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Old Holloway

Location: Little Birch, Herefordshire, HR2
Completion Status: Complete 11/2017 and Certified 10/2017 Occupancy: Occupied 07/2017
Architect: Juraj Mikurcik Consultant: Alan Clarke, Nick Grant, WARM
Contractor: Self-build, Mike Whitfield Construction Ltd (shell) Client: Private
Certification: November 2017 Certifier: WARM
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2018 UK Passivhaus Awards WINNER small projects category sponsored by Ecology Building SocietySmall projects WINNER in the 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards. A seductively simple self-build utilising an innovative pre-fabricated straw-bale/ timber construction. Perservering through a 4 year planning process, the single storey detached home sits snuggly within its rural surroundings.

The proposal creates an informal courtyard utilising the existing huts on site and the dwelling – an arrangement that is typical for the local area. The scale and massing of the simple single-storey detached dwelling, with pitched roof and south facing verandah, is sympathetic to local vernacular architecture.


The house is cut in to the existing ground, minimising visual impact of the building on the site, neighbouring properties and wider landscape, whilst working with the existing site contours. Orientation of the house is perfect due south, maximising the far-reaching views.

This is the first UK application of Ecococon timber/ straw prefab panel system. The prefabricated system is a certified Passivhaus component, and allowed for rapid and accurate construction. The external walls were erected in three days and the house watertight in four weeks!

Old Holloway
Old Holloway in the snow Old Holloway
Old Holloway straw Old Holloway

Materials include exposed self-finished (sealed) concrete slab, self-finished clay plaster walls, charred timber cladding from local cedar and corrugated metal roofing which was local and very economical!


Key Stats

  • TFA: 95m2

  • Gross External Area: 123.5m2

  • Form Factor Ratio: 4.6

  • Construction: timber frame/ straw prefab system, insulated concrete slab

  • Heat Sources: Space heating provided by a 4kW woodstove, two bathroom towel rails linked to DHW cylinder. DHW provided via a cylinder with integral ASHP. 10 and 15mm pipework from cylinder to taps.

  • Occupants: 2 people + 1 dog

Old Holloway site analysis 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards Finalist Small Projects 


Energy Performance

Old Holloway

A Netatmo system measures CO2, internal and external temperature & relative humidity. Actual heating demand based on 1m3 of burnt wood over the winter heating season (assumed calorific value 1800kWh per tonne and weight of 500kg/m3 timber) 9.5 kWh/m2/a.


A simple and robust detailing and airtightness strategy has been adopted. The large south roof overhang, in combination with simple manual external blinds to south facing bedroom and east/ west windows provides a simple way of minimising the risk of overheating. Every space has an openable window which can be left open on tilt-in overnight. Exposed concrete slab helps moderate peaks of temperatures (but night purge essential as this is a double-edge sword!) A Zehnder Comfoair 160 MVHR with automatic summer bypass provides sufficient ventilation. Monitoring during the first year confirmed 0% overheating as defined by PHPP.

Old Holloway interior 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards Finalist Small Projects

Old Holloway 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards Finalist Small Projects Pop Up

Lessons Learned

  • It was a challenge creating a modest, affordable, high performing family home fit for 21st Century - Re-evaluate how much space you really need.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and seek advice from others
  • Proud of achieving a healthy, non-toxic palette of materials on a tight budget
  • Build what you can afford
  • Enjoy the process


Further Information

Old Holloway blog

All images ©Juraj Mikurcik


2018 UK Passivhaus Awards WINNER small projects category sponsored by Ecology Building SocietyBack to the 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards



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