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Burnham Overy Staithe

Location: Norfolk
Completion Status: Occupied and Certified Occupancy: Occupied from Feb 2014
Architect: Parsons + Whittley Architects Consultant: Passivhaus Consultant: Parsons + Whittley, Project Manager: Aecom, Services: Engineering Services Consultancy Ltd. & Total Home Environment
Contractor: E N Suiter Client: Hastoe Housing Association
Certification: May 2014 Certifier: MEAD
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Winner in the Architectural Design Category of the UK Passivhaus Awards 2014. Consisting of a terrace of three dwellings, these Passivhaus units form part of a mixed development of affordable and open market housing on a planning exception site within the North Norfolk AONB, reflecting the local vernacular of traditional fisherman's cottages. 

The houses integrate seamlessly into their context, reflecting the traditional style of local fishermen and workers cottages, with low eaves, a compact form and a respect for siting borne of a long understanding of the influence of climate and shelter from the elements.

The use of  flint, local red brick and clay pantiles help the buildings assimilate into the landscape and gives them a friendly, familiar appeal. The traditional deep reveals and smaller north facing windows required for the Passivhaus standard naturally reflect what our forebears understood about shelter and consequently the scheme had little difficulty in delivering this most modern standard within a traditional context.


An honest masonry construction, with dense concrete block inner skins supporting a 300mm fully filled cavity clad externally with 100mm brickwork (or 200mm flint faced masonry) laid in a light coloured mortar delivered the performance required. Wet plaster delivered the air tightness.

The use of coved eaves presented the greatest thermal bridge challenge, but this was resolved with some high performing insulation. Interestingly the geometry of the massive walls helped maintain the low roofline.

The units are all designed as 2 bedroom houses at 77 m2, and in addition to delivering remarkable operational energy, the building also recieved a Code for Sustainable Homes level 4 rating.

The houses are heated utilising a compact combination unit (no gas available), which also provides domestic hot water. Early monitoring indicates performance as anticipated with heat load hovering around 8 W/m2 to deliver a constant 21 degrees, internal air quality averaging 650 ppm and relative humidity averaging 55%

Tenant induction benefitted from the practice’s previous schemes with a plain English ‘how to’ guide, a ‘learn by doing’ control session two weeks after move in, and subsequent visits to reinforce the lessons learnt.

The North Norfolk coast has a significant proportion of second homes driving housing costs beyond the reach of local people. Hastoe Housing Association’s programme of delivering Passivhaus as a means of addressing fuel poverty in the affordable housing sector has rarely been more appreciated than at Burnham Overy Staithe.

An important message for planners and those involved in delivering our built environment is that the challenging Passivhaus standard remains deliverable without compromising on architectural or design quality.


Further Information

Parsons + Whittley Architects 




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