Costly ultra-eco house in Wirksworth gets council go-ahead

An example of a house built to the Passivhaus standard.
An example of a house built to the Passivhaus standard.

A Derbyshire council has agreed costly plans to build an ultra-eco, affordable house in Wirksworth.

The home will be built using the Passivhaus standard, which is a German form of development that focuses on being as energy efficient as possible.

Such a striking, modern and minimalist form of construction is substantially more expensive becasue of the extra work which is required.

But Derbyshire Dales District Council has agreed to free up £350,000 to push the plans forward, covering the cost of the ultra-eco house and the retrofitting of an existing house in Wirksworth.

The retrofit will include improvements to insulation to keep energy bills down and reduce emissions.

Once complete, both houses will be marketed as affordable homes. It is expected that they will be rented rather than sold, so that they remain in circulation and will always be attainable for less well-off residents.

Both homes will also allow energy bills for those most in need of cheap upkeep-costs to be kept as low as possible.

The development is to be carried out by Wirksworth Community Land Trust and affordable-homes firm Waterloo Housing, which is now part of the Platform Housing Group. Both will be in partnership with the district council.

Such is the cost of the Passivhaus style of housing that Isabel Cogings, the district council’s rural housing enabler, says most schemes “struggle to be viable”.

However, district councillor Mike Ratcliffe, who represents Wirksworth, said that the scheme would help the council meet its climate-change aims, along with providing affordable housing.

He said: “This will be an exciting project which will be the first of its kind in the Derbyshire Dales.

“It will be a model that should provide a template for future affordable-house development that, hopefully, can be used for further building.

“I am extremely grateful to Derbyshire Dales District Council and Platform for backing this project and accepting the challenge to go against market trends with a 21st century housing design.”

Coun Ratcliffe hopes the homes can achieve similar prestige to the renowned, award-winning Goldsmith Estate in Norwich.

The Goldsmith development, comprising, 105 council homes was awarded the Stirling architecture prize last month by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for its design and environmental benefits.

The estate was hailed by RIBA’s judges as “high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form”.

At a district council meeting, Coun Ratcliffe said: “These homes will be completed to the very highest standard.

“We will have something we can point to and to say: this is our best. It will be money well spent.

“No, it will not give us the numbers of houses, but it will give us something we should be aspiring to.”

Coun Ratcliffe also hopes other developers will mimic the project and incorporate energy efficiency into all of their proposed schemes.

The Passivhaus standard is driven by air quality and comfort. A Passivhaus building is one in which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling fresh air flow. More than 65,000 have been built across the world.