Su­per-ef­fi­cient home is ready for any­thing win­ter can throw at it

Geoff and Kate Tun­stall have spent six months in their new su­per-ef­fi­cient Pas­sivhaus, but does it live up to ex­pec­ta­tions? Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WITH just a sin­gle ra­di­a­tor to heat the whole of their three­bed­room de­tached house, you might ex­pect Geoff and Kate Tun­stall to be wor­ried sick about win­ter.

But the cou­ple can’t wait, and far from fran­ti­cally stock­ing-up on ther­mal vests and woolly hats, they’re ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing icy blasts and freez­ing tem­per­a­tures.

“Bring it on,” says Geoff, who is keen to see how their pi­o­neer­ing eco home will cope with the cold.

The Tun­stalls moved into the su­per-in­su­lated prop­erty in Denby Dale, near Hud­der­s­field, six months ago and the signs are they will be as snug as two bugs when it snows. They’ll also be free from the bur­den of gi­gan­tic gas and elec­tric bills.

The lack of radiators, no fire, and wa­ter that is mostly heated by so­lar pan­els means their gas bill for the last quar­ter was £46 and more than half of that was a £27 stand­ing charge.

The gas use­age for Au­gust cost just 53 pence and for Septem­ber £1.32, which ac­counted for cook­ing and back-up when the sun hadn’t suf­fi­ciently heated the wa­ter.

The elec­tric­ity bill for the last quar­ter was £61, but pho­to­voltaic pan­els gen­er­at­ing en­ergy mean the Tun­stalls are el­i­gi­ble to claim the Govern­ment’s feed-in tar­iff of £700 a year, which rep­re­sents a profit.

While the re­new­able tech­nolo­gies help, the suc­cess of this house is mostly down to the de­sign and con­struc­tion.

It is the first An­gli­cised ver­sion of the Ger­man Pas­sivhaus, com­bin­ing Bri­tish ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion tech­niques with Ger­man technology.

It works on a sim­ple “tea cosy” ef­fect and re­lies on clever de­sign, ori­en­ta­tion to­wards the sun, care­ful con­struc­tion and in­su­la­tion three-and-a half­times greater than re­quired by Govern­ment build­ing reg­u­la­tions.

No draughts can get in and no heat can leak out of the build­ing, but the air is never stale, thanks to a me­chan­i­cal heat re­cov­ery ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem that brings in fresh air from out­side, warm­ing it us­ing 99 per cent of the heat from the out­go­ing air.

The Green Build­ing Com­pany in Hud­der­s­field sug­gested the de­sign and built the house with the help of a Ger­man com­puter soft­ware pack­age to en­sure al­most com­plete air tight­ness and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

Project man­ager Bill Butcher says: “You can buy a prepack­aged Pas­sivhaus from Ger­many, but the ma­te­ri­als are com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“They use solid wall pan­els and stick poly­styrene in­su­la­tion on the out­side of the house.

“They don’t fit into the lo­cal streetscape here, builders here aren’t fa­mil­iar with them and plan­ning can be an is­sue.

“This Pas­sivhaus is the first to be built us­ing Bri­tish con­struc­tion meth­ods with block­work, a cav­ity wall and stone cladding.

“We use the Pas­sivhaus method­ol­ogy but we have built in the English ver­nac­u­lar, which is a first. You can vary the de­sign as long as you ad­here to the prin­ci­ples.”

He adds: “What’s im­por­tant is de­tail­ing be­fore­hand and qual­ity con­trol on site. Ev­ery­thing has to be mon­i­tored from be­gin­ning to end to make sure there are no gaps, no leak­age or draughts.”

The three-bed­room prop­erty, built in the gar­den of the Tun­stalls’ Vic­to­rian cot­tage, cost about £141,000 to build.

A Pas­sivhaus costs about 20 per cent more to con­struct than an av­er­age new-build be­cause of the at­ten­tion to de­tail, but prom­ises a 90 per cent re­duc­tion in fuel bills.

Warmth gen­er­ated from the sun through win­dows, body heat and cook­ing is usu­ally all that is needed.

The idea is to max­imise heat gain and min­imise heat loss, so the York­shire house is highly in­su­lated and has triple-glaz­ing with large win­dows on its south fac­ing front and small ones at the cold, north-fac­ing rear of the prop­erty.

Any gaps are min­imised dur­ing con­struc­tion and in­su­la­tion has to be con­tin­u­ous. Any ar­eas li­able to set­tle­ment cracks are sealed with spe­cial air tight­ness tape to pre­vent cold air seep­ing in.

There are no plug sock­ets on the out­side walls and no lights in the ceil­ing, so the en­ve­lope and in­su­la­tion bar­rier isn’t punc­tured.

Both Mr and Mrs Tun­stall and the Green Build­ing Com­pany are hop­ing that the York­shire Pas­sivhaus will pro­vide a blue­print for the fu­ture of green house­build­ing in Bri­tain.

“I think the Govern­ment is start­ing to take note and I think Bri­tish de­vel­op­ers are start­ing to wake up to it, too. I’ve had lots of small builders ask­ing me about it,” says Geoff.

The Green Build­ing Com­pany has just launched “Fu­ture Pas­siv”, a short 10-minute doc­u­men­tary which makes the case for Pas­sivhaus as a stan­dard for all UK new builds – and even for the re­fur­bish­ment of ex­ist­ing build­ings.

Pre­sented by broad­caster Pen­ney Poyzer, Fu­ture Pas­siv fea­tures the Denby Dale project

She says: “Pas­sivhaus is a proven tech­nique which shows that it is en­tirely prac­ti­cal and fea­si­ble to aim for build­ings that use 90 per cent less en­ergy than our cur­rent stan­dard for build­ings. If the UK is to achieve mas­sive re­duc­tions in car­bon then it is es­sen­tial that we tackle the built en­vi­ron­ment. Across Europe, build­ings ac­count for 60 per cent of car­bon emis­sions. I be­lieve that Pas­sivhaus can slash those emis­sions now.”

There is also a 60-minute tech­ni­cal film for build­ing pro­fes­sion­als, cov­er­ing all stages of con­struc­tion.

But most per­sua­sive of all are the en­thu­si­as­tic guinea pigs, Geoff and Kate.

“We’re wait­ing to see what win­ter brings, but so far this house has sur­passed all our ex­pec­ta­tions,” says Geoff.

“It’s not just en­ergy-ef­fi­cient, it’s a lovely, com­fort­able house to live in.”

The Fu­ture Pas­siv doc­u­men­tary and Denby Dale Pas­sivhaus tech­ni­cal film are freely avail­able to view at Green Build­ing Store’s web­site www.green­build­ing­store.co.uk

SNUG FIT: Geoff and Kate Tun­stall at the Pas­sivhaus in Denby Dale.

EN­ERGY-SAV­ING: The Pas­sivhaus is the first of its kind to be built us­ing Bri­tish con­struc­tion meth­ods from its orig­i­nal Ger­man de­sign. Its in­su­la­tion and so­lar pan­els slash en­ergy bills.

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