- The Victorian townhouse is the first refurbished home in Europe to be awarded the ‘passive plus’ recognition
- Passive house plus means that a house is able to create its own energy as well as costing little to run
- A hidden ventilation system and thick insulation means it stays warm without a central heating system
- A photovoltaic system enables the property to produce 25% more energy than it consumes
From the outside it’s an unremarkable renovation of an already very desirable Victorian semi.
But behind its stained glass windows and period front door lies a property packed with innovations which could represent the future of energy-efficient living.
In fact the stylish five-bedroom house – currently on the market for just under £1million – is so well insulated its developer claims it will have zero energy bills.
Triple-glazed windows and a built-in heat exchange system have removed the necessity for a central heating system, they say, while solar panels on the roof supply its electricity needs.
Woodleigh Villa, in Manchester, is the first passive house to be built in Europe – and its owners will never have to pay an energy bill
The villa, in the trendy Chorlton suburb of Manchester, is described as the first ‘passive house plus’ house conversion in Europe – the only other is in Brooklyn, New York.
As well as costing little to run, maintenance bills have reputedly been slashed as a result of using super-tough materials.
They include paint made from graphene, a revolutionary carbon-based material developed at nearby Manchester University, to avoid cracking and shield against electromagnetic waves, and copper rainwater goods with a claimed 120-year lifespan.
The 125-year-old townhouse, on the market today, comes with hefty £925,000 price tag – and features five huge bedrooms
The house, which features an open-plan kitchen with top-quality German appliances, has been upgraded to be ecologically-friendly
The ‘Passive house’ concept originated in Germany and has featured in Channel 4’s Grand Designs series.
Usually new-builds, the properties are designed to be almost completely airtight, using a mechanical system to draw in cool air for ventilation coupled with a heat exchanger to maintain a constant temperature of 20C all year round.
Featuring pollen filters to help hay fever sufferers as well as humidity controls, the system is routed through chimney void so it doesn’t take up space.
The stunning home is so firmly insulated it doesn’t need a central heating system to stay warm – even in the middle of winter
It also has a hidden central ventilation system which uses pollen filters to control the humidity of the stunning Victorian property
The Manchester house, one of a pair built by local developers Ecospheric, aims to go further by generating more electricity than it uses while retaining the period character of a 125-year-old building.
Currently on sale is Woodleigh, a four-storey property featuring open plan living on each floor and high-end specifications throughout.
It features triple-glazed stained glass windows – said to be a first – plus elaborate cornicing, bespoke mosaics and architectural LED lighting.
The bathroom features gold-plated taps and a floor in Tuscan quartz while the kitchen appliances offer the highest level of energy efficiency and water-saving technology.
But it is the insulation – much of it made from recycled paper – and the airtight design which holds the key to its claim of zero energy bills.
One concession to those who fear they may feel the cold is a wood-burning stove situated in the dramatic second sitting area overlooking the landscaped back garden.
‘With normal usage we expect this house to be making money, and not spending it,’ Kit Knowles, director of Ecospheric, said.
‘We hope we’re learning enough to build homes of the future.’
With 85 per cent of our existing housing stock projected to be here still in 2050, Mr Knowles says retrofitting energy-efficient technology to our homes is essential.
‘It is our only hope,’ he added.
Woodleigh is currently on the market for £925,000 – conventional properties nearby are valued at under £700,000 – while its neighbour is expected to be retained as a ‘laboratory’ to show off the technology.
Even the front of the house has had a makeover in this retrofit – adding mint green accents to its traditional red-brick wall
WHAT ARE PASSIVE HOUSES?
Passive houses are green homes without central heating.
The properties are so well insulated that they do not need a boiler or radiators, saving residents cash and cutting down the use of non-renewable energy.
Heat comes from glazed windows, insulation, sunlight, normal electrical appliances within the home, as well as the occupants’ own body heat.
Excellent insulation means this energy is conserved more efficiently than it would be in a normal home.
Special ventilation units keep the humidity down in winter and protects occupants from a dangerous build-up of air pollution and pollen within the well-insulated home.
The system reportedly cuts heat loss by between 80 and 90 per cent.
Passive houses in Britain could cost just £300 ($390) a year to heat and light – around a quarter of what it costs for a conventional home.
Thousands of ‘passive houses’ have already been built across Germany, Scandinavia, and the United States.
The International Passive House Association is an accreditation body that checks the quality and energy efficiency of a property. Currently, there are over 30 accredited Building Certifiers in operation worldwide for passive houses.
In early 2015, a family home in the village of Ötigheim, southern Germany became the world’s first Passive House Plus.
This accreditation is an even higher accolade than Passive House status.
Passive House Plus requires the property to generate renewable energy itself. This is typically sun and wind energy.
Some of this electricity can be used directly by the building, however, storage capacities are necessary for transferring surplus energy to time periods with lower energy gains.
Temperatures underground are typically rather constant year-round. This is often taken advantage of by Passive Homes as a convenient way to passively pre-heat or pre-cool fresh, incoming air before it enters the building.
On average, passive houses are reported to be more expensive upfront than conventional buildings – between 5 per cent to 8 per cent in Germany, 8 per cent to 10 per cent in UK, and 5 per cent to 10 per cent in the United States.