Living in balance with the Natural World: Oak Frame Passivhaus

Spacious kitchen Photo credit: Joseph Holder

A planning consent story from the perspective of Ecoarc Passive House Architect, Andrew Yeats:

It was a stipulation of Dr Garnett’s that his home would not compromise between the most ecologically friendly design and the convenience of conventional modern living; that it was essential that it achieve the highest standards in both areas. The house is not just designed for the couples needs at their current stage of life, but for all the stages of their life cycle. There was to be adequate space for living, playing, food production, laundry etc, in an environment to be heated and ventilated throughout the day and night at minimal financial and environmental cost. At the other end of life, future-proofing, the downstairs floor planning design would allow for disabled living with minimal adaptation; once again with affordable 24/7 heating and ventilation. Between these extremes, we also took into consideration opportunities for low energy sustainable living supported by design features such as bicycle parking and access to local amenities by foot and bicycle. Even then, at the outset, the couple were planning for a vegetable garden on site that would reduce the need for bought produce and reduce the travel miles of the produce consumed.

Glazing to the rear floods the house with light Photo credit: Joseph Holder

Much conventional traditional housing in the UK is very poorly designed in terms of energy conservation and ecological awareness. Most houses are poorly insulated and consume unnecessarily high levels of energy (usually from non-renewable sources) and at the same time produce high levels of waste and pollution. Such energy consumption occurs initially when the building is constructed, continues throughout its life time (through the fossil fuel resource demands of use, repairs and renewals) and extends beyond its removal because its demolition wastes then have to be accommodated elsewhere. For Dr Garnett’s project, we proposed a sustainable approach in line with many of the Scarborough Borough Council policies relating to physical, social, economic and sustainability issues. On a broader level, the proposals for the project also supported several other policies and statements including the following:

  • The UK Government’s ‘Communities and Local Government’ national planning guidance for sustainable development.
  • The UK Government’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol and additional target to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% of the 1990 level by 2012.
  • The Royal Commission on Environment Pollution recommendation to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% of the 1990 level by 2050.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific assessment and recommendations to act.
  • The UK Government’s ‘Code for Sustainable Homes ‘recommendations for Level 6 carbon neutral homes.

Spectacular views towards the coast Photo credit: Joseph Holder

The proposed house needed to be a low carbon, eco-dwelling within a traditionally scaled envelope. It needed be a low embodied energy, super insulated, Passive House construction. Most of the space heating was to be from passive solar gain, heat generated by the occupants, domestic electrical appliances and heat recovered from the mechanical ventilation system.

Resources consumed in and during construction were vigorously considered, and used as efficiently as possible, so that the resource could be reused or recycled without creating carbon emissions, pollution or rubbish. This awareness of the cyclical nature of the eco-systems offered a demonstration of a sustainable way forward in which we the couple would live in balance with the natural world.

This joint project from Oakwrights & Ecoarc, was very much led by the vision of the self-builder Dr Garnett and is currently being considered for several awards. Look out on the Oakwrights Social media platforms for updates.

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