With obsessive attention to preserving and restoring the original fabric of these two Victorian townhouses, and a commitment to shunning petrochemicals and using only natural materials, could this be the most wildly ambitious and sustainable passive retrofit ever undertaken in the UK?
Passive house design is often seen as belonging to the world of hi-tech construction — perhaps unfairly, seeing as it emphasises a good building fabric over bolt-on technologies. Straw-bale construction, meanwhile, is usually regarded as the preserve of only the most committed, do-it-yourself eco-builders. To some these two approaches appear to be chalk and cheese, but in fact they are inherently compatible, and more and more projects are now combining the maths-centred approach of passive house with the extensive use of natural materials. In the first of a series of case studies on passive straw-bale dwellings, Lenny Antonelli spoke to architect Fran Bradshaw of Anne Thorne Architects, who designed and built a straw-bale home for herself in Hickling, Norfolk two years ago — and aimed to meet the passive house standard while doing so, with only a single infrared electric panel as the building’s sole active heat source.
This affordable housing scheme in Exeter not only embraces a suite of healthy and natural materials, but it has vindicated the local council’s embrace of the passive house standard, with many of the units requiring no additional heating whatsoever.
Despite some setbacks, this passive house in Roscommon managed to meet the passive house standard for fairly standard costs — all while emphasising natural materials like untreated timber, cellulose and sheep’s wool.
It’s not often you find an industrial facility that combines low carbon construction with emphasis on natural materials, occupant health and energy efficiency, but Rehan Electronics’ new Wicklow factory is no ordinary building. Lenny Antonelli paid a visit to what must be Ireland’s greenest factory.