Ecomerchant and friends submit entry to BRE Passivhaus competition.

The BRE Passivhaus Competition 2012

Ecomerchant have teamed up with local designers and suppliers to formulate their designs for the “SuberHaus”. The competition is organised by the BRE who aim “to demonstrate that the Passivhaus standard can provide an affordable method of delivering ultra‐low energy social and market housing; whilst also addressing occupant wellbeing, fuel poverty, energy security and wider social and environmental issues.” © Building Research Establishment Ltd. 2011

(Shortlist Judging on December 19th 2011)

The definition of the Passivhaus standard is: “A Passivhaus is a building, for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air.” © Building Research Establishment Ltd. 2011

The “SuberHaus” is designed by 7 members of the Kent based organisation "The Passivhaus Hub".

PAUL MALLION BSc(Hons) MSc(Arch) FRICS -Conker Conservation Ltd

KEITH BOTHWELL BSc MSc Dip Arch RIBA FHEA -University of Kent

MARK SAICH BSc Hons (Env Sci) PG Dip -Green Building Solutions

A RAWLINSON -PCS Consulting Services Ltd

LLOYD BORE -Landscape & Ecology

KATHRYN SIVEYER ­­-BA (Hons) KIAD and double MA (Distinction)

The attractive design has sustainability, simplicity, attainability, and repeatability among its main focuses. Around 95% of all materials used are certified as sustainable products. The SuberHaus has a timber frame structure with a simplistic design to avoid requiring any specialist skills for the bulk of the construction process. The repeatability of the design is achieved using “The Kernel”; details of which will follow at a later date. The design also pays attention to the idea of future proofing. Wider doors can be used to enable wheelchair access, as well as easy installation of a stair lift and adaptability of the bathroom suite.

The SuberHaus design uses a 280mm thick layer of cork fixed to the outside of the timber frame. This leads to the origins of the project’s name, as “suber” comes from the Latin name for the cork oak tree “Quercus suber”. The sustainability of cork, its thermal insulation properties and the potential for reusability were influential when deciding to use the material on the project.


Ecomerchant and Conker Conservation have been collaborating on various projects for over 10 years. Director of Conker Conservation Paul Mallion informed me that he has always found the expertise and flexibility of the staff at Ecomerchant very helpful in realising his projects. They do this, he said by providing sound, impartial advice and a tangible link with the UK/European sustainable building products market.

Building to Passivhaus standards can cost between 5 and 13% more than building to standard building regulations. With estimated savings on heating and fuel costs at over 85% (i.e. for a 3 bedroom house €60 to €80 per year) it begs the question why the Passivehaus standard of building has not been embraced (or even enforced) throughout the building industry already.

Further reading on the Passivehaus standard:

“The core focus of the Passivhaus Standard is to dramatically reduce the requirement for space heating and cooling, whilst also creating excellent indoor comfort levels. This is primarily achieved by adopting a fabric first approach to the design, specifying high levels of insulation to the thermal envelope with exceptional levels of airtightness and the use of whole house mechanical ventilation.”© Building Research Establishment Ltd. 2011

For more information on the competition please click on the link below.

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