Richard is our resident Sustainability Specialist and a certified Passive House Consultant. Shortly before joining LEDA in 2018 he built his own Passive House, where he lives with his young family. The house features in the Passivhaus Trust‘s annual open days.
How did you get into Passive House?
In my work, it has always been important to me to do something that is very technically interesting – I always wanted to be an engineer or scientist and worked as a Chemical Engineer for around 14 years before moving into my current work area. I’ve also always had a desire to do something that was making a positive difference.
My journey towards Passive House started in 2011 when out of an interest in reducing my own greenhouse gas footprint I was researching low energy building techniques at Ecobuild and saw Professor Wolfgang Feist speak about Passive House.
A career break from BP provided the perfect opportunity to build my own house. I had been a member of the Centre for Alternative Technology and the AECB (Association for Environment Conscious Building) for some time and completed the AECBs Carbonlite Retrofit course to deepen my knowledge of low energy buildings. When we decided that creating a new building was the best option for us, I chose the Passive House standard as it is recognised internationally and focused entirely on energy rather than trading off one aspect of sustainability against another as standards like the Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM allow – while passive house doesn’t cover everything required for a holistically sustainable building, it is a very robust standard in terms of energy use and therefore forms a solid basis for a sustainable building. It also covers comfort, health and wellbeing which was another key consideration for me. Another interesting aspect for me is that Passive house standard is bespoke to the geographical location of the building – it takes the local climate into account. You may not expect overheating to be much of a problem in the UK, but summer comfort is very much core to the standard as well as winter comfort, so we design the building ventilation strategy for winter with mechanical ventilation with heat recovery and with mixed mode ventilation (using both mechanical ventilation and window opening) in summer, to ensure a comfortable temperature is achievable all year round.
While delivering the project, I decided to undertake Passive House Consultant training through the AECB, so in addition to achieving a house certified to the Passive House Classic standard, I became a Certified Passive House Consultant enabling me to help others to create their own low energy buildings. I joined LEDA a week after moving into our finished Passive House!
Why Passive House for LEDA?
In terms of the business, LEDA are one of very few consultancies offering both Passive House and Building Services design in the North of England, which makes us quite unique. Our Passive House offering brings a benefit to all our engineering work; by considering PH standards and embodied carbon for the whole life of a building we incorporate sustainability at the heart of all our building services design. In more and more of our projects we are able to apply Passive House principles to develop designs that are better than building regulations require, whether certified to Passive House or AECB building standard or optimised for the clients’ specific priorities.
On a personal level, family is hugely important to me, and I like to spend time with my young children. Working for LEDA in a part time role allows me to do that, along with undertaking a role that makes a positive difference in terms of sustainability and the environment. LEDA are a great organisation in terms of the support they offer to enable that balance in terms of part time working, flexible hours and support for sustainable travel choices. Looking forward, we are expecting to move from Covid-19 homeworking to a hybrid working arrangement and this balance will enable interaction in the office and remote working, offering flexibility for the organisation and the individual.
Being part of a workers cooperative enables all members of the LEDA team to contribute to shaping the future of the organisation.
Where would you like to see our Passive House work developing?
I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work on more fully certified Passive House projects (we have several in the pipeline). I have carried out lots of work since joining LEDA using Passive House principles, from non-certified near-Passive House new builds to deep retrofits, and we’ve self-certified projects to the AECB building standard, but we’d like to work on more Passive House certified projects as the involvement of the third party certifier really tests all the assumptions and checks that quality is being achieved. Having worked with the UK certifiers, I appreciate the benefits that certification brings to a project, both from the client’s and the design teams’ perspective.
I’d also like to see LEDA winning more large-scale Passive House work, both in terms of larger residential schemes and non-residential. Working on bigger schemes will enable us to have a much greater impact than doing one house at a time.
What’s your favourite Passive House Project?
I love my own house and we get a lot of compliments on it including everyone from neighbours to delivery drivers and of course our Passive House Open Days visitors, but my favourite project is our deep retrofit in SW London which has taken a rather higgledy-piggledy-looking extended bungalow and turned it into an attractive modern pavilion style house.
What would you say to anyone considering Passive House for their project?
Choose an energy standard right at the start and model the building before you develop the design for planning permission. An energy standard is not something you bolt onto the project after planning, that is just a missed opportunity.
Don’t rule out certification, it is not just an extra cost, it has significant benefits in quality assurance and will help the design team to focus on producing the highest quality building for you. It may even save you money if you take better design decisions because of it.
What’s the best thing about living in a Passive House?
Comfort and Health – we never have to worry about it being too cold, or too hot. The house self-regulates really well and with a few simple adjustments to behaviours to take advantage of the house’s features (i.e. opening windows) the house is a real pleasure to live in. With a constant supply of filtered fresh air the house never gets stuffy, and the humidity is always maintained so that we don’t get any condensation and the risk of mould growing is really reduced.