Passivhaus Affiliate

Call for sponsors- Passivhaus research project at University of Kent

A new research project, entitled 'Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the passivhaus standard in the UK', has begun at the University of Kent this June. The primary aim of the project, which is based on 13 detailed case studies, is to gain an in-depth and critical understanding of the experiences of architects, contractors, manufacturers and engineers with the adoption of the Passivhaus standard  in the UK. A combination of technical studies and face-to-face interviews with various parties involved in the delivery of each selected buildings will be used to gain insights into specific technical, economic, educational and cultural barriers encountered during the design, procurement and construction stages.

The project, which is co-ordinated by Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt from the Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment, involves a collaboration between industry, university-based researchers and post-graduate students. The Passivhaus Trust joined the project as a collaborator and the project has received direct financial support and/or in-kind support from James Anwyl (Eurobuilt), Richard Hawkes (Hawkes Architecture) and Doug Smith (tp Bennett).

The project is now looking for additional industry partners to provide further financial as well as in-kind support. The sponsorship can be for the whole project or for specific events between £500 and £1000 per sponsor. If your company is interested in supporting the project, please contact Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldth.schoenefeldt@kent.ac.uk


A full summary of the project can be found  below:

The latest report of the Standing Conference of the Heads of School of Architecture, has highlighted that teaching, research and practice in architecture school suffer from too much separation. One of the key objectives of the project is to bridge the gap between university-based research, architectural practice (and the building industry more widely) and post-graduate teaching. This project provides a potential model, by fostering collaboration between academic researchers, post-graduate students and industry. 

Title: 'Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the passivhaus standard in the UK'

Duration: June 2013 to September 2014

Principal Investigator:  Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment, University of Kent.

Compared to Germany and Austria, where extensive experience had been accumulated with the design and construction over the past 25 years, experience with designing and delivering Passivhaus standard buildings in the UK is still comparatively limited. The first certified Passivhaus in the UK has been completed in 2009 and the pioneering buildings completed in the past 4 years provide critical insights into the process by which the Passivhaus is gradually been adapted to the UK context. Various studies have highlighted the challenges of applying the Passivhaus principles, which have originally been conceived and developed for buildings in the continental climates of central Europe, to the design of buildings in the UK’s temperate climate. However, this process of adaptation cannot be fully understood through the study of technical and climatic aspects alone, but also requires research into the economic, educational and cultural barriers. The implications of skills and education, building traditions and technologies are particular important considerations. At moment, for instance, architects and contractors in the UK rely extensively on imported technologies to achieve the Passivhaus standard, and various Passivhaus projects have been delayed and compromised due to the insufficient skills and technical understanding in the construction workforce.

The importance of these issues has also been stressed by Wolfgang Feist in his paper 'What can be a Passive House in Your Region with Your Climate?' He argues that adaptation of the Passivhaus standard in different parts of the world cannot be achieved by the copying of Central European solutions, but requires the development of new technical solutions that take into account the specific economic contexts, skills, materials and building traditions. Yet, these challenges have also provide the impetus for technical innovation, research and skills. Some of the questions to be addressed in this project are:

How were the Passivhaus principles adopted to meet the specific UK context?

How far was the delivery of the projects dependent on imported and skills and technologies?

Have any attempts been made to embrace UK building traditions, materials, technologies? How successful were these and what were the difficulties encountered?

This project aims to interrogate the technical, economic and cultural challenges associated with implementing the PH standard in buildings in the UK through 13 detailed case studies. The first part of the study is a review of the existing literature on the application of PH principles to buildings in the UK, which is followed by 13 selected case studies in England. Each case study will involve detailed explorations of the executed design and the environmental and construction technologies deployed. This is followed by semi-structured interviews with the contractors, clients and architects involved in each scheme. In addition to gaining insights into the design process, the objective of these interviews is to gain critical insights into the experiences of architects, contractors and engineers with the design and construction process, with a particular focus on the challenges encountered during the procurement and construction stages in each of these projects.

Each case study focuses on three main areas.

Part I comprises a detailed study of the executed design and the underlying concepts and objectives. It will cover the following key areas: (a) architectural design (b) construction systems, materials and details (c) environmental technologies and (c) environmental control strategies.

Part II focuses on the design, construction and procurements process. The process is important to gain a critical understanding of the specific approaches used by architects, contractors and clients to adopting the Passivhaus standard in the design, detailing and construction of buildings in the UK. The focus is on the design and technical objectives, methods and tools deployed in the design process and construction stages. The objectives is to gain insights into the specific challenges encountered at all stages of the project. This part of the research will be based primarily on interviews with clients, contractors, engineers and the architects of the project.

Part III is a environmental post-occupancy study, which will be based on interviews with building users and the collection and analysis of measured data of the indoor climate and energy consumption. This data will be used to evaluate the actual environmental performance of the building compared to the predicted performance, both from the point of energy efficiency, thermal comfort and air quality.

25th July 2013


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