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April 22, 2021 Articles

Cutting carbon in our homes

Mark Barry

Mark Barry
Director, Architype

Mark Barry, Director at Architype – one of the UK’s leading net zero and Passivhaus architects, and Collida Living’s design partner – says that cutting carbon in new and existing buildings is key to solving the climate emergency. But what do we need to do to achieve this?

The construction industry is responsible for 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions and uses over half the world’s extracted materials. Think about that for a moment, how can that be sustainable? The short answer is it isn’t, and if we really believe in protecting the future of our planet, we must act now to ensure the homes we live in deliver the carbon and energy efficiency the world’s climate emergency demands.

We have a real opportunity to make a permanent difference – by putting an end to fuel poverty; and by significantly improving the quality of the homes we build, which for too long have been extremely poorly built, resulting in spaces that no only contribute to global warming, but affect the lives of occupants as a result of mould, draughts or overheating.

When it comes to building design, just enough can never again be good enough.

One of the ways we can address this challenge to our collective future is by adopting, and building homes to the Passivhaus standard – which has been used effectively across Europe for over 30 years. As an architectural practice based on sustainability, we’ve embraced Passivhaus and with 20 certified Passivhaus designers have been designing to it for over 12 years to improve the building performance and energy efficiency of the homes we deliver. We currently have designs for over 1,000 zero carbon and Passivhaus homes in development, each of which will cut fuel bills by up to 90% per home!

A view from inside a Passivhaus with triple glazing.
Triple glazing creating light and airy spaces in an Architype Passivhaus home

But what is Passivhaus and how will it cut carbon in our homes?

Passivhaus is an international energy and comfort standard that radically reduces energy use and carbon emissions. Passivhaus Plus is another version which adds renewable energy such as solar panels to offset carbon and make buildings net zero carbon in use.

Passivhaus was established to tackle the performance gap – the big difference between how simulated buildings perform at design stages, and how constructed buildings actually perform. It is the only sustainability standard that guarantees buildings perform as designed and is a proven route to zero carbon.

An infographic showing the core principles of Passivhaus.

As well as significant energy and carbon emission savings, Passivhaus offers:

  • Comfort, all year round: Passivhaus buildings eliminate large seasonal heat fluctuations through optimised insulation and orientation, meaning that you will not find draughts or hot and cold spots, even if sitting near to windows or doors
  • Increased natural light: triple glazing, brise soleil and carefully sized windows means that rooms can expect swathes of natural light without the usual downsides such as cold spots in winter or overheating in summer
  • Enhanced environment: good ventilation with a constant steady supply of fresh air, low CO2 levels and reduced air particulates, resulting in reduced drowsiness and increased concentration. Passivhaus ventilation eliminates the stuffiness you might expect after a long day and is beneficial in a post covid world. In summer, you can still open the windows to benefit from natural ventilation alongside the fresh air mechanical approach with heat recovery (MVHR).

We are delighted to partner with Collida and Willmott Dixon to create their Collida Living offer – a groundbreaking solution for delivering high quality, affordable Passivhaus homes in any part of the UK. Collida’s flexible kit of parts designs can be easily adapted to respond to the local context, and create outstanding low carbon homes that will be loved by residents who can enjoy the ultra low running costs.

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