Passivhaus education project gets green light

The Habberley Learning Campus will cost £22 million to construct and is part of a significant venture to improve educational facilities in Worcestershire. Passivhaus will be the driving force behind the project. The development will also consist of the creation of a new school and signals the biggest project to date to be taken by the developer in question.

The project, which is a collaboration between Worcestershire County Council’s Property Services and WMCF contractor Speller Metcalfe, includes a special school for 220 pupils, a new science block, an early years teaching block, a residential boarding house and general refurbishment and extension of St John’s Primary. Officials have stated that the site in question, which is already occupied by Baxter College and St John’s Primary School, will be completely renovated and developed to meet the current demands of the education sector. Alongside this, there will be the creation of the new Wyre Forest Special School which will be part of a combined of the three institutes to promote integration and collaboration between the users and a share of facilities.

The standard
The Passivhaus standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s by Professors Bo Adamson of Sweden and Wolfgang Feist of Germany and the first dwellings to be completed were constructed in Darmstadt in 1991. The standard can be applied not only to residential dwellings but also to commercial, industrial and public buildings. This has led to the following functional definition of a Passivhaus. 

“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.”

The heating requirement in a Passivhaus is reduced to the point where a traditional heating system is no longer considered essential. Cooling is also minimised by the same principles and through the use of shading and in some cases via the pre-cooling of the supply air.  Night purging and the use of natural cross-ventilation through open windows is encouraged during the summer months. As well as being an energy performance standard Passivhaus also provides excellent indoor air quality, this is achieved by reducing the air infiltration rates and supplying fresh air which is filtered and post heated by the MVHR unit.

Reducing heat loss
Prof. Dr Wolfgang Feist: “The heat losses of the building are reduced so much that it hardly needs any heating at all. Passive heat sources like the sun, human occupants, household appliances and the heat from the extract air cover a large part of the heating demand. The remaining heat can be provided by the supply air if the maximum heating load is less than 10W per square metre of living space. If such supply-air heating suffices as the only heat source, we call the building a Passive House.”

Passivhaus buildings achieve a 75 per cent reduction in space heating requirements, compared to standard practice for UK new build. The Passivhaus standard therefore gives a robust method to help the industry achieve the 80 per cent carbon reductions that are set as a legislative target for the UK Government. Evidence and feedback to date shows that Passivhaus buildings are performing to standard, which is crucial, given that the discrepancy between design aspiration and as-built performance for many new buildings in the UK can be as much as 50-100 per cent.

David Thain, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Transformation and Change said: “We are delighted that this exceptional project has got the go-ahead from planners. Apart from the benefits the local community will receive, this is a very significant project because of the Passivhaus standards.

Speller Metcalfe secured the contract as part of the West Midlands Contractor Framework. The company beat off competition from a wide range of firms to land the deal and has already spoke of its pleasure at receiving the opportunity to work on this development.

The learning campus will be built in stages to minimise disruption, with work starting on the Primary School first, followed by the weekly boarding unit, the all weather sports pitch, the Science block and finishing with the Special School. The aim is to complete the whole campus by the Summer of 2014.

Further information
Passivhaus Trust -

Passive House Institute -

3D view of plans -


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