Friday, 27 November 2015

Exeter Active Passivhaus swimming pool plans to go on show at Public Consultation exhibition

Members of the public are invited to visit the Exeter Guildhall to view plans for the new Passivhaus leisure centre, Exeter Active, at a two day public consultation event next week.

Initial design concept for 'Exeter Active', the first Passivhaus Certified leisure building in the UK

The project will see the current bus and coach park at Paris Street redeveloped to deliver two swimming pools, fitness suite, health spa, exercise studios, café and crèche contained within the UK's first Passivhaus leisure building.

The eight lane pool and four lane learner pool will both have moving floors to maximise their flexibility and accessibility for a wide range of water sports, and there will be an additional water confidence pool for babies and young children to get their first taste of a swimming pool environment.  Based on Building Biology principles, the pools will include modern filtration techniques which minimise the use of harmful chemicals while ensuring that the water quality is well in excess of the average for a standard UK pool.

Designed to the Passivhaus standard, the new leisure centre is expected to deliver a 70% saving on energy usage compared to a standard leisure centre.  This substantial saving, along with the attractive range of facilities, will ensure the profitability of Exeter Active, generating income for the Council to invest in facilities and services throughout the city.

G&S is proud to form an integral part of the Exeter Active design team being: Passivhaus Designer, Building Biology IBN Consultant, Climate Change Adaptation Consultant, and Architect for the external envelope of the building.

The Public Consultation exhibition will take place at Exeter Guildhall on Monday 30th November between 12 and 7pm and Tuesday 01 December between 11am and 7pm.

Gale & Snowden Architects, together with other members of the design team, will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the plans with visitors.  

We look forward to seeing you there!!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

@BristolCouncil seeks Contractor for #Passivhaus Council Homes #passivhausbristol #ecodesign #BuildingBiology

Five sites comprising 23 new dwellings designed by Gale & Snowden will soon be out to tender via the Proactis Portal.

As part of the second wave of Bristol’s New Build Council House programme, the scheme takes previously undeveloped, council-owned sites in the Lawrence Weston area of Bristol and provides a mix of family houses and bungalows of various sizes to meet local demand.

Using a simple palette of robust materials, the design and detailing is common throughout the units to create a contemporary take on the local vernacular and provide a cohesive aesthetic between the sites.  Developing Passivhaus homes as part of BCC’s housing delivery helps to tackle fuel poverty together with further supporting Bristol’s status of European Green Capital 2015.

Proposed Passivhaus dwellings in Lawrence Weston, Bristol

As founding members of the Building Biology Association UK, G&S bring their healthy building approach to all projects through the careful specification of materials and systems.  Exclusive use of organic paints, stains and waxes helps to reduce VOCs and radial wiring along carefully planned cable routes reduces electromagnetic radiation, especially in bedrooms.

The landscape design focuses on key human needs of food, water, energy and shelter in a way that also enhances the natural environment by employing permaculture principles.  It integrates the new developments with their surroundings and creates a sense of ownership and community for its future residents.

Gale & Snowden are able to draw on their experience with Exeter City Council in delivering 41 Passivhaus dwellings for downsizing units and family homes, plus a two-year monitoring project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, which successfully analysed the dwellings in use and compared real time data to design models.  A further 26 Passivhaus units designed by G&S have recently received planning permission for ECC.

Passivhaus Council Homes in Exeter for Exeter City Council by Gale & Snowden Architects Ltd.

Planning permission was granted in September 2015 and tenders will be sought for the scheduled start date of February 2016.

Friday, 13 November 2015

North Devon #Passivhaus Oyster Falls featured in @phplusmag #BuildingBiology #ecodesign

Gale & Snowden Architects' North Devon Passivhaus project 'Oyster Falls' has been featured in the latest issue of the Passive House Plus (PH+) magazine.

The four-bedroom family home, completed in 2013, nestles in its cliffside location with uninterrupted panoramic sea views across Croyde Bay in North Devon, towards Lundy Island and the North Atlantic.

The project is showcased throughout a five page feature in Issue 13 of PH+, a bimonthly publication focused on Passivhaus and Passive House technology.

Project architect and G&S Director, Ian Snowden, was all too aware of the design challenges faced by the project but says that the design team "worked very hard to consistently meet the Client's brief and ensure that environmental and performance parameters were satisfied to stabilise the internal environment, preventing excessive heat loss, minimise overheating and achieve the requisite airtightness.  Combining the desired aesthetic of clean, minimal lines with complex airtight and thermal bridge free details was often very challenging but we were able to overcome the difficulties and the results speak for themselves."

G&S was able to draw on extensive Passivhaus experience and rigorously apply the standard's principles to ensure that the building performed optimally despite an exacting design brief and challenging site.

Construction manager, Eddie Acford of Point 6 Projects, himself with experience of building Passivhaus, says "It's testament to the design really, that a building in such a location with such an amount of glazing and such complexity can work in such a way.  It is really something."

Architect Jonathan Barattini who worked with Ian on the project recalls: "This is arguably one of the most exceptional sites in North Devon.  To do anything other than enable the occupants to enjoy a seamless experience of that magnificent view would do them, the house and the site a disservice."

To view more information and images of Oyster Falls, visit the project profile on our website. Also take a look at similar one-off houses by Gale & Snowden Architects.

Follow us on twitter for the latest updates @galeandsnowden

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Renovation of Victorian house in @dartmoornpa National Park becomes first PHI Low Energy Building in UK #Passivhaus #ecodesign

Westcott House, a large Victorian country residence within Dartmoor National Park, has become the first building in the UK to be certified under the Passivhaus Institute’s (PHI) Low Energy Building Standard.

The new standard is designed to acknowledge projects which have overcome contextual and constructional challenges to achieve some of the highest standards of low energy design in the world.

Gale & Snowden applied a holistic passive design strategy to the renovation and extension of the house which allowed the existing property to be upgraded to a level of efficiency such that a conventional heating system will only be required in times of extreme winter conditions.  At the same time, summertime overheating is avoided and overall environmental impact is minimised.

Extremely high levels of insulation have been added to the existing building, both externally and, where existing stone facing was to be retained, internally, together with high-performance, triple glazed windows and doors.  Rigorous detailing was required to ensure continuity of insulation and airtightness around the building to reduce heat loss and minimise thermal bridging. 

The fabric-first approach was combined with a highly efficient mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery to ensure excellent indoor air quality and minimise heat losses through infiltration.  Low carbon technologies and on-site renewables further contribute to reducing the building’s overall carbon footprint.

Further information about Westcott House can be found here

Monday, 9 November 2015

G&S Keynote Project from UK Passivhaus Conference 2015 Now Online! #UKPHC15 #Passivhaus

Gale & Snowden Architects recently presented one of the keynote projects at this year's UK Passivhaus Conference, on 20th October 2015 at the Business Design Centre in London.

Presented alongside AFLS+P, the live project Exeter Leisure Centre ('Exeter Active') was discussed, focussing on the design challenges faced throughout the project so far.

Initial design concept for 'Exeter Active', the first Passivhaus Certified leisure building in the UK

Gale & Snowden Architects are working alongside a team of consultants (including AFLS+PARUPARCADISLDA Design and Continuum) to deliver not only the first Passivhaus Certified leisure building in the UK, but also the first leisure building to be designed in accordance with Building Biology IBN principles and to be Future Climate Ready. This innovative building is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

The presentation is now available to view online:

More information on the 'Exeter Active' project can be found on Gale & Snowden's recent blog post.

Gale & Snowden additionally presented 'Designing for Cost Optimisation' alongside Parsons + Whittley, also available to view online:

Further information about the UK Passivhaus Conference 2015 (including the full conference programme) can be found on their website here.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

G&S #Passivhaus & #buildingbiology Architects for First UK Passivhaus Leisure Centre in Exeter @ExeterActive @ExeterCouncil #ecodesign

Gale & Snowden Architects are pleased to present the initial design concept for the first Passivhaus Certified Leisure building in the UK. We are working alongside a team of consultants (including AFLS+P, ARUP, ARCADIS, LDA Design and Continuum) to deliver not only the first Passivhaus leisure building in the UK, but also the first leisure building to be designed in accordance with Building Biology IBN principles and to be Future Climate Ready. This innovative building is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

The following article has been written by Creatrix about the project:

Exeter is looking to confirm its place at the cutting edge of sustainable building, with Exeter Active set to be the UK’s first Passivhaus Leisure Centre, delivering an impressive saving of up to 70% on energy costs.

Already home to the Met Office, and with the University of Exeter at the forefront of climate research, the city has a global reputation as a centre of excellence in climate science. Exeter City Council has already built on this reputation by being the first UK Council to develop social housing constructed to Passivhaus standards. It was a logical step therefore for Exeter City Council to choose to apply the rigorous sustainability standard to Exeter Active, the new Leisure Centre planned for the city centre to replace the ageing and inefficient Pyramids pool.

The Exeter Active project team is joined by representatives from the Passivhaus Institute, the German-based home of the Passivhaus standard. The involvement of the Institute in the Exeter Active project will ensure the team is provided with expert guidance on best practice in Passivhaus design for leisure Centres.

The Exeter Active design team also includes Exeter-based Passivhaus architects, Gale & Snowden Architects, specialists in sustainable building techniques. A spokesperson from the practice explained “We have a wealth of experience in delivering Passivhaus buildings, having previously worked with Exeter City Council to deliver the UK’s first Passivhaus social housing. A Passivhaus swimming pool and leisure complex has never been built in the UK before, so we are delighted that the Passivhaus Institute has joined the team to bring their expertise from having worked on Europe’s only Passivhaus pools in Germany. We are working up a design that will deliver a saving of at least 70% in energy consumption over a standard UK leisure centre.”

BREEAM is the usual build standard of sustainability used in the UK, but takes a broad brush approach. In contrast, the Passivhaus standard focusses primarily on the energy demand of the building in operation. As energy usage accounts for over a third of the cost of running a Leisure Centre with swimming pools, the Passivhaus standard will have a substantial impact on the energy efficiency, and by extension profitability of Exeter Active. Jessica Grove-Smith of the Passivhaus Institute said “The Passivhaus pools currently in operation in Germany have delivered impressive results in terms of energy efficiency. As frontrunner projects they are attracting attention from communities worldwide that are looking to apply the concept to their own projects in order to contribute to climate change mitigation and save operation costs."

Gale & Snowden bring more than Passivhaus experience to the team however. They also specialise in “building biology”, a discipline which places health and wellbeing at the heart of the design process. This includes exploring innovative water treatment methods for Exeter Active’s pools to reduce the reliance on harsh chemicals, making the pool environment a more pleasant place to be. The firm’s spokesperson explained “In the UK we tend to focus on aspects like diet when it comes to health and wellbeing, but pay little attention to the impacts the buildings we occupy have on our health. For example, German and Swiss standards for pool water are much more demanding than in the UK, being on a par with drinking water standards. Studies show that in a 45 minute swimming lesson a child can swallow up to a pint of water. It makes sense therefore to strive to make the quality of the pool water as good as possible, minimising the use of potentially harmful chemicals.”

The Exeter Active design team is working up initial designs for the new leisure centre. The complex will include two pools, both with moveable floors to maximise accessibility and flexibility, a 150 station fitness suite, a health & wellbeing spa, flexible studio spaces, crèche and softplay. A public exhibition of the initial plans will be held later in the Autumn. More information about the project can be found at

Exeter Active initial design concept featured in the Exeter Express and Echo, October 22nd 2015
Passivhaus in Exeter
A Passivhaus leisure centre will be a first for the UK, but Exeter City Council has considerable experience with the ultra-sustainable building technique, as one of the first councils in the UK to deliver Passivhaus social housing.

The completion Rowan House and Knight's Place by the Council in 2011 put Exeter at the vanguard of Passivhaus social housing in the UK. Many such schemes have since followed across the country, with councils recognising the benefits of the technique in terms of occupier comfort and greatly-reduced energy usage, resulting in much lower energy bills for the resident.

Exeter City Council has since delivered three more Passivhaus social housing schemes in the city, at Bennett Square (Barberry Close), Brookway (Silverberry Close) and Newport Road (Reed Walk).

Exeter City Council leader, Cllr Pete Edwards, said “We are proud to have led the way on the development of Passivhaus housing in the UK. Exeter has forged a reputation as a global centre of excellence on climate change and sustainability, and it makes sense for us as a council to play our part by applying the most rigorous standards in sustainable building to public sector projects.”

A resident at Knight’s Place, one of Exeter City Council’s first Passivhaus developments, said “I love the fact that the flat is warm all the time and whenever I come in from outside it is always nice and warm unlike any other building I have been in”. Another resident added, “I have never felt uncomfortably hot or cold a single day since moving in”

We are pleased to be working alongside a great project team including the client and consultants, and look forward to developing the design with them over the next few months. 

We will keep you updated as the project develops - exciting times!