Focus On: Swann Edwards

Swann Edwards Architecture has an impressive portfolio of Passivhaus buildings under its belt including the practice’s own purpose-built office.

Innovation is at the core of Swann Edwards Architecture, certified Passivhaus designers with extensive experience in delivering ultra-low energy buildings.

The team is led by director James Burton who has always been passionate about environmentally responsible architecture and became a certified Passivhaus designer in 2014.

The company has designed the first Passivhaus dwelling in Fenland which is currently under construction and due to be featured in Building the Dream on Channel 5.

The property was approved under paragraph 55 of the NPPF which means that a dwelling must be of truly outstanding architectural quality or truly innovative in nature to be granted planning permission. As the district’s first Passivhaus it met that criteria.

Other ongoing Passivhaus projects include a home in Lincolnshire that will use recycled shipping containers and a timber frame dwelling with straw insulation, near Ely in Cambridgeshire.

Burton is also building his own home to meet the standard and the principles were used to design and construct Swann Edwards’ office building which has recently been signed off as meeting the Passivhaus Standard.

The property based on Fen Road, Guyhirn in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, uses the latest in design to conserve resources, be kind to the environment and ensure minimal energy is used whilst always offering maximum occupant comfort.

Positioned to maximise solar gain, to further contribute towards the stable, comfortable internal temperatures, the offices make intelligent use of materials to ensure the construction meets passivhaus requirements.

The building’s walls and roof are constructed utilising 350mm JJI joists, fully filled with Warmcell recycled paper insulation, with Pavatex woodfibre insulation board over. Fixed to this a timber batten system and charred larch cladding supplied by Shou Sugi Ban. Internally the office is finished with charred timber cladding and birch faced plywood.

The appearance of the building was also specifically designed to be in keeping with the Fenland village it is located in.

“We ensured our proposal amalgamated the sustainable design strategies of our five-stage approach and the Passivhaus Standard,” explained Burton. “Yet we also incorporated a contemporary interpretation of a barn development, which is derived from Government and Local Policy, the site, its agricultural location and neighbouring properties.”

The offices have a total floor plan of 206.6m2 with the ground floor and first floor totalling 103.3m2 each. The first floor comprises two studios and balconies, while the ground floor houses a spacious meeting room, reception area and staff facilities including a staff room and kitchen.

“We became a passivhaus certified practice in 2014 but we really wanted to demonstrate the value of the architecture to clients. That’s why, when we were looking to move locations, it was natural for us to design and construct our own passivhaus offices,” said Burton.

“The results have been brilliant. One of the easiest ways for us to demonstrate how effectively the Passivhaus building conserves energy is by showing the difference in temperatures indoors and outdoors. In November 2017, for example, the first real cold spell of winter saw the temperature outside drop to -1°c. Without any heating on, the temperature indoors was still a comfortable 21°c.”

Windows installed according to Passivhaus guidelines ensure condensation does not form inside the building and the offices reap the benefits during the summer months with the inside temperature remaining at 25°c in June 2017 when outdoor temperatures reached 35°c.

“Last year’s summer showed the dramatic difference a Passivhaus construction can have at any time of year. The temperature inside remained stable, even without the building’s louvres, night vent or mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) being used.”

The MVHR system delivers high rates of air changes throughout the building all year round which means fresh air is continuously provided and filtering out pollens and contaminates from the air.

“Our office is bordered by a very busy trunk road to the north and agricultural fields to the south, so we have both high pollen count and high exhaust fume emissions and our filters when we take them out are extremely dirty, showing that the MVHR is doing a great job to improve air quality in the office,” explained Burton.

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