Step inside Britain’s greenest Victorian house

A pair of Victorian townhouses in Manchester have become the first homes in Europe to achieve the toughest standards set by the renowned Passivhaus Institute.

The 125-year old properties have been newly renovated by eco-consultants Ecospheric and are designed to require no central heating and zero energy bills.

They are also the first buildings in Europe to meet the Passivhaus Enerphit Plus standard.

‘Period semi-detached properties represent a huge proportion 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% 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,’ said Kit Knowles from Ecospheric

Solar PV panels have been installed on the roof to power the home’s lighting and appliances, as well as heat the hot water tank.

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

Hidden in the roof build up, the vapour control membrane not only provides an airtight barrier but adopts biomimicry in using cactus inspired technology to keep the fabric dry.

Dirty hand wash water directly flushes the toilet and outside a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) made from recycled car tyres not only relieves stress on the drains but keeps the drive weed free for life.

A discreet, central Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery system ( MVHR ) cleanses airborne germs and particulates (such as pollen) from the home and controls humidity, helping to relieve hay-fever, rhinitis and asthma.

Carefully selected passive materials such as lime plaster also help to soak up harmful gasses, control humidity and minimise mould. Ecospheric have exceeded the Passivhaus Institute’s requirements by aiming for a petrochemical free building fabric, focusing on natural, breathable materials that avoid harmful off-gassing.

Ecospheric has achieved a pristine period finish on Zetland Road, even incorporating stained glass in a passive house, which is a world first,” said Jordan Fishwick Estate Agents partner, Martina Harrison.

‘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.’

The chief executive of the Passivhaus Trust, Jon Bootlan, added: ‘The properties combine the beauty and character of a period property with the world’s highest standards of energy efficiency and are a great addition to the UK’s Passivhaus portfolio.’

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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