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The comfort of a passivhaus

It’s always great to hear back from the families we’ve built homes for to learn of their experiences of living in their new Touchwood Homes passivhaus home, and sometimes along side the more obvious benefits, we learn of other, quite unexpected positive aspects of living in a passivhaus too, which have been the inspiration for this month's blog.

The initial goal of building to the passivhaus standard is to reduce day to day running costs like heating and energy use, which we achieve by building the frame from our strong timber I beams, and then pressure fill the cavity with many tons of Warmcel insulation to a super-high density, creating a completely airtight structure.

Other positive side effects to building this way quickly become apparent when living in the home, which combine to create a much, much improved living environment for our clients.

Comfort

Warmcel insulation is pumped in to the wall cavities of Toucwood Homes at intense pressure to a density of 60kg/m3, creating many tons of thermal mass within the build structure. This creates a very stable internal temperature within the home, unlike traditionally built homes wherein the temperature can fluctuate quite dramatically thoughout the day. The MVHR system built into our homes also gently changes the internal air for filtered, pre-warmed fresh air which results in noticeably cleaner air to breath throughout the home as traffic fumes and other pollutants are removed,and so  offer a much improved feeling of comfort and wellbeing, especially for those compromised by health issues such as asthma and allergies.

Clients also comment on the quietness and serene nature of a Touchwood Homes passivhaus. The Warmcel  insulation we use is equally effective insulating against noise pollution as it is in maintaining room temperature, and so when combined with triple glazed windows and air-tight construction method,an acoustic blanket is formed around the entire home. This effect is most noticeable on windy days when you can see the trees blowing around through the windows, but no sound is transmitted through the structure.

MVHR also has a further advantage  in that washing can be dried quickly on internal clothes horses because the MVHR extracts the moisture from the clothes quickly and prevents any condensation build up, so saving the need to use tumble driers in the winter.

Other observations:

  • The internal atmosphere feels calm, quiet, restful, light and warm no matter what’s happening outside.  This is for a number of reasons including the constant supply of fresh warm air from the MVHR system (which runs silently); the significant reduction in external noise due to high levels of insulation and triple glazed windows; and the vast amounts of light through the windows.   
  • No condensation on the inside of the windows or mold in the bathrooms which are a constant in poorly constructed houses
  • Washing dries quickly on an internal airer so that there is no need for a tumble dryer and no lingering damp smell.
  • Cooking smells like curry never linger.
  • The temperature is uniform throughout the home, instead of too hot by the radiators and cooler elsewhere. No huddling around a radiator to keep warm in the winter.
  • The floor does not feel cold under foot in winter so there is no need for slippers!
  • You don’t wake up with a dry mouth / sore throat in winter from having the heating on overnight.
  • No musty smells in the bedrooms when you wake up so you never feel the need to open the windows for fresh air.
  • In high summer when you walk through the front door it feels cool and refreshing.
  • Warmcel acoustic properties mean you can play music loudly and not worry about upsetting the neighbours!
  • Visitors often comments how lovely the atmosphere is.
 

Seasons

A crucial design feature of a Touchwood Homes passivhaus is our detailled attention to solar gain in our design process. In the summer, the high summer sun should be protected from putting too much heat into the building through the use of roof overhangs or external shading, whilst in the winter the lower sun inputs heat into the building on the south elevation.

Clients have often commented the lower winter sun streaming into rooms is something they look forward to, creating more awareness of the seasons without the cold internal temperatures usually associated with the winter season when inside.

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The weekend of Friday 10th to Sunday 12th November 2017 is the Passivhaus open day weekend, where two of our Touchwood Homes projects are open for viewing by the public. The owners will be on hand to answer any questions you may have regarding a self build project, and working with a high quality Touchwood Homes timber frame structure.

To book your visit please follow the links here:

Red Bluff:

http://www.passivhausprojekte.de/index.php?lang=en#d_5283

Bromley Passivhaus:

http://www.passivhausprojekte.de/index.php?lang=en#d_5281

Red Bluff is a Touchwood Homes Passivhaus Plus certified building, whereby to qualify for this level of accreditation, the home must be proven to generate as much energy (via PV/Solar thermal) as it uses; as well as being Passivhaus which means that it is proven to so use minimal energy for running costs.

To view the building over the weekend please contact Ben, the owner, who will be on hand on the day to talk to about the build process and offer his experiences of working with Touchwood Homes!

Bromley Passivhaus is a family home in Bromley designed to blend in with the surroundings street scene, but built with a super insulated air-tight Touchwood Homes timber frame to ensure minimal running costs  

Louise managed the build, initially organising the foundation install prior to the Touchwood frame arriving, and then managing the follow on trades to completion. Our partners at Williams Energy Design carried out the passivhaus certification process and also designed the Touchwood installed PAUL MVHR system for the structure. 

Please follow the link above if you'd like to visit the home - note this is a family home so visits must be booked.

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“Red Bluff” in Weyhill, Hampshire was designed from the outset to meet passivhaus standard, and has in fact exceeded this to be one of just three homes in the UK to achieve the new Passivhaus + standard!

The simple rectangular external form of the home is cleverly detailed to maximise solar gain and summer shading through Aura triple glaze windows. Its construction has been built around Touchwood Homes pre-cut I-beam timber frame structure, with 300mm super-density Warmcel cellulous fibre insulation filling the cavity to the walls, and 350mm filling to the roof. Timber glulam ridge-beams allowed for the first floor ceilings to be vaulted allowing extra light through the windows and creating a feeling of spaciousness to the upstairs.

The home is set on a 400mm EPS slab foundation to complete the insulated layer, with the air-tight layer being made up of our rigid TG fibre board external air-tight system. These factors combined resulted in an air-tightness level of 0.2 ACH!

An air sourced heat pump operates both under floor heating system to provide heating and cooling to each of the bedrooms from a fan coil unit in the loft, which also controls the water heating in an unvented cylinder unit. Roof mounted PV panels provide the bulk of the home’s everyday electrical needs, with future plans to install a Telsa powerwall unit, which would result in the house being largely off  of the national grid.

Performance
 
The home has been occupied by a young family of four for one whole year, and in that time the electricity usage has been approx. 6000kWhrs at a cost of £750.

Total generation from the PV system was 10500kWhrs over the same period, generating approximately £700.00 from FIT payments.

 So effectively the house costs just £50 per year to run!

The efficiency of the super-dense insulation and air-tightness of the build means that the heating system is only required during the winter months, and operates for just a few hours per day at 25 degrees Celsius  to maintain a pleasant house temperature of 21 degrees.

The comfort of living in this environment has to be experienced! Seven – eight tons of super density Warmcel insulation material creates a very stable internal temperature, and also eliminates any noise from outside, so creating a very calm internal environment.

Comments
 
'Our new home has exceeded our expectations. It is always warm and draft free, which is in complete contrast to some of the homes we have lived in! Its great place for us to raise our young family, and a huge bonus not have to worry about ever- increasing energy prices. All houses should be built this way!

 The Touchwood team were a valuable source of information and assistance throughout the build, we are very grateful for their help on our self build journey'
 
Ben Ribbans
Red Bluff, Weyhill
 
Technical Data
 
Certification  - Passivhaus Plus
Timber structure - Touchwood Homes
PHPP work   - Touchwood Homes / Willliams Energy Design
Architectural work - Touchwood Homes / Constructive Individuals
Air tightness - 0.2 ACH
Size              - 215m2
Glazing         - Rationel Aura plus triple glazed, Solarlux SL97 triple glazed bi fold doors 
Ventilation    - Touchwood Homes PAUL Novus 300 MVHR
PV                - LG 10.8kW PV array (3 phase), SMA sunny boy 10kW inverter (3 phase)
ASHP           - Samsung EHD TDS 6kW with 2kW Heating/cooling unit
DHW            - Telford Tempest 300L with 3kW immersion
Controls       - Loxone home automation system
Lighting        - LED throughout

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We've just completed our Wendover passivhaus project!


The  timber frame for this home was put up very quickly to meet the tight deadlines we had been set, and the follow on-trades and window installers needed to take over the site as quickly as possible, however the precision pre-cut system that we use to manufacture our homes ensured that speed of construction was not an issue that would affect the quality of build.

This home features a complex roof shape with a crown roof, hips and dormers, which was challenging to design and build, but we were able to achieve this with minimal use of steel, instead using glulam beams for the crown roof to minimise cold bridging.
Sketch-up image of planned design
The initial design of the home was created by Eco Design Consultants, and Touchwood Homes were contracted to work the concept into an air-tight timber frame structure that would meet passivhaus criteria.

A dilapidated bungalow had stood on the site previously, and nearby houses were a mixture of bungalows and two storey dwellings. This setting resulted in the planning authorities requiring that the new build design incorporate a low ridge height, which Eco Design Consultants achieved by utilising the crown roof feature.

Here are a couple of images of the finished frame work which is now ready for follow on trades with the window installation currently in progress.

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Our Weyhill project has now officially been certified as meeting the new Passivhaus Plus standard - we are one of the first 3 houses in the country to reach this new standard. The Plus standard has the Passivhaus very demanding minimal energy requirements to heat the building, aswell as the house also producing as much energy as it consumes. 

Being Passivhaus, the building fabric requires minimal heating, and the heating system is very efficient. The little energy required for the building is equal to the energy produced on site by the large 10kWp PV roof  mounted PV system.

Our clients Ben and Elle are rightly very proud of their achievement in reaching the new plus standard:

We look forward to building more Passivhaus, Passivhaus Plus, and Passivhaus Premium homes in the future - which are set to become a mandatory EU requirement after 2021.

Check out our photos on Instagram