Passivhaus Affiliate

Students develop Passivhaus designs

Students on the Sustainable Building Performance & Design programme at Oxford Brookes University are developing Passivhaus designs for a site in Milan, as part of the 2019 Passivhaus Student Competition, sponsored by Tarmac.

Oxford Brookes students visit Milan Passivhaus Student Competition

The site is currently the Biblioteca del Alberi, or ‘library of trees’, one of the largest parks in Milan, situated in the business district of Centro Direzionale. Central Milan is lacking in green spaces, which are highly valuable for quality of life and reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Students found that Milan, having a climate with large variations in temperature from below freezing to above 35°C, poses interesting challenges in terms of thermal comfort. Buildings in Milan require energy for both heating and cooling, which could be mitigated with super-insulation and airtightness used in Passivhaus design.

Brookes students combined elevation

Combined site elevation

Below are three Passivhaus proposals showing the students varied responses to the site:


Katie de Silva sketch - Piazza Sotto Terra

Piazza Sotto Terra - Katie de Silva

The proposal retains existing green space while creating an underground open-air piazza, surrounded by earth-sheltered cafes and restaurants designed to Passivhaus standard. A moss-covered bridge extends the park, encouraging pedestrian movement into the site from the city centre, whilst absorbing air pollution. Re-opening the underground canal will aid passive ventilation and cooling. The increased footfall will draw public attention, providing inspiration to locals and tourists, and promoting the idea that truly sustainable developments can also be exciting architecturally.

Casa Eredità - Jessica Cansian

An EnerPHit retrofit proposal for a traditional multi-storey residential Milanese building aims to tackles lonliness by bringing together the elderly and young students. With the whole building lifecycle in mind, the design will focus heavily on material use, energy and operational efficiency, health and quality of life. Utilising courtyards for cooling strategy, and repurposing brick envelopes from derelict Milan buildings into pre-assembled façade modules provides a considerable reduction in construction carbon footprint while bringing historical character from day one.

Refuge for Rejected Refugees - Pranamee Nath

Proposed Passivhaus shelters for refugees with a rejected status, accompanied by restaurants served by rooftop urban farming, run by the refugees themselves. The site is one of the busiest hubs of Milan and remain crowded with locals as well as tourists, and hence plays a very vital role for the project. Providing a platform for the refugees that live otherwise as invisibles, to show their potential and prove that welcoming refugees is worth it! Designing the units to Passivhaus standard will maintain comfortable & affordable indoor environments throughout the year.


New this year, the competition has an open category. If you are currently studying at any UK University, and have a Passivhaus design, you can submit to the competition too. Use the poster submission templates and send your entry to to apply is 31st May 2019.


Further Information

2019 Passivhaus Student Competition




Never miss UK Passivhaus news by joining the Passivhaus Trust mailing list                                                                                              Follow us on twitter @PassivhausTrust

11th March 2019

< Back To News