ORA’s Journey to Passivhaus

Passivhaus Homes at Gauldry for Kingdom Housing Association

Passivhaus journey at ORA Architects started over 15 years ago when we had the opportunity to work with forward thinking clients who were willing to invest time and effort in numerous pilot projects that explored low-energy design. These included investigating a fabric first approach using various forms of Modern Methods of Construction and the integration of multiple renewable technologies. Our development has included obtaining Certified Passivhaus Designer accreditation in 2010, followed by the successful certification of two Passivhaus homes in 2010 and 2012. One of which was the first certified, rented, Passivhaus social home in the UK. Back then very few had heard about Passivhaus and even less had the experience of designing and building one, let alone two. Now, with the ORA Passivhaus designed Gauldry development nearing completion, we will be one of the very few Architects in the UK that have designed a certified (tbc) Passivhaus Development.

“A Passive House is a building, for which thermal comfort (ISO 7730) can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air.”

Progress at Gauldry is going well and the development is now in its latter stages of the construction phase. With airtight testing completed and tremendous results being reported we are now compiling the “site evidence” before submitting to the Passivhaus Certifier. This new 30 unit Passivhaus development, sits on the southern fringe of Gauldry, a small village in the north-east of Fife. The proposals include amenity bungalows, cottage flats and semi-detached family homes, all designed and constructed to certified Passivhaus Standard. Acting as Architect and Passivhaus Designer for the project, ORA were able to confidently lead the design process and advise the contractor on site specific matters. Careful consideration of orientation and overshadowing was needed so that solar gain is optimised, whilst at the same time responding to the topography and local context. In this case, the density, height and massing had to respond to the site’s juxtaposition between village and countryside. The house types were based on standard layouts used by Kingdom Housing Association and allowed the Contractor to compare the cost and programme of a standard project and a comparable Passivhaus project. This assists in assessing the suitability and viability of future Passivhaus projects. Integrating technologies such as the Mechanical Ventilated Heat Recovery System (MVHR),  Air Source Heat Pumps and Photovoltaic Panels has enabled a Net Zero Carbon solution to be attained.

As certified Passivhaus Designers, ORA have experience designing to Passivhaus standards on both private and affordable dwellings. We have also designed and obtained planning on larger Passivhaus projects such as the Care Facility at Flitwick for Central Bedfordshire Council. This development, which includes 88 independent living apartments, a 72 Bed Care Home and a Specialist Care Facility, is currently on site and due to be complete in 2024.

To design and construct a single Passivhaus certified building is a challenge but to deliver a successful Passivhaus development requires a new level of strategy and understanding of Passivhaus principles. We are in an enviable position and by working with like minded clients, contractors and consultants we have continued to learn and hone our skills, all of which we share on the next project. This allows us all to continue on our Net Zero Carbon journey.