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Erne Campus

Location: Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Completion Status: Complete June 2021 Occupancy: Occupied since September 2021
Architect: Hamilton Architects, Mullarkey Pederson Architects Consultant: Semple McKillop, WYG, Bennett Freehill, MosArt Architects
Contractor: Tracey Brothers Ltd Client: South West College & Department for Economy (NI)
Certification: Passivhaus Premium, 2021 Certifier: MosArt, Passivhaus Academy Ireland
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2023 UK Passivhaus Awards WinnerPeople's Choice WINNER in the UK Passivhaus Awards 2023. This pioneering Northern Ireland curved campus is a world-leading exemplar acting as a carbon cutting beacon to its students & the wider community. 

Erne Campus has been certified to Passivhaus Premium standard and generates four times more energy on-site than it uses. It is the world’s first educational - and currently the largest – Passivhaus Premium rated building, and the first UK building to achieve both Passivhaus Premium and BREEAM Outstanding accreditations. It is also one of 26 UN Centres of Excellence for High Performance Buildings around the globe.


Following successful development of the award-winning CREST Pavilion in 2015, South West College took the opportunity to make a business case to target Passivhaus Premium as the next progressive step in its campus development. The completed Erne Campus displays best practice for public buildings, set against the backdrop of targets to reduce carbon emissions and future policy.

Performance of the new building contrasts sharply with the former hospital on the site, representing a radical reduction in energy use, emissions and running costs. Based on PHPP, heating energy demand is some 95% lower, saving the College at least £54,000 a year in heating bills alone. 

Key stats

  • Build start date: 2018

  • Completion  2021

  • TFA: 7,167m2

  • Form factor: 0.6

  • Construction costs: £3,500m2

  • Certification: Passivhaus Premium, 2021

Erne Campus, Image credit: South West College


Erne Campus accommodates 800 full-time and 2,000 part-time students along with 120 staff and the project acts as a living educational tool for students. The need to consider the numbers of users of the building and their electronic equipment was a key challenge in meeting Passivhaus Premium standard. As well as South West College offering Passivhaus Designer and Passivhaus Tradesperson courses, an Academy was set up with the contractor enabling students to study in a ‘living learning laboratory’. The Campus accommodates educational tours and workshops for local and international groups. Ideas in the pipeline include an International Passivhaus Summer School to deliver training in partnership with others. 


Image credit: Erne Campus, South West College. Quote:


Barry McCarron of South West College describes a cultural shift in thinking that has been driven by the building’s development, stating that it has really provided a culture change to the organisation against the backdrop of a climate emergency.  Erne Campus will act as a beacon and source of inspiration for building designers everywhere in delivering on much-needed dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from the built environment. It is South West College's aim that the building will have a real legacy feel, with many initiatives already underway as part of the project.

 Key Stats Build start date: June 2018  Completion & certification: June 2021  Occupied from: September 2021  TFA: 7,167m2  Form Factor: 0.6  Erne Campus, Image credit: Hamilton Architects



The Erne Campus building comprises a 200 metre long, 20 metre high crescent-shaped design, that is four storeys high. The building was constructed as two independent structures, incorporating a movement joint at their connection. The design included a large, multi-storey atrium along one side, with a south-facing, triple-glazed façade. A main frame of steel is combined with timber-framed wall elements. The north elevation is highly insulated timber framing externally-clad in brickwork and coloured fibre cement panels. 

A thermal bridge-free building envelope was aimed for and all details have been thermal bridge mitigated. Fabrication connection details included thermal breaks wherever the envelope was penetrated  (e.g. walkways, brise soleils, structural support) to avoid thermal bridging. There is just less than 4.5 km of thermal bridge accounted for in PHPP and all thermal bridges have a better Psi value than 0.07 W/mK.

Educational and training of construction personnel was prioritised and all construction workers working on the project received Passivhaus training. 

Erne Campus, minimising thermal bridging

Overall U-values

Floor: 0.25 W/m2K             

90 mm insulation

Wall: 0.13 W/m2K

240 mm insulation

Roof:  0.15 W/m2K  

140 mm insulation

Window 0.7 W/m2K

Windows g-value 0.41


During the construction phase we set up an academy with the main contractor Tracey’s, and already this has had a real influence on the degree students who will graduate from this programme later in the summer. We are also working on concepts such as an International Passivhaus Summer School, where we can deliver training and provide a true world class experience with it in partnership with others.

Barry McCarron, South West College

Construction site at Erne Campus
Erne Campus construction site, Image credit: South West College
Erne Campus. Image credit: Hamilton Architects  Erne Campus, Steel Frame. Image credit: Hamilton Architects  


Building performance 

Designed energy performance

Airtightness (≤0.6 ACH @ 50 Pa) (Actual)

0.36 ACH @ 50 Pa

Thermal Energy Demand (≤15kWh/m².a)

8.4 kWh/m².a

Thermal Energy Load (≤10W/m²)

9.14 W/m²

Primary Energy Demand (≤120kWh/m².a + heat load factor)

42.49 kWh/m².a

Primary Energy Renewable Generation (PER ≥120kWh/m².a)

115.7 kWh/m².a

Overheating % (≤ 5%)



On site generation and consumption at the Erne campus was significantly increased for the high demand of power consumption within the campus. The roof has significant capacity 3400 m2 to allow a solar photovoltaic system (520 kwp) which will provide a renewable energy generation figure of 120 kWh/m2/a. The solar PV panels cover an area the equivalent of nearly 14 tennis courts. There is 460 kWh of battery storage in the design that will allow for reasonable amount of short-term storage.

Monitoring data from October 2021 – September 2022

  • Average Temperature over the year: 21.88°C
  • Average CO2 levels over the year: 480ppm


Ventilation & summer comfort strategy

The south-facing atrium acts as a thermal buffer to the low north-facing teaching spaces. The ventilation strategy is mixed mode, employing both mechanical and natural ventilation systems. Heat can be purged by stack ventilation, with automatically-opening windows at low level and roof level.

A brise soleil and 5 metre roof overhang provide shading. Cooling is undertaken using automatic opening vents in the façade and exposed internal concrete soffits to minimise large temperature peaks.


Running cost comparisons

The original campus used 152 kWh/m2/year in 2018, burning over 100,000 litres  of heating oil which cost approx. £51,000 pounds, the equivalent of £100,000 today.

Image: Erne Campus, South West College, Padraig McAlister. Quote:

The new heating system is a combination of a bio-oil micro CHP unit producing 80% of the heating energy demand and 100% of the domestic hot water (DHW) demand; and an air-to-water heat pump providing the remaining 20% of heating energy demand. The PHPP projected costs of the heat demand for the new campus is 8.4 kWh/m2/year and assuming a price of £0.29 per kWh. Total cost to heat the Erne Campus is £17,461 per year.


Original Campus

New Erne Campus

Heat demand/ year

152 kWh/m2/year

burning 100,000 litres heating oil

8.4 kWh/m2/year

Heating costs/ year


in 2018 - The equivalent of £100,000 today


This represents an annual saving of £84,539 or an 83% saving for the college.

Extrapolated over 25 years this is over £2 million in cost savings.

Erne Campus, Image credit: South West College

Lessons learned 

  • Delays caused by the Covid pandemic were a huge hurdle to the realisation of the project. Working in partnership with other suppliers/service providers and early planning and co-ordination were vital to the success of the project.
  • Using as many Passivhaus certified components as possible to save time and energy.
  • Balancing heat gains and losses in relation to the overall volume of the building was a key challenge. Resolving any issues through design recalculation.
  • The importance of monitoring construction progress using photographic records.
  • Airtightness trials were carried out during construction to test design and workmanship at various interfaces.
  • Excess summer heat was avoided by 3D modelling. Installation of correct amount of glazing to achieve the required U values.
  • Treated floor area calculations were critical.
  • Thermal 3D modelling was crucial to identify thermal bridges, particularly in the structural steel frame, allowing modification of the design to eliminate thermal bridges.
  • Financial control, change management, cost profiling and life cycle costing were key drivers to finishing within budget and timeline. 

Airtightness strategy at Erne Campus

Key team

  • Client: South West College,  Department for Economy (NI)

  • Architect: Hamilton Architects, Mullarkey Pederson Architects

  • Main Contractor: Tracey Brothers Ltd

  • Consultants: Semple McKillop, WYG, Bennett Freehill, MosArt Architects

  • Structural Engineer: White Young Green, Albert Fry Associates

  • Certifier: MosArt, Passivhaus Academy Ireland

Erne Campus. Image credit: South West College

Despite the many challenges, the project was finished on time and within budget, achieving  Passivhaus Premium and BREEAM Outstanding accreditations. Congratulations to all the team involved in the design and delivery of this world first Passivhaus Premium. We hope it will inspire and help spur urgent transition to achieving net-zero within the built environment.


PHTawards2023: Erne Campus poster 2023 UK Passivhaus Awards: Erne Campus presentation


"The project sets a new standard for educational buildings across the globe in terms of energy efficiency, year-round comfort, and indoor air quality."

Tomas O'leary, Passivhaus Certifier


Erne Campus occupants. Image credit: Hamilton Architects



Further information

Erne Campus

Previous PHT story: UK's First Passivhaus Premium certified - 22 June 2021

Previous PHT story: Progress on the UK's 1st Passivhaus Premium - 17 July 2019

Previous UKPHC19 presentation: The Erne Campus – The UK's 1st Passive House Premium – 2019

Passivhaus Plus & Premium

Passivhaus for Educational Buildings

2021 Passivhaus Student Engagement


2023 UK Passivhaus AwardsBack to 2023 UK Passivhaus Awards