Friday, 6 December 2013

G&S Passivhaus affordable homes featured in Devon Life Magazine

Bevan House, 9 Passivhaus dwellings designed by Gale & Snowden for Exeter City Council, are featured in the December 2013 issue of Devon Life magazine.

The development features:

Super insulation and thermal bridge free design
High performance triple glazed timber windows and doors
Air tight design achieving 0.5 ac/hr
93% efficient MVHR
Thermal mass design providing inter-seasonal internal temperature stability
Designed to meet Lifetime Homes standard, Code 4, Secured by Design, optimum daylight levels throughout
Bevan House is currently being assessed for Passivhaus certification

Purely through passive design elements, the new flats at Bevan House will use approximately 75% less heating energy when compared to a standard UK building (2010 Building Regulation requirements), making it truly affordable for its tenants without compromising on comfort or indoor air quality.

Bevan House will provide exemplary, affordable housing, built to the highest standard of energy efficient construction.  This project shows again that we can successfully target fuel poverty and combat climate change at the same time.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Grand Designs Zero Carbon Cob Passive House

One of our projects recently featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs.  More information can be found at the following links:

Kevin McCabe Ltd.
Build Something Beautiful

Grand Designs

Kevin McCabe Ltd master cob builder based in Devon approached our building physics and engineering department to assist with developing the thermal, energy and mechanical strategy for his new cob building project Dingle Dell.  The Dingle Dell project turned out to be grand in every sense.   Local planners had stipulated that the scheme should not only be outstanding in its design and architecture but also be environmentally sensitive and must achieve code 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.  Two of the key elements of the code 6 requirement was that firstly it be totally zero carbon not just in regulated emissions from heating and hot water but also from non regulated emissions including appliances and sockets - all power.  Secondly that it achieve a heat loss parameter (HLP) of 0.8 W/m², a level currently only being achieved by the Passivhaus low energy standard.  As we are experienced in dealing with natural materials in building design our role was to investigate and advise on how the HLP could be achieved with a cob building. 

Working with the project architects, Bedford and Jobson, we assessed various fabric and window U-values, thermal bridging and different air permeability and ventilation strategies before finally arriving at the most appropriate solution for the scheme to achieve the HLP.  The zero carbon requirement was quite a challenge due to the size of the property so a high mix of renewable energy technologies was required.  We investigated the mix of water and wind turbines and PV technologies and assessed them in conjunction with other technologies such as biomass, heat pumps, MVHR and solar thermal to determine what was required to achieve the zero carbon requirement.   The final result being a truly grand design cob house that is totally zero carbon and who's energy performance rivals that set by the Passivhaus Institute - the first of its kind in the world.     

Wire frame image of 3D thermal model.

Due to the high levels of insulation required and the high levels of south facing glazing for winter solar gain our physics department then carried out a 3D thermal modelling simulation exercise using IES software of the design.  Thermal modelling enabled us to determine natural ventilation strategies to limit any potential summertime overheating.  We modelled and thermally assessed the cob mass and how effective it would be at stabilising temperatures.  We simulated stack ventilation and cross flow ventilation strategies.  We also carried out a 3D daylight modelling assessment to ensure that daylight levels would be appropriate when using triple glazing or even quadruple glazing in thick cob walls. Due to the added requirement of insulation these cob walls were thicker than normal.  

In addition to these services we also provided the Code for Sustainable Homes assessment developing the code 6 strategy and provided a specialist thermal bridging assessment of the scheme.   This is a remarkable project that we were happy to have played an integral part of.  

Gale & Snowden provide mechanical engineering and building physics services to architects, designers and construction professionals.  These include:

  • Thermal and carbon modelling
  • Passivhaus design consultancy
  • Low energy mechanical engineering
  • Renewable energy engineering

Full information about these services can be found on our website here.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Opening ceremony for ground-breaking development in Exeter

Bevan House was handed over to the client and tenants at a ceremony today with Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Hannaford and Sovereign Housing Association.

The affordable housing flats are part of Exeter City Council's plans to provide more quality housing accommodation in Exeter that are affordable for the occupants to run.  The development was designed by Gale & Snowden Architects and Engineers to Passivhaus principles and were built by CG Fry & Son Contractors.

Image: Jonathon Bosley Photography courtesy of CG Fry & Son

Image: Jonathon Bosley Photography courtesy of CG Fry

The development features:

Super insulation and thermal bridge free design
High performance triple glazed timber windows and doors
Air tight design achieving 0.5 ac/hr
93% efficient MVHR
Thermal mass design providing inter-seasonal internal temperature stability
Designed to meet Lifetime Homes standard, Code 4, Secured by Design, optimum daylight levels throughout
Bevan House is currently being assessed for Passivhaus certification

Purely through passive design elements, the new flats at Bevan House will use approximately 75% less heating energy when compared to a standard UK building (2010 Building Regulation requirements), making it truly affordable for its tenants without compromising on comfort or indoor air quality.

Bevan House will provide exemplary, affordable housing, built to the highest standard of energy efficient construction.  This project shows again that we can successfully target fuel poverty and combat climate change at the same time.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Self-Build & Design Show is nearly here!

We have nearly completed setup of our stand for the Self-Build & Design Show at Westpoint, Exeter this weekend.

Please drop by and see us to talk about your project!

Gale & Snowden at Self-Build & Design Show

The Self-Build & Design Show 2013 takes place this weekend (14-15th September) at Westpoint, Exeter, and Gale & Snowden Architects will be there!

Come and visit us on Stand D172B to say hello, meet the team and discuss how we can help you with your project.

We look forward to seeing you there!

TSB monitoring update of Passivhaus schemes: Knights Place and Rowan House

We have now carried out over a year of monitoring at these flats, downloaded the data and started the analysis.  To recap, as part of this study we have been monitoring the following:
  • All energy circuits – lights, small power, hot water, MVHR, kitchen appliances etc
  • Temperature, humidity, CO2 levels 

Our findings so far have found that

The flats use 4-5 times less space heating energy and 2-3 times less hot water energy compared to standard new build.  This translates to an overall energy saving of over 65%.  

Whilst we have managed to reduce heating and hot water loads via the design the next step in closing the performance gap is to address tenant behaviour and appliance use.   Energy loads here require particular attention and G&S are proposing to work with the tenants to develop low energy strategies and review how they are using their appliances and the type they have.   

Monitored CO2 levels for winter cold days have been found to be within acceptable guidelines for good air quality.   This is good news as it shows that with windows closed in winter and using the MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) system, good air quality can be achieved.  

We have also found that comfortable temperature conditions can be maintained on the coldest of days with the use of a small heater battery in the supply air.

The next step now is to download the summer temperature data for this years exceptional summer to determine how well the flats have maintained comfort levels with all that mass they have been designed with.  

The findings are summarised in the following publication:

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Gale & Snowden Schools Design and Passivhaus Consultancy Services

Gale & Snowden are building on their school building design experience and Passivhaus work.  The practice has recently been commissioned to provide Passivhaus Design Consultancy for a £6m Primary School in Wales.  A planning application is to be submitted before the end of the year and start on site is scheduled for the beginning of 2014.

Torrington Infant School, Devon.  Gale & Snowden Architects Ltd.

Pioneering Work Towards Low Energy Swimming Pools by Gale & Snowden Architects with Exeter University

Gale & Snowden Architects and Engineers has recently completed design work for the UK’s first Passivhaus Certified public swimming pool and leisure complex for Exeter City Council with funding from the Technology Strategy Board under the Design for Future Climate programme. As part of this work Gale & Snowden is pleased to publish a joint academic building physics paper with Exeter University entitled ‘Modelling Low Energy Swimming Pools adapted to Climate Change’.

The results show that the key energy loads for the building are heating the pool water to maintain temperature and heating fresh water followed by heating the pool hall to maintain a high air temperature. Simulations show that the pool hall will require heating throughout the year even under a 2080s climate change scenario. The energy load for this space heating outweighs the loads for cooling and dehumidification even in future climates. Therefore the overall strategy should be to minimise the pool evaporation and heating load where possible, this can be achieved by:

  • Maximising solar gain to the building throughout the year by orientating to the south with optimum glazing ratios.
  • Minimising heat loss from the building by including high insulation and high airtightness standards such as those recommended by the Passivhaus standard.
  • Maintaining relative humidity levels of around 65% and fresh air rates of 0.5 ac/h for normal use are the optimum in terms of minimising energy loads, using variable speed fans to alter fresh air supply rate to balance humidity and water evaporation with occupancy will result in lower energy use.
  • Including shading devices has a detrimental effect on the energy requirements for the buildings, as it will reduce the solar gain that can contribute to the heating load and therefore increase the overall energy loan.
  • Significantly increasing the glazing levels will result in a neutral energy effect, as although the heating energy load will be reduced across the climate change scenarios, it will increase the cooling loads by an equal amount in 2050 and a greater amount by 2080. This study is useful if glazing areas are required to increase daylight levels or views out.
  • The use of efficient mechanical processes and heat recovery (sensible and latent where possible) will become even more prevalent in future swimming pool buildings in particular at reducing dehumidification loads and heating colder incoming fresh air load.
  • Finally, lowering the pool water temperature will decrease evaporation and reduce water-heating requirements. The fresh air supply rate may also be reduced to maintain relative humidity.

We have devised a methodology for the incorporation of swimming pools into thermal modelling software. We have presented proof of concept by modelling an example swimming pool and examining heat loads for different levels of ventilation and humidity. The method accounts for latent and sensible heat losses from the pool water and the required energy to heat water and maintain humidity in the pool hall. This methodology has been used to assess the impact of different design scenarios on the energy loads of the pool building in the current climate and under estimates of climate change over this century.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Design for Future Climate - PassivOffice at Devonshire Gate

Gale & Snowden has been involved over the last 2 years in a very exciting project in Devon to design a new build office development built to Passivhaus Certified standards. The project has received funding from the Technology Strategy Board for the team to analyse predicted future weather and create design strategies so that the development is ready for a changing climate. 

The team has been able to come up with a series of future climate change adaptation strategies, some of which can be introduced at the beginning of the project, others can be included in the future as part of an ongoing adaptation strategy for example in an ongoing maintenance cycle.  The study has shown that it is possible, by employing sound building physics and being aware of the extent of future climate change and how this will affect the building and its users, to design solutions into the project so that the building can perform well into the future without the need for costly remedial works such as air conditioning and that this can be achieved at no or limited costs to the project.

As part of the dissemination process we are pleased to post our final design for future climate research report with this blog entry. The dissemination process will be an ongoing one and we would welcome comments and feedback on the work we have done and perhaps collaboration with future projects.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Gale & Snowden’s Passivhaus by the sea in North Devon, nears completion.

The all-glass, west-facing, sea-facing fa├žade and timber cladding are now installed. Panoramic sea views and cool evening sea breezes await our clients when they move in this autumn.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Gale & Snowden presents Building Biology initiative at AECB conference

Building Biology UK

Gale & Snowden Architects presented their Building Biology initiative at the AECB conference on 12th July 2013. The following is the text that introduced the workshop at the AECB conference, followed by a copy of the presentation. If you would like to find out more about this initiative or are interested in Building Biology or healthy building please contact us on

An introduction to Building Biology and Ecology – Healthy by Design
Presented by David Gale, Director Gale & Snowden Architects
"The workshop I am proposing to lead at the AECB conference 2013 will be primarily an introduction to the key concepts and principles of Building Biology & Ecology, as I understand them.
I originally trained as a Biologist, attending an Applied Biological Science degree, but for some reason ended up becoming an Architect. I set up Gale & Snowden Architects over 20 years ago because basically I didn’t like the way architecture was being practiced – creating environments that people didn’t necessarily want, highly polluting, resource depleting and particularly unhealthy on many levels. I also believed in my naivety that we could combat climate change............ above all I wanted to investigate and design systems that combined biology and architecture to produce healthy environments, where humans are intentionally designed as participants in nature – actively co-evolving the whole system – people becoming  part of a designed self perpetuating ecosystem – some people call this approach Regenerative Design.
The workshop I am proposing will be a combination of a summary of a building biology practitioner's course and what we have been up to at Gale & Snowden over the last 20 odd years."

David's presentation is available to download here.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Gale & Snowden present at the 2013 Green Cornwall Show

Gale & Snowden were invited by Cornwall County Council and The Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust to run a seminar as part of the Green Cornwall Show which took place on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th June 2013.  The event was held at Heartlands, Pool near Redruth.

The title of the seminar that David Gale presented at the event was 'Building Biology - Healthy Buildings'.

Building Biology is defined as the study of the holistic interrelationships between humans and their living environment.

The movement was founded in Germany by a group of professionals in the 1960s from a variety of disciplines concerned about the inability of post war housing to support health and ecology.  It has grown to other countries and now is a recognised authority on healthy buildings.

David started his career as a Biologist, studying Applied Biological Studies at Bristol, then continued his studies to become an Architect.  He has always been interested in how our living environment effects and influences us and from Gale & Snowden's inception over 20 years ago, we have attempted to put into practice many principles embodying a healthy building approach to all our work.

The presentation was an introduction to Building Biology, aimed at the general public.  The talk reviewed the key concepts that underpin Building Biology and then explained the four interrelating elements that Building Biology considers:  Air Quality; Water Quality; Materials; and Energy (Electromagnetic Radiation).  The talk also presented a number of Gale & Snowden built projects as case study examples.

There are many aspects about our build environment that we should be concerned with when it comes to our health and the health of our ecology.  Often people are unaware that their built environment can be detrimental to their health.

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us" (Winston Churchill).

So the question is - How is your home or workplace shaping you?  You can find out and then choose to make things better.

The 'Building Biology - Healthy Buildings' presentation is available to look at below.

If you are interested in finding out more about healthy buildings please visit our webpage, and we would be happy to hear from you - please email us.

Gale & Snowden Passivhaus developments for Exeter City Council receive enthusiastic support

Two developments of Passivhaus council housing by Gale & Snowden Architects for Exeter City Council have been praised by Exeter Civic Society - an influential and respected local voice which is consulted on new developments within the city, and aims to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Exeter.

The following response was received during the planning consultation period:

"We are very pleased to let you know of our enthusiastic support for the design of these new council houses.  We do think it is a credit to the City Council to be proposing buildings; and with all credit to the architects Gale & Snowden; at long last for the 21st century.  As you know, we look at a lot of applications; many from large developers; which we consider are; if anything; only paying lip service to present and future needs, whilst in practice simply reproducing the past.

The Passivhaus principles are clearly an excellent framework and without going into detail we would highlight the central quality that '...allows units to be designed without a conventional heating system'.

We look forward to seeing the finished units, expecting the colour treatment to add to the gaiety of the city.

This is courageous and forward looking, and we wish we could see much more of it."

Enhancing our environment - conceptual elevation of new Exeter City Council Housing with integrated landscaping

Reinvention of the city terrace - conceptual visualisation  

No fuss and low cost - intelligent low energy, affordable housing achieved by simple design and good solar orientation

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sustainable by Design - G&S at Ecobuild 2013

Further to our post below, here is David Gale's presentation from the Sustainable by Design seminar stream at Ecobuild 2013.

Monday, 18 March 2013

G&S present at two seminar streams at Ecobuild 2013

Gale & Snowden Architects and Engineers were guest speakers for two events at Ecobuild 2013 in London Excel Centre on Thursday, March 7th 2013. 

Both talks were held at the same time, one at the Passivhaus seminar stream presented by Tomas Gartner and the other at the Sustainable by Design seminar stream presented by David Gale.  Both talks were well received, generating much interest from the audience at Ecobuild.

Both talks showcased the work the practice has been undertaking over the last couple of years applying Climate Ready Design to various live new build  projects including an Extra Care facility for the elderly including for Dementia care, a new public swimming pool and leisure facility and an office development.  These projects have benefitted from Technology Strategy Board funding under the Design 4 Future Climate programme. 

Gale & Snowden Architects and Engineers provide a design service for modelling buildings using future weather data into 2080 and providing cost effective climate change adaption strategies for new and existing buildings to ensure buildings are future climate ready.

Climate ready strategies include maintaining thermal comfort into the future without the need for energy intensive cooling systems, robustness of building envelope and systems and management of water to meet future climate challenges.

For more information please visit our Climate Ready page on our website.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Milestone day at Oyster Falls Passivhaus

As the winter sun shone and perfect waves rolled in, Gale & Snowden were on-site at Oyster Falls along with Point 6 Projects' Project Manager, the structural engineer, and the client on this milestone day to see the steel frame erected.

As the line of columns along the west facade (which will ultimately be clad in full-height, high-performance triple glazing) enclosed the open-plan, lower ground floor space, for the first time in the course of the build everyone was able to see the living area at Oyster Falls and its panoramic view over Croyde Bay, Lundy and the Atlantic Ocean take shape.

This groundbreaking Passivhaus is due for completion later in 2013.  Keep an eye on this blog for more progress photographs.

The steels enclose the lower ground floor living area

Looking north west over Croyde Bay from the upper ground floor level

Looking south west from the lower ground floor study

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Exeter City Council Own Build Affordable Housing Public Consultation

A Public Consultation was held at St. Michael's School, Exeter on Monday 11th February.  The consultation schemes included Anthony Road, Hamlin Gardens, Bovemoor's Lane and Thornpark Rise sites for a total of 26 affordable houses for rent.  The houses are to be arranged in terraces and designed to meet the Passivhaus Standard.

Gale & Snowden Architects attended the event with Exeter City Council to meet with local residents, explain the schemes and answer any questions raised.  The feedback gathered will be used to inform the design of the schemes and full planning applications are expected to be submitted later this spring.