17 October 2013

4th UK Passivhaus Conference

The 4th UK Passivhaus conference on tuesday  at Milton Keynes, fantastic range of speakers and wonderfully knowledgable gathering of people in audience and up at the front! Nervous moments for me doing the welcome speech, but soon forgotten in the sheer pleasure of hearing about so much which has happened since last year. I loved hearing Dieter Hertz describing the full range of buildings they are working on, the beautiful museum in Ravensburg, the proposed lawcourts in Bavaria. I enjoyed Fionn Stevenson's reminder of the importance of robust design, and her focus on people as they are in all their complexity is dead right in my view (praps she'll come round to PH in the end...).  It was also great to hear Justin Bere and Marion Baeli giving really detailed feedback on specific projects, and I was sorry to miss all the talks going on in the other room.
I was pleased that we asked the final panel what they had liked most, Thomas O'Leary had inspired all, and training must now be a big focus for PHT

Finally the most welcome visitor of all -  Passivhaus baby Amy - when I looked up from my seat on the platform and saw her sitting in the front row I knew Passivhaus has a great future!
Fran Bradshaw

Marion Baeli with Amy and Andy Simmonds AECB chief executive

Hickling Strawbale House October Progress

Monday was the air test with Paul Jennings, on completion of external render with windows and doors fitted and sealed. We were pleased/ relieved to get under 1 air change an hour. We did some obvious leaks and got about 0.9, now only obvious one is a door which needs adjusting,  Paul thinks we must be looking at disaggregated leakage through the straw and through the roof. So would expect to improve as clay work and warmcell and finishing goes on. 

Just to explain, as people have asked me why we are going for airtight layer on the outside, that using the inside plaster layer would have been really hard to achieve, because of the primary frame, especially the long horizontal beams. We're hoping to get the internal plaster down behind it to cover the straw, but achieving a good airtight surface is unlikely. Also there would be a lot of internal penetrations and with big timber sections with shakes, you can't really guarantee an airtight seal. 

The problem with airtight layer outside is that moisture from inside could condense in the straw where the air leakage points are,  like at eaves for instance.  We think that because the whole construction, walls and roof, is moisture permeable all the way thru, this shouldn't be a problem, and the MVHR will also reduce moisture in the internal environment. But we have fitted the AECB Hygrotrac monitors in the straw so that we can properly observe the performance, and will be using an Intello membrane internally in the bathroom ceiling.

Before that we were finishing the strawbale work. The compression of each section took the longest time, but it is so impressive how firm the straw walls are when compressed. Paul did an airtest for Strawworks, before the render started, to see how the straw was performing. It wasn't the figure results which told us anything, as the plastered tapes at eaves and around windows and doors were not in place, but following the smoke, showed how dense and airtight the straw is when it is well compacted. 

getting clay plaster in under beams inside

rendering ready for metal cill

first floor strawbale work complete and windows in

stair wall

compact foam ready to be placed below cill of door

compression tape after it has expanded

The windows are from Optiwin, which is a German group of small window manufacturers, this one in Bavaria, they were certified at the 2013 International Passivhaus conference, and are very deep timber sections of 150mm, 5 layers but all timber, with larch to outside face. They are installed with 100mm illmod compression tape, which provides some insulation value to the tolerance gap. Then woodfibre board is fitted externally over the frame before rendering with Contega tape to window frame.

Contega tape to reveal

contega tape to base of straw - joint with foamglas

sedge for the ridge

 finishing the straw

first coat render  

The render is now finished and we will be able to take the scaffolding down soon - the building has looked like a wrapped up Christo sculpture for long enough!

An open afternoon in the village brought about 50 visitors at the end of September, an AECB east anglia group visit brought our most well informed visitors of course! and last weekend the local history group visited, now we are looking forward to joining them.

12 August 2013

Strawbale building, hickling, norfolk, passiv house

A special thank you to all the people who have come to help over the last few weeks, great progress!

1 roof rafters in place

2 dormer cheeks craned in
3 foamglass upstand
4 straw arrives - summer wheat
5  so far
fire boarding, taped
7 dressing bales

8 'the pursuader' a very useful piece of equipment
9 Paul Jennings explains!
10 moisture monitors in place
11 monitor with fixed probes
12 compression with car jacks
13 Twisting the hazel stakes in to pin the straw bales together
14 thatcher's fixings and reed thatch

15 thatcher setting out verge

10 July 2013

Honorary Doctorate

Fran Bradshaw was awarded an honorary doctorate at University of Westminster last week. The ceremony took place at the graduation of students of the School of Built Environment, at the Festival Hall.

Hickling, Norfolk, Timber Frame House

A 25 tonne capacity crane lifted the Douglas Fir timber beams from the lorry onto the site.

All the joints and details were designed and cut by “The Timber Frame Company” who are based in somerset. The individual panels and joints were assembled in their workshop, tested and then taken apart to make sure that everything fitted perfectly. More information is available at:


Once the individual beams had been delivered, panels and frames where assembled on the ground and then lifted with the crane onto the site. The joints are traditional  with mortice and tenon joints and  pegged together with oak pegs.

 First Frame in place on day one of the timber frame build

The timber frame build has taken place at an impressive pace, while people seem very laid back. Very experienced TFC carpenters have smoothed the way without any onsite alterations needed, whilst achieving a high accuracy to the original plans.

 Last Sunday was the first open day with guided tours given to the neighbors and local people. There is much anticipation and excitement as to how this building is going to develop. Keep watching this space to see what happens next.

25 June 2013

The Eco-Hub on the cover of Green Building Magazine

In-depth article - 5 pages! - with illustrations and explanations by Junko and Fran.
Thanks, AECB and Green Building!

4 June 2013

inner city bale out

. . . And another great article on the Tottenham straw bale, this time in the Riba Journal's June issue

12 May 2013

Ecohub highly commended at RICS awards

The Ecohub has been 'highly commended' earlier this month at the RICS Award under the 'community benefit' category. Client Paul Ely pictured with awards sponsor at Kensington Palace. The Olympic Park led the awards, so we were delighted that the Ecohub joined such team!