What is Passivhaus? L&Q Energy director Robin Feeley explains

Posted 20 July 2016 by Keith Osborne

WhatHouse? speaks to a developer expert on what the Passivhaus name stands for and what it means to new homes buyers...

The term Passivhaus can be spotted from time to time when reading about new homes, and it is still seen as a benchmark by by which many eco-homes can be judged. But what is it exactly? We speak to Robin Feeley, a director of L&Q Energy, about what Passivhaus is and how his company is applying it to a range of UK new homes.

So Robin, what exactly is Passivhaus?

It’s a standard of building property, residential and other types, which originated in Germany over 20 years ago. It is ‘fabric-based’, meaning is works by using improved materials to achieve its energy performance.

What are the benefits of Passivhaus?

A Passivhaus home is very air tight (more than 17 times the air-tightness of an ordinary home) so it can carefully manage the amount of fresh air needed and how it requires heating or cooling. Using less energy to heat/cool a home means reduced fuel bills and is also a step towards tackling fuel poverty. It is also a very quick build, meaning less time on the building site, as things are built to the standard in a factory.

You recently launched your first Passivhaus homes – what is that development?

L&Q unveiled a range of one- and two-bedroom homes at Manor Lodge in Penge, which is now 100% reserved. We are looking for accreditation for Passivhaus for future developments and the standards form an excellent set of principles which we can apply to properties we build in the years ahead. This first project offered Shared Ownership homes and reinforces their affordability by helping the owners lower their fuel bills as well as their ecological footprint.

Do residents have to change their living habits to get the benefits of Passivhaus?

With Passivhaus, you can live how you like – it’s not a prescriptive standard, you can open windows in the summer if you want, you don’t have to keep everything shut – in fact, cross-ventilation in warm weather is positively encouraged by the Passivhaus standard.

The real benefit comes in the winter. While there is a manual on the system, and while some people move in who are very keen on energy efficiency, most just want to live in it as a home.

Are Passivhaus homes expensive?

They are quite premium properties, but comparable with anything built to the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. If more Passivhaus homes were built, it would drive down the price.

Is L&Q planning more Passivhaus homes?

There is nothing in the pipeline just yet but we want to make sure we get it right. This means making sure that all the relevant people are happy with the design before we go ahead.

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