Creating a Victorian Passivhaus

Creating a Victorian Passivhaus

A Victorian townhouse in Manchester has achieved the world’s toughest performance standards set by the renowned German Passivhaus Institute.

​Featuring Nobel prize winning super material graphene and a host of world first technologies, these 125-year-old properties outperform 99.9 per cent of new builds – a true showcase of the potential in our heritage buildings.

​Newly renovated by eco consultants Ecospheric, the exemplar homes are designed to remain comfortable and warm year round without a central heating system whilst maintaining superb air quality that alleviates allergies and battles bacteria. Mixing British architectural history with the most advanced and environmentally-friendly materials, the properties revolutionise occupants’ lifestyles.

​ The beautiful copper light switches and hand brushed brass surfaces help to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria within the household and the electrical wiring in the homes minimise electromagnetic fields.

On the modern rear facade designed slimline glazing units set in Organowood cladding are angled towards the sun to maximise solar gains. This cladding is “pre-fossilised” to resist rot and UV degradation and just one of many examples where durability has been keenly considered. The copper guttering and downpipes are expected to last over 120 years.

This project has always been about pushing boundaries and driving technological change. Hidden in the roof build up, the Siga Majrex intelligent building membrane provides an airtight barrier whilst adopting biomimicry; using cactus inspired technology to keep the building fabric dry. The PV panels on the roof not only power the homes’ lighting and appliances but also heat the Mixergy hot water tank – the first in the world with a thermocline control.

One hundred pallets of insulation, predominantly STEICOfloc (made of recycled newspapers), help maintain an even temperature year round and for those unusually long hot summers like the one just gone, a Fakro thermostatically controlled roof light with rain sensor provides effective passive cooling.

The Paul Novus 300 MVHR system maintains fantastic air quality and is supported by CO2 absorbing lime based materials such as such as Mike Wye solid lime plaster and Graphenstone lime based paint. This special paint also contains Nobel prize winning super material graphene which helps prevent cracking because it is 200 times stronger than structural steel.

In the 4m high rear living area sits a Wiking Miro1 wood burning stove, which whilst not needed to heat the property adds a little winter luxury. By drawing its air from outside the property the stove avoids the drafts typically caused by chimneys and exacerbated by lighting fires.

Dirty hand wash water directly flushes the Caroma Profile5 WC and outside the Sudstech drive made from recycled car tyres not only relieves stress on the drains but keeps the drive weed free for life.

“Ecospheric have achieved a pristine period finish on Zetland Road, even ​incorporating ​stained glass in a passive house, which is a world first. From the street the building looks classically Victorian with its decorative path, cast stone steps and ornate porch. The only hint of the wealth of technology within is a subtle copper strip that blends into the traditional Victorian brickwork to disguise a super-insulated sidewall,”  says Martina Harrison MNAEA – Partner Jordan Fishwick Estate Agents.

In the 4m high rear living area sits a wood burning stove, which whilst not needed to heat the property adds a little winter luxury. By drawing its air from outside the property the stove avoids the drafts typically caused by chimneys and exacerbated by lighting fires.

The kitchen, handcrafted in locally grown timber, features hand-brushed brass splashbacks, Welsh slate worktops and A+++ rated appliances.

Other beautiful heritage features include elaborate plaster cornicing and ceiling roses displaying refurbished LED chandeliers, gold plated taps, iron roll top baths and marble floors to name just a few.

victorian refurb
victorian refurb

Kit Knowles from Ecospheric says: “Period semi-detached properties represent a huge portion of the UK’s housing stock, yet they are one of the trickiest formats to upgrade. It’s critical that planners, architects and builders explore and define appropriate methods to tackle them. The UK housing stock of today will account for over 80 per cent of the stock in 2050. New build solutions do not tackle this, it is sustainable retrofit that is critical to meeting the Government’s 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets.”

Martina Harrison MNAEA – Partner Jordan Fishwick Estate Agents adds: “To have the Victorian charm without the maintenance, drafts and bills is the dream! Ecospheric have created something truly special with Zetland Road. What really struck me is the meticulous attention to detail and the simple fact that so many of the house’s features work better than what we consider ‘normal’. All that coupled with no maintenance or bills is a very exciting step forward in technology and we look forward to seeing more properties heading in this direction.”​

​Ecospheric Developments was founded by Kit Knowles; a sustainability consultant with 10 years’ experience consulting in the field and a background in process engineering.

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