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  • Writer's pictureLaurence Becker

The Sheds: Charting the Birth of the UK's First Passivhaus Premium Home - Part 1

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

I'm Laurence Becker, a residential architect driven, like many, to leave my mark on the world. My journey took an intriguing turn in 2017 when I decided to delve deeper into my craft. Drawn by the fascination of Passivhaus principles, I enrolled in the BRE Passivhaus designer course—a rigorous two-week exploration into the intricacies of Passivhaus design.



Building Research Establishment
Building Research Establishment Image credit Atelier73 Architects

The culmination of this immersive experience was a challenging exam that probed our grasp of the physics behind the notorious Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP) spreadsheets.

 

Regrettably, exam nerves and a slight math hiccup marked my initial stumble, closing one door to Passivhaus certification. Undeterred, I swiftly pivoted toward the second option: the ambitious task of designing and certifying a Passivhaus.

 

Enter Duncan, the catalyst for my next chapter. As we engaged in conversation, he unveiled his project, igniting a spark within me. The prospect of not just designing a Passivhaus but contributing to the inception of the UK's first Passivhaus premium home was an opportunity I couldn't resist. Excitement permeated our inaugural meeting at Duncan's London townhouse, where discussions about fees, contracts, and the roadmap ahead set the stage for an extraordinary collaboration.


 

It wasn't until I reunited with Duncan in London a month later to review the plans that the magnitude of the challenge truly sank in. The original architect had woven intricate structural feats into the design, and Duncan's layout adjustments added another layer of complexity. Yet, rather than discouraging us, these hurdles fuelled our determination to create something extraordinary.

 

Almost succumbing to second thoughts, I hesitated for a moment—after all, it was just me diving into this ambitious endeavour. But Duncan's persuasive charm and my love for a good challenge prevailed, propelling us forward.



The Sheds Maquette
The Sheds Maquette image credit: Atelier73 Architects


Navigating the uncharted waters of this ambitious endeavour, we recognized the importance of strategic division of duties. Playing to our strengths became our modus operandi, and as the one tasked with completing the construction drawings, I naturally gravitated towards supplying the data essential for modelling the property in the PHPP. This involved meticulous considerations of U-values, thermal bridges—essentially anything pertaining to the building's construction. Meanwhile, Duncan took the helm of the technology and renewable energy aspects. This division allowed me to zero in on my expertise, ensuring a harmonious workflow.

 

A quick glimpse into the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP): once you master its intricacies, it proves surprisingly user-friendly—well, at least in the realm of conventional houses. However, our project, as you'll soon discover, is anything but ordinary. The PHPP doesn't demand advanced computer modelling skills; instead, it beckons for meticulous data input about the building. Think of it as building by numbers, where every detail contributes to the intricate puzzle of creating a truly exceptional home.


 

As I stand on the precipice of this architectural odyssey, Part 1 has laid the foundation of our pursuit—a journey ignited by passion, shaped by challenges, and fuelled by innovation. But the narrative doesn't end here; it merely pauses, awaiting the unveiling of Part 2.


In the upcoming instalment, we delve into the art of unravelling design quandaries. Brace yourself for a deep dive into the intricacies of crafting the UK's first Passivhaus premium home. From structural acrobatics to the delicate dance of materials, Part 2 promises a captivating exploration of the solutions that breathe life into our architectural vision. Join us as we navigate the labyrinth of choices and unveil the blueprint for an extraordinary dwelling. The journey continues, and the best is yet to come.




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