PassivHaus Working Group

The PassivHaus Working Group (PHWG) has been established by Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt at the Kent School of Architecture in September 2014, involving a team of postgraduate students undertaking original research into PassivHaus. The concept behind the PHWG was developed in the context of a collaborative research project coordinated by Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt at the Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment (CASE) last year. This project was entitled ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the PassivHaus standard in the UK’. It yielded critical insights into the Passivhaus standard and its application in the UK, but also showed that collaborative research enabled students of architecture to develop a technical area of expertise during their Part II. This year the PHWG is an option available to students enrolled on the Module AR546 Sustainable Technology in the Context of Architecture, but next year the students will have the choice of continuing their research into PassivHaus in context of their dissertation.

21 students from the MArch Programme have joined the group this year and currently undertake detailed case studies on selected projects in England, Wales and Ireland as well as investigating some of the broader political, economic and technical issues.

PHWG is divided into sub-groups, each focusing on one of the four main research themes. Group 1 explores the application of the PassivHaus standard or EnerPhit standard to retrofit projects, with a particular focus on the challenges of upgrading the UKs social housing stock and properties in conservation areas. Group 2 focuses on non-domestic buildings, including office buildings, schools and community centres. Group 3 is undertaking a series of case studies on one-off houses, whilst Group 4 investigates how the Passivhaus standard is applied to larger commercial housing developments, with a particular focus on the economic challenges.

For further details please contact:

A reflection on the Passivhaus Project Conference held at Kent on the 27th June 2014

On 27 June 2014 a one day conference was held at the Bulb Innovation Centre at the University of Kent, exploring how the Passivhaus, an energy efficiency standard for buildings originating in Germany, has been adopted in the UK. The event, which was fully booked, was organised by the project coordinator, Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, in collaboration with Emma Lansdell of the EU-funded Environmental Innovation Network at Kent Innovation and Enterprise. The aim of the conference was to disseminate the findings of the research project ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the PassivHaus standard in the UK’ and to engage professionals and academics in a series of cross-disciplinary discussions about the challenges and potential strategies for adopting the Passivhaus standard within the UK. The attendees comprises largely of practitioners from London and the South-East, but also included some of the industry partners that have been involved in the research project continuously over the past twelve months. The event was designed to present the findings of the research to a wider audience and to engage practitioners and academics directly in a series of discussions about the challenges of introducing the Passivhaus standard within the UK.

The coordinator of the research project, Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, gave the opening lecture, which provided an overview of the research project and some of the key areas investigated. The talk also included a reflection on the process of involving a team of students in collaborative research projects and engaging industry partners in the project through a series of workshops and project review sessions. This was an important part of the project, as one of the objectives of the project was to explore how far research projects can be used as a means to establishing collaborations between architecture students, industry, and university-based research. It is part of his effort to establish research and design as two pillars within the sustainability curriculum of the KSA’s MArch programme. Reviewing the process with the external partners,  Dr. Schoenefeldt  found that this model had worked well, but also that it required extensive coordination. The project enabled students, among others, to become familiar with different research methodologies to a high standard, giving research presentations and with producing a peer-reviewed research output in the form of an eBook etc. The involvement of practitioners was found to be particular fruitful  is allowed the research team to develop the type multi-disciplinary perspective that was required to fully understand process by which project teams had adapted in order to successfully implement the PassivHaus standard.

Professor Gordana Fontana-Guisti  from the Kent School of Architecture giving the welcome speech (left) and Adam Nightingale presenting a case study on the Rural Regeneration Centre at Hadlow College, Kent.

Over the course of the day, the team of students who have been involved in the project for twelve months, presented ten case studies in three thematic panels, (1) new housing, (2) retrofit and (3) educational buildings. Each panel was followed by chaired discussions, exploring the significance of some of key findings of these case studies. The case study presentations were followed with great interest and led to a series of interesting discussions concerning the application of Passivhaus principles to new and existing housing as well as educational buildings.

The case-study presentations given by the research students. Starting at the top left: Rosie Seaman (Grove Cottage), Thomas Hayward (100 Princedale Road), Tim Waterson (Camden), Sam Ashdown (Denby Dale), Katarzyna Kwiatek (Disability Essex) and Sam Fleming (Montgomery School)

Philip Proffit from Princedale Housing was the first guest speaker. He gave a talk about the wider economic and cultural barriers from an industry perspective, drawing on his experience with Passivhaus in the UK and Belgium. His focus was on some of the overarching issues, many of which had been encountered in the case studies. Some of the key problems Philip highlighted were (1) a lack of understanding of the Passivhaus standard among architects and the wider public
(2) negative prejudices towards Passivhaus, e.g. airtight boxes in which windows cannot be opened (3) an overly risk conscious and conservative construction industry (housing), reluctant to adopt or develop new methods of construction and the absence of (4) a mature supply chain of compliant components within the UK. He also stressed that architects are required to communicate  the advantages of Passivhaus more effectively, including energy efficiency, ‘comfortably warm and draft-free’ interiors, and  ‘fresh’ indoor atmosphere. The later provided particular benefits to people with asthma. In the second part of his talk he talked about some of the techno-economic barriers in the UK. Criticizing the reluctance of the UK building industry, in particular in the housing sector, to adopt new methods of construction, Philip argued that timber-based construction systems, prefabricated in factories, provide a means to deliver the required standards in a more cost-effective way. Through a series of Belgium and Dutch examples, he showed how these systems provide a means to adapting the PassivHaus standard for a mass market, including the volume house sector or large scale commercial office buildings. He showed that timber-based system are versatile, as they cannot only used in large- and small-scale project, but also for retrofit existing structures.

First guest lecture by Philip Proffit, Princedale Housing, exploring some of the broader techno-economic challenges of low-energy design.

He stressed that the UK are gradually moving towards a fabric first approach, but too slowly.  He stressed that there was a misconception that it would be cheaper to deliver lower fabric efficiency standards, but in reality, he argued, poorer standards can make buildings more complicated and expensive, largely due to the cost for additional backup heating systems required. If a space heating demand of 15 KWh per square meter or less is achieved, research at the PassivHaus Institut has shown, a conventional heating system is no longer required to maintain comfortable conditions. In his talk he included many references to the city of Brussels, where the PassivHaus was made the mandatory energy standard, giving a boost to investment into technical innovation and employment within the Belgium construction industry. This, he highlighted, illustrated the potential role of regulation can play in driving the UK towards significant increases in energy efficiency or investment into deep retrofit measures in the UK. In the discussions following in the afternoon various attendees argued that setting clear mandatory performance standards will be a positive step forward, even if the standard is high, as it would provide the industry with a clear set of benchmark to which it can comply.

The second Keynote lecture was given by Derrie O’Sullivan from Huddersfield, who had experience with PassivHaus in practice as well as education. In his own project he explored how the Passivhaus standard buildings can be achieved using traditional craft skills and methods of masonry construction. Derrie advocated the idea of Passivhaus embracing craft traditions, which contrasted with Proffit’s more industrial approach to building production. Referring to his experience with studio teaching at the University of Huddersfield, he also discussed some of the difficulties with introducing Passivhaus and low-energy design principles into the traditional design studio of architectural schools. One of the problems, he noted, was the lack of appreciation in architecture schools for the type of technical rigor underlying the design of low-energy buildings among design critics or studio tutors, who would evaluate student work on different criteria that are used in architecture school in the assessment of design projects. Taking the attendees through various architectural projects in Germany, he illustrated the variety of ‘architectural forms’ PassivHaus standard buildings can or could take. In the case of the latter, he referred to the Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Diocesan Museum in Cologne, which was not designed to Passivhaus standard, but due its compact form and glazing to wall, could potentially achieve the standard without significant alteration to its architectural form.

Derrie O’Sullivan giving a talk about the Passivhaus in the context of architectural education

The event ended with a final plenary discussion, exploring some of the broader questions raised by the research. One of the big questions that were discussed was whether Passivhaus required a revolutionary or evolutionary approach. Some developments followed the premise that the delivery of low carbon buildings require a fundamental change in technology and the UK construction industry, whilst others explored ways of adapting existing methods. Concluding from this discussion, Paul Mallion from Conker Conservation, stressed that this shows that Passivhaus does not prescribe any particular method of construction. The variety of construction methods used in the case studies covered in the research project illustrated that any mode of construction can be used if the passivhaus principles are rigorously followed. Paul, Philip and Derrie also stressed that it was possible to deliver Passivhaus standard buildings using largely UK skills and suppliers. The current standard of vocational college education in the UK was also seen as a major obstacle, which tend to provide only basic skills and to focus on traditional methods of construction, rather than cover more advanced and modern methods.

It is all about the relationship between the various disciplines involved in the design, implementation and use of the buildings, not only those involved in the design development but also in the construction and use of buildings. Referring to the findings of the research project and his experience with practice in Austria and Germany, Dr. Schoenefeldt argued that establishing stronger links between the education of the ‘designers’ and ‘makers’ of buildings would be an important step towards exploiting the full potential of cross-disciplinary project teams. Various attendees of the conference noted that establishing good project teams is hard work and that maintaining these teams after the completion of a project would allow them not only to delivery projects more effectively but also to further develop their knowledge base and body of practical experience. The latter is particular important in the context of low energy design, where new modes of practices have to developed involving all parties involved. The problem in the UK is that teams tend to be  broke up after each project, despite previous efforts to build a team with the necessary knowledge, experience and skills. All of the projects made apparent the importance of learning from mistakes and openly sharing experience within the wider industry, including the exchange of technical knowledge, solutions adopted in different projects, and the practical insights gained through real-life projects. This, however, was found to requires a major culture shift as practice, being concerned about their reputation and with maintaining a competitive advantage over other practices, tend to be resistant to openly share their knowledge. This illuminated that the UK built environment, if it is to overcome the various challenges with delivering zero-carbon buildings, needs to reengage with the role of collaboration and competition in innovation.

The final discussion panel.

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, 2 July 2014

CASE Launch of PassivHaus eBook

New eBook about PassivHaus has been launched online, based on the findings of a twelve month research project involving practitioners, academic researchers and a team of students from the MArch (stage 5) and BA Architecture (stage 3) programmes.

The UK building industry, compared to their Austrian or German counterparts, has limited experience with delivering the PassivHaus standard, but pioneering efforts over the past eight years to implement buildings of this standard in the UK has provided the impetus for cross-industry collaboration, technical innovation and evidence-based design.

The eBook, entitled ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the PassivHaus standard in the UK’, is based on a collaborative research project coordinated by Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt at the Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment at the University of Kent between May 2013 and June 2014. This project investigated how architectural practice and the building industry are adapting in order to successfully deliver Passivhaus standard buildings in the UK. Through detailed case studies the project explored the learning process underlying the delivery of fourteen buildings, certified between 2009 and 2013.

Largely founded on the study of the original project correspondence and semi-structured interviews with clients, architects, town planners, contractors and manufacturers, these case studies have illuminated the more immediate technical as well as the broader cultural challenges. The peer-reviewers of this book stressed that the findings included in the book are valuable to students, practitioners and academic researchers in the field of low-energy design and will be further discussed at the PassivHaus Project Conference on the 27th June 2014.

The eBook is available for free online here.

CASE and the architects of Richard Dudzicki Associates collaborate in post-occupancy study

The Architect Richard Dudzicki Associates (RDA) collaborates with the Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment (CASE) at the University of Kent in a two year post-occupancy study of a PassivHaus certified property in Camberwell, London. No. 5 Stories Mews is designed as a flexible 3-bedroom house with an artist studio. The study is conducted by MSc and PhD students under the supervision of Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt. A three-month pilot of the monitoring was started in mid-February 2014 with the aim of gathering some initial data on air quality, indoor climate, energy consumption and user satisfaction. The objective of this post-occupancy study is to develop a comprehensive understanding of energy consumption, the indoor climate and air quality and how these are affected by changes in user-behaviour, weather and interior activities. The study covers three main areas, which are (a) energy consumptions, (b) occupant behaviour and satisfaction and (c) indoor climate and air quality. It is based on a methodology developed by Dr. Schoenefeldt as part of his research at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent, which integrates quantitative, qualitative as well as participatory research methods. These include environmental monitoring, electricity metering, interviews, questionnaire-based survey and focus groups. The project has been shortlisted for this year’s green build awards and an outline of this post-occupancy, produced by Dr. Schoenefeldt, has been included in the submission: Stories Mews will be used to test and refine this methodology, which is to provide a model for the post-occupancy evaluation of RDA’s forthcoming PassivHaus projects.

The press release by the architects:

PassivHaus Intercrit

Location: The Crit Space, Marlowe Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NR

Convenor: Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt

Crit Panel: Philip Proffit (Princedale), Patrick Osborne (LeeEvans Partnership), Tanisha Raffiuddin (Passivhaus Trust), Doug Smith(TP Bennett), Bertie Dixon (MaxFordham), Giacomo Chiarani (Kent), Soha Hirbod (Nottingham)


On 22 January 2014, when the research project ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the PassivHaus standard in the UK’ had reached its midpoint, an  intercrit was held to review the current research findings. The review comprised of thirteen presentations, each focusing on one of the case studies. These were reviewed by a  panel of academics, doctoral students and practitioners from MaxFordham, LeeEvans partnership and TP Bennett.  The presentations were divided into three panels, each focused on three main themes: 1. Retrofit – between EnerPhit and PassivHaus, 2. Applying the Passivhaus Standard to UK educational building, 3. PassivHaus as a standard for Housing. A series of lively panel discussions and debrief at the end of the day, revealed some of the overarching themes in the research. While the research over the past six months has focused largely on individual case studies, the review sessions enabled the research team to identify and further explore some of the commons strands. These case studies have highlighted that the delivery of PassivHaus projects was highly dependent on:

1)      a higher degree of collaboration between architects, consultants, clients and contractors. In some cases this lead to the formation of new typology of practice, which unifies the role of the contractor and architect.

2)      education and skill development, including pre-construction training programmes for contractors, is essential to the effectiveness of the Passivhaus projects. In a few of projects, where this aspect had been neglected, problems with quality control were encountered, leading to delays and additional costs. Education of users, not only the original owner-occupier, but when the property is sold on. Architects have to gain a lot of new knowledge.

3)      Knowledge exchange between architects, manufacturers and contractors, between the UK and continental European firms who have already accumulated much of experience with the delivery PassivHaus projects. Most of the projects involved collaborating with partners in Belgium, Austria and Germany. Moreover, the architects who got involved in the PassivHaus project for the first time relied heavily on consultants, assistance of PassivHaus manufacturers and/or on conducting their own research. In some cases architects also engaged in R&D.

”The inter crit gave me the opportunity to discuss the themes I had discovered during my wider research of Passivhaus with industry professionals. This discussion produced a vast amount of feedback and has sparked new channels and interesting areas of debate in my dissertation.”   

Jess Ringrose (MArch Stage 5)

‘The Passivhaus Crit was extremely successful and the guidance attained for our case studies very useful. It is important to trial our arguments and findings with a range of people in associated industries, and the crit gave us this opportunity. Not only was advice offered for our own personal discussions; but much wider and equally relevant topics were opened up as well, broadening both the students and the industry professionals knowledge as well.’

Rosie Seaman (MArch Stage 5)

Passivhaus research project – Call for sponsors

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt is the Principle Investigator of a new research project entitled ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the passivhaus standard in the UK’.

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.

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 Schoenefeldt:

For a full summary of the project please click here.

Passivhaus: workshop launches new research

The principal investigator of the project, Dr. Henrik Schoenfeldt, together with Doug Smith from tp Bennett, held a workshop in Maidstone to kick-start a new research project entitled: ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the passivhaus standard in the UK’. Guest speakers are James Anwyl from Eurobuilt, the architect Richard Hawkes. Three third year undergraduate, 10 post-graduate students from the Kent school of architecture and Tanisha Raffiuddin from the Passivhaus Trust also attended.

The aim of the research project is to conduct an in-depth investigation into the technical, economic and cultural challenges associated with implementing the German PH standard in England through 13 detailed case studies of PH certified buildings completed since 2009. The project will involve a collaboration between academic researchers, industry and post-graduate students. Richard Hawkes (Hawkes architects) Doug Smith (tp Bennett) and James Anwyl (Eurobuilt) have agreed to provide financial and/or in-kind support for the project. Jon Bootland from the Passivhaus Trust has also shown an interest in establishing a research collaboration.

The workshop agenda was:



08.15                            Coach leaves Keynes College bus stop, Canterbury UofK Campus

09.00                            Arrive at Rock House, Boughton Monchelsea

09.00 -09.30                  Continental Breakfast

09.30                            Introduction to workshop by Doug Smith, tp Bennett and Henrik Schoenefeldt, University of Kent

09.45                            Project Brief/Q&A: The scope and themes of the passivhaus case studies

10.15                            ‘The Passivhaus Standards and Design Principles’, by Henrik Schoenefeldt

10.45                            Tea/Coffee

11.00                            ‘Crossways, Staplehurst’ by Richard Hawkes

11.30                            ‘The Contractors View’ by James Anwyl, Director of Eurobuild

12.00                            Panel discussion with Richard and James

12.30                            Site Visit

1.00                              Lunch

2.00                              Brainstorming workshop – How can we apply passivhaus principles to Rock Court site?

3.30                              Tea/Coffee

3.45                              Presentation of workshop findings and critique with Doug Smith and Henrik Schoenefeldt

4.45                              Final Q&A session

5.15                              Leave for Canterbury UofK Campus