust has only small budgets for the research and guidance it publishes, but NIck considers his contributions as some of the best work he’s done.

Both Nick and Sally contributed to ‘How to build a Passivhaus: Rules of thumb’, which provides quick reference do's and don'ts on on how to successfully build a Passivhaus, including tips on starting simple & embracing constriants. Glazing ratios, form factor, & corner analysis


Playing with numbers

Many claim to have stumbled on Passivhaus as a tool to make buildings work. The Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP)  used to its full capacity can be fiendishly complex and sophisticated, but the beauty of it is that it can also be used as a focused, simple tool at the very earliest stages of design work. It allows you to see immediately in numbers how ‘what-if’s will change the results, making it possible to get the fundamentals, including envelope and orientation, right from the outset.

The PHPP software is initially great for optimisation – and as designs grow more complex, the software becomes a useful compliance tool. A great number of very simple things that can be done with window design that will both reduce cost and improve performance.

How much time do people who work in Passivhaus consultancy and building physics spend iterating details in PHPP? There’s a risk you may not find a return – but when you do, you’ve won big says Nick and Sally who enjoy the process of looking. 


Getting better all the time

Designs driven by constraints imposed by the need to make a building work well can in fact have beautiful results – deep reveals, minimal framing, splayed windows, covered overhangs. The 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards are a great example of what can be done.

Hope View House 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards Finalist Small Projects Old Holloway interior 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards WINNER Small Projects

While for a lot of contractors and clients, they may be learning on a single project, Passivhaus designers and consultants have the opportunity to learn from each project they do – they’re after continual improvement, project by project.

As more Passivhaus schemes are built, and at a greater scale, the industry is learning from design iteration, strengthening feedback loops and enabling open communication both ways. The ideal contractor will for example build a sample panel before getting started on a whole row of houses but very few do. MiSpace at Primrose Park got a special mention from Sally for their engagement with the process.

The discussion on all these questions is continuous in many forums – as a case in point kicked of by Mike Eliasson’s article on ‘dumb boxes’ – pricing a corner. The result of a good shape and corner analysis could be a large cost saving across the whole project – and that saving in turn can allow better performance choices elsewhere, making Passivhaus acheivable at a good price.


Coming up next

The Trust run 2-4 Masterclasses throughout the year. Join us in Leeds on 12 November to discover the latest software developements looking to provide integrated solutions for BIM + PHPP. The event is delivered by the Passivhaus Institute & Glauco Estudio. Spaces are limited and we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment.

BIM Masterclass


Further information

A selection of images: Photo gallery 

Radical simplicity in Passivhaus timber building

Passivhaus for the many not the few

Why we need radical efficiency, radical simplicity and radical sufficiency



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3rd November 2018

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