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A Victorian home reimagined

The Zetland Passive House is the UK's greenest retrofit and the first home to attain EnerPHit Plus certification in Europe. This  project has achieved a 95% reduction in space heating demand with no central heating system. The aim was to go beyond Passivhaus targets by building the homes in the most ecological way possible without petrochemicals, using only breathable, natural materials, delivering the healthiest, and most sustainable living space.

A laboratory for carbon reduction

The aim for this project was to take a pair of typical ‘hard to treat’ Victorian townhouses and prove it was possible for them to meet the world's highest performance standards set by the Passivhaus Institute, and that this could be accomplished without compromising the buildings heritage. 


The townhouses succeeded in becoming Europe's First Passivhaus Enerphit Plus Homes. Featuring Nobel prize winning super material graphene and a host of world first technologies and unique solutions, the 125 year old properties seamlessly marry the beauty and character of a period property with the world's highest standards of energy efficiency.  

From the street the building looks classically Victorian with its decorative path, finials, 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. Even a world first Passivhaus stained glass solution has been carefully incorporated. 


The modernised rear facade consists of slimline glazing units set in Organowood cladding, angled towards the sun to maximise solar gains. This articulated cladding is “pre-fossilised”, resisting rot and UV degradation for 30 years untreated; just one of many examples of extreme durability. The copper guttering and downpipes are expected to last over 120 years! 


Pushing boundaries and driving technological change is at the heart of this project. Another world first hidden in the roof is Siga Majrex intelligent building membrane. Adopting biomimicry, it uses cactus inspired technology to keep the building fabric dry and airtight. A DHW solution halves typical consumption through a legionella control that enables water to be stored at just 43°C, whilst another world first ‘tank with thermocline control’, halves energy consumption again! The tiny amount of energy required is easily covered by the 11kW PV system.


These exemplar homes are designed to remain comfortable and warm year round without a central heating system, whilst maintaining superb air quality. The team have also exceeded the Passivhaus Institute’s requirements by specifying a petrochemical free building fabric, focusing on natural, breathable materials that avoid harmful off-gassing. 


The properties revolutionise occupants’ lifestyles, with wonderfully comfortable and healthy environments wrapped up in Victorian charm. With Zero energy bills and minimal maintenance costs, they can expect to save £50,000 over the first 10 years of ownership (applies BRE’s standard figures for average annualised maintenance costs). 


The Zetland Passive House project was always intended as a valuable case study that would not only inspire others to follow suit but share vital information on how it can be achieved. Pushing to the world's highest standard has led to the creation of hundreds of techniques, details and products that Ecospheric freely share with the construction community. 


With national media coverage, the homes have become a talking point, initiating discussion amongst building industry professionals. With over 200 architects, policy makers, developers and RSL’s touring the properties thus far and a further 12 months of open days planned, this project is achieving its goal of influencing and spreading sustainable building practices.

The transformation: 
from rental house to Passivhaus

Explore the gallery below to learn about the transformation of the Zetland Passive House.

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