Passivhaus by bere architects the Larch House
Picture: Passivhaus by bere architects the Larch House

A zero energy building (ZEB) or net zero energy building is a general term applied to a building’s use with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. Zero energy buildings can be used autonomously from the energy grid supply – energy can be harvested on-site. The net zero design principle is overlaid on the requested comfort of the building occupant. Generally, the more extreme the exposure to the elements the more energy is needed to achieve a comfortable environment of human use. The development of modern zero-energy buildings became possible not only through the progress made in new construction technologies and techniques, but it has also been significantly improved by academic research on traditional and experimental buildings, which collected precise energy performance data.

The first Passivhaus homes was designed by architects for social housing in Wales, have just been completed during summer 2010, including the United Kingdom’s first zero carbon Passive House design. The two progressive houses are the central features of Future Homes design, a demonstration center for sustainable design development and architectural building construction that is part of the 2010 National Eisteddfod festival of Wales. Architects won a contest In 2009 to design low cost houses which would promote the Passivhaus concept and feature innovative measures for energy efficiency and eco excellence. The competition was a joint initiative by the United Welsh Housing Association, BRE, Blaenau Gwent Council and the Welsh Assembly Government. The houses are now complete and open for visitors at The Works; Ebbw Vale – a disused steelworks which is the site of the 2010 National Eisteddfod.

The new homes design, called The Lime House and The Larch House, are ground-breaking in their approach to sustainability and energy efficiency. Sited next to each other, their energy needs are met by harvesting heat from sunshine via extensive glazing and thermal and photovoltaic panels, and by 2 using heat from the bodies and the electrical appliances of the occupants. Hardly any fossil fuel energy is used and The Larch House generates enough energy from the sun in the summer to fulfill all its energy requirements throughout the year. It is the first zero carbon Passivhaus in the UK.

Pursuant to the sustainable agenda, both houses use locally sourced material and manufactured goods wherever possible. Both houses offer light, airy and comfortable living environments. They have been developed with the United Welsh Housing Association who would like to replicate the innovative features of these two houses in future affordable housing schemes, reducing their tenants’ household energy bills and protecting people from fuel poverty. The main contractor was Pendragon and the timber frame subcontractor was Holbrook.

The ultimate aim is to create a self sufficient community at Ebbw Vale – an exemplar sustainable community for Wales. Led by BRE with the University of Wales at Cardiff and architects carrying out research to help develop the vision, funding has being found for a low carbon research institute at Ebbw Vale based on the Fraunhofer institute in Germany, but with a major focus on timber technologies. As a certified Passivhaus, The Larch House satisfies UK standards ENE 1,2 & 7, and it meets Code 6 in the Code for Sustainable Homes; this the first time that all three top standards have been reached in a single house design in the UK.

Passivhaus in united kingdom the Lime House
The Larch House construction sequence passivhaus in united kingdom
The Larch House construction sequence Passivhaus in United Kingdom
United Kingdom Passivhaus home floor plan
Picture: United Kingdom Passivhaus home floor plan
zero carbon passivhaus by bere architects
Picture: Zero carbon Passivhaus by Architects