Scottish Passivhaus Is Full of Light and Delight

©. HLM Architects

Passivhaus, or Passive House as it is known in North America, is a building concept where there are strict limits on the amount of energy that can be used per unit of area, and also hard limits on air infiltration. It is a data driven concept, and some have complained that their designers care more about data than beauty. One critic wrote:

“Buildings should be designed around occupants. That's who they are for! They should be comfortable, full of light, grand or quaint, they should resonate with our souls. Passivhaus is a single metric ego driven enterprise that satisfies the architect's need for checking boxes, and the energy nerd's obsession with BTUs, but it fails the occupant.”

In response to that statement I present Tigh na Croit, a house in the Scottish Highlands that is most definitely comfortable, full of light and grand, and which certainly does not fail the occupants. In fact, as you can see in Ben Adam-Smith’s video, they are quite pleased.

scottish passivhaus

© HLM Architects

It just won the Rural Category in the Passivhaus awards, run by Britain’s Passivhaus Trust, which have three objectives, which talk a lot more about beauty than BTUs:

  1. To celebrate that small Passivhaus buildings can be comfortable, healthy and beautifully designed.
  2. To demonstrate that the Passivhaus standard can be applied using any type of system or material.
  3. To raise the profile and encourage uptake of the Passivhaus standard within the custom & self-build market.
kitchen scottish passivhaus

© HLM Architects

HLM architects describe it:

The brief was simply to create a quality modern and low energy PassivHaus from which the clients could continue to enjoy their love of outdoor pursuits whilst living in an environmentally responsible, low impact home...
The house comprises generous living space, kitchen and dining room, 3 bedrooms, utility space, cinema room, sanitary, utility and storage space. The living areas face south making the most of views with a small terrace allowing the client to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The bedrooms are then orientated eastwards to capture morning sun. Oversized windows allow internal spaces to connect visually with the landscape and take advantage of the many wonderful views from the site.

In fact, given the climate in the Highlands, I am surprised at how big those windows are. And skylights too! It is heated with an air source heat pump and a wood burning stove and in the bathrooms and en-suite, those electric towel bars do the job.

hallway passivhaus

© HLM Architects

And the next time somebody complains to me that PassivHaus designs are boring and boxy and not very beautiful, I will just show them these photos of this data-driven obsession with BTUs.