In almost every design competition I have covered on TreeHugger, from little garden sheds to giant eVolo fantasies or even Graham Hill's LifeEdited project, I have preferred the runners-up to the winners. I suspect I have been dropped from a few judging panels for being offside so often. The recent UK Passivhaus Awards are another story altogether; these guys just nailed it. We showed winners Lansdowne Drive and Tigh na Croit earlier; here's a look at some of the runners-up, all of which are interesting and worth a look. But really, the judges knew how to pick'em; the winners really pop out from the rest.
Chiswick Eco Lodge
Oh, there must be an interesting back-story to this one; they spend the first 50 seconds of their 2 minute video whinging on about the planning process, the architect complaining that "one time at council, I almost got lynched," the four applications and winning on appeal.
Due to the sensitive location, a creative design was required to obtain planning permission. One of the major challenges was proving to the community and local council that the house would fit into its surroundings, a leafy Edwardian street. To overcome these issues RDA designed a sunken house, placing 60% of the buildings volume underground. This allowed RDA to satisfy the brief provided by the client whilst making the building appear smaller, therefore less prominent from street level.
It's relatively small at 1184 square feet and according to the project sheet, so efficient that it is entirely heated by solar gain; I would not have thought that you could do that in cloudy London. Calling it an "eco-lodge" is a bit over the top too, given that it is an iceberg house 60 percent underground built out of tons of poured concrete. The end result is nice, but I suspect you could write a book about the process. More info at Passivhaus Trust.
Lime Tree Passivhaus
This one is interesting and oh so English; an aging couple moves out of their big drafty Victorian pile and homeowner Jane says "I wanted warmth, I am a very cold creature." So many people in the UK must think that very same thing. It's probably why Passivhaus is so popular in the UK for a generation that remembers feeding tuppence into electric radiators or just freezing.
I like how the house curves around an existing and protected lime tree. It is a lovely, comfortable little home, although the back of it is a little bland, all that brick and no openings.
The curved form of the dwelling, centred around the Lime tree, allows the building to make the best use of the site and positions the tree as the central focus for both the building and the garden. The tree also serves to provide summer shading to the SW elevation ensuring an additional control against overheating. The curved monopitch roof contains an extra wide gutter and leaf protection to ensure that leaf fall doesn’t become a problem.
More at the Passivhaus trust
And see more here on why Passive houses are so comfortable: The three most important things about passive houses are comfort, comfort and comfort.
The Old Water Tower
Tom Gresford has designed a lovely house here with all of the expected features and fittings, nothing groundbreaking, but that's because it is apparently a "spec" house where you don't want to go too crazy.
The Old Water Tower has been built as a commercial proposition to show that a Passivhaus can be a crisply designed modern piece of architecture that eschews the clichéd “hair shirt” approach to sustainable living.
But what bothers me is the lost opportunity: "Unusually for a Passivhaus it is orientated to the west to take advantage of beautiful views over open countryside". And what is it replacing? A TOWER. a big square tower. It would have been so much more interesting to see the first Passivhaus renovation of the tower and oh, what views it would have had. Of course I don't know the whole story here, it may have been falling down, but it could have been a marvellous eccentricity instead of a spec house. Look at some of the water tower conversions we have seen on TreeHugger:
Water Tower Converted Into Superluxe London Home
Stair of the Week is inside an historic water tower
Water Tower Converted into Residence
Water Tower House by Jo Crepain
Old Water Tower is Recycled into a New House