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Starting your PassivHaus project

Wow! The end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 has been busy for us here at Living Space Architects, and despite our best intentions, we could not keep up with the Blog Posts recording Ellen’s progress through the training for the PassivHaus Designer course.

2024 has bought excellent news for Ellen and the team at Living Space Architects, passing the exam with flying colours and confirming Ellen’s status as a fully qualified PassivHaus Designer!

What is PassivHaus?

What does this mean for our clients?

Ellen is now qualified to provide the expertise required to realise your PassivHaus aspirations. Whether you are looking to uplift your project’s eco status, or take it to the next level of comfort with a PassivHaus, we are here to help you.

So are you dreaming of a low energy, high performance, comfortable home with low heating bills? Get in contact to start your PassivHaus journey!

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PassivHaus with Living Space Architects – Week 2

Week Two has focused on solar gains and internal gains.

Solar gains (using the sun to warm up) look at window placement, design, size, and shading. Getting these aspects right will help balance your solar gains (warming up the building) against your heat loss through the windows – windows do not insulate as well as walls.

There are lots of things to consider here – do we want solar shading, where should the shading be, do we want openable windows, do we want blinds, where do we want our windows? Openable windows are desirable, but security, external noise or even just stopping the pets from escaping could stop you! Blinds are helpful in reducing glare and increasing privacy, but internal blinds will not stop the glass itself from heating up, and maybe we want to maximise our views out.

Internal gains refer to everything else inside the building (apart from the heating system) that can warm the building up. This will include how many people are in the building, what type, and the number of appliances in use. The internal gains will change dramatically based on how the building is being used – is it a home, a school, or an office building?

We make assumptions about occupancy and build these into our calculations with a generous buffer to ensure that the comfort of the occupants is maximised while reducing reliance on space heating.

Lessons Learnt

The lesson from this week has been the need to talk to our clients really early to understand how they want to live and work in their homes and PassivHaus projects. Everybody lives in slightly different ways; some people sleep with the window open, some people need complete silence; some have vegetable plots and want extra freezers to store their produce; some families work from home with extensive office setups; some people bought their home for the view, and don’t want to spoil these with blinds and curtains.

So tell us how you want to live, because every detail is important to us and will help ensure your PassivHaus will reflect you.

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PassivHaus with Living Space Architects – Week 1

Week One has been an introduction into the key rules of PassivHaus and a closer look at thermal efficiency, heat loss and thermal bridges. There has been lots of maths involved, but also some really helpful rules of thumb, general guidance, and dispelling some myths!

Thermal Envelope: the SHAPE of the building is important and can be described with a simple Form Heat Loss Factor graph – the more exposed sides, the worse a building performs (but don’t worry – this can be overcome with some consideration of the next rules…)

Glazing: orientation is not everything, consider position, size and shading.

Insulation: how much do you need, what type do you need, and has it been installed well?

Airtight: get rid of those pesky drafts!

Ventilation: using mechanical ventilation to provide fresh air to your home, while also removing pollutants and pollen.

Myth #1: You CAN open your windows in a PassivHaus home – but you don’t need to for fresh air, or to cool down.

Fact: A PassivHaus cannot exceed 15kWh/m2 in space heating in a year. If electricity costs 27p/kWh (2023), how much electricity costs would you save for your home?

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PassivHaus with Living Space Architects

Autumn is bringing change to Living Space Architects.

Our project architect Ellen Sinclair Harris has commenced her PassivHaus Designer training with CoAction to become a certified PassivHaus designer. This means that Living Space Architects will be able to provide our clients with industry leading advice, design, and technical ability to build better, more sustainable and energy efficient homes.

Over the next 6 weeks, Ellen is going to share key aspects of PassivHaus design, enabling everyone to better understand what energy efficient homes look like.

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Transforming a building which transforms lives…

Since our last post on the Salvation Army, the project has made great progress and exciting things have been happening. We are eager to share the next stage of our work, as the team here at LSA have been working hard with their design caps on. From exterior to interior, the design process is now well underway for the redesign of Friars’ Walk.

In our previous post, we highlighted the importance of the building’s history and how the Salvation Army has had a great impact on our society here in Exeter. Friars’ Walk is home to a thriving community, and we believe that the people at Salvation Army are taking the right steps towards the future of this building.

We knew from the outset that the interior spaces required a high-quality design strategy, and we intended each space to bring something new and different to the renovation of this building. This raised a range of considerations, from the function of each space down to the quality of finishes used. The style of design had to be sympathetic to the building’s past, but also needed to enhance and be conducive to modern life. The renovation is partly intended to act as a means of attracting people to use the building, and better appreciate all it has to offer. Opening up the interior spaces allows the building to be versatile, in keeping with its use as a site of varied activities. Below are some of our initial 3D views of the new interior spaces:

Chapel Space looking back on to Entrance Cafe
Chapel Space
Entrance Cafe
New Entrance Area
Basement Area
First Floor Area

First Floor area from double height space

The future is looking bright for Friars’ Walk. We feel privileged to be working with the Salvation Army, and hope that we can offer them something special which will keep their community thriving. This is only the start – so stay on the lookout for updates on what unfolds next!

Extending a small family home with simple techniques and impressive results

This project is the perfect example of a house that really has become a home.

Jill and James McDowell came to us wanting to give their property in Earl Richards a contemporary revamp. Having been in the family for years, they were not prepared to part ways with their wonderful house, but realised it was time for it to be modernised and opened up to make best use of space and the garden- especially with grandchildren now scurrying around.

They wanted to extend the kitchen and link the dining area to the garden, opening up the inside and creating more space and light. As the property was relatively small, we were able to use fairly simple and low-cost techniques to meet these needs in an innovative and attractive way.

“It was great, as we could apply ideas usually used on larger projects and adapt them to this smaller design” said Kirsty Curnow-Bayley, a Living Space Architect who worked on the project.  “We used simple techniques to create really interesting spaces”.


Below you can see the finished work: seamless access to the garden, great views and a pleasant, bright kitchen space within. Jill and James were delighted with the results.


Basic principles for extending listed buildings

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Clients often come to us asking how they might achieve an extension or alteration to a listed building.


This can be tricky project to take on because any works of alteration, extension of demolition to a listed building requires listed building consent. This often also applies to repairs, so it is always wise to get advice from the local authority before carrying out any work.

Most historic buildings reflect the cumulative changes of different owners and uses, however in the past these changes and additions may have been made without the constraints of planning authorities.

Alterations to a listed building can be made as long as they do not damage the significance of the building and its setting.  Given the variety of historic building types and their individual characteristics, what might work on one site won’t necessarily work on another.

Some listed buildings are much more sensitive to change than others, so each case for change needs to be assessed individually to ensure success.


Basic principles for extending listed buildings

  1. The design and construction of the extension should show an understanding of the heritage significance of the listed building and it’s setting.
  2. The design should seek to minimise any harm to the listed building’s heritage value or special interest.
  3. The extension should normally play a subordinate role and not dominate the listed building as a result of its scale, mass, siting or materials.
  4. The new addition should sustain and add value to the listed building’s significance by being of high quality design, craftsmanship and materials.

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