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Yr Hafan in Cardiff earns official Passivhaus plus certification

Beattie Passive has announced that the homes at Yr Hafan, the collective housing scheme it handed over to Cardiff Council last year, have been officially certified to Passivhaus Plus standard by the Passivhaus Institut in Germany.

It is believed to be the first relocatable residential modular housing development in Europe to achieve the rigorous energy efficiency standard.

Somewhat ironically, this ‘fossil fuel-free’ scheme has been built on the site of a former gasworks in Grangetown, which was acquired by Cardiff Council in 2020. Rated net zero for operational carbon, Yr Hafan consists of 48 volumetric modular 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments, and 2 additional administrative and communal blocks, containing offices, a training room, a training kitchen, a 24/7 medical office and a crèche.

Yr Hafan provides high quality, energy efficient, comfortable and sustainable accommodation for families at risk of homelessness, together with extensive wraparound support services. Commenting on the scheme, Lynda Thorne, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities at Cardiff Council, said: “What a wonderful facility Yr Hafan is, a real haven for families during a difficult time. As well as the new flats, the Caban Yr Hafan is a focal point on the site, a mini community centre for residents where they can access visiting health services, Into Work support, Adult Learning opportunities, or just come together with neighbours to use the community facilities.

“Nobody wants to be living in temporary accommodation, but we’ve had some great feedback from the families staying at the centre, both in terms of quality of the flats and the support they receive from our staff there. And, of course, the beauty of this type of build means we can move the units to other locations across the city in the future, if necessary.”

The scheme at Yr Hafan is notable for several reasons. Firstly, Passivhaus Plus is a relatively new standard that recognises the production of renewable energy by passive buildings. It combines the ‘Efficiency First’ philosophy and 5 key principles of Passivhaus [1] with onsite renewable energy to achieve net zero for operational carbon. As a result, the homes at Yr Hafan don’t just save energy – they generate their own. Enough energy, in fact, to power the modular homes throughout the year, effectively transforming Yr Hafan into a Passivhaus Powerhouse. This approach significantly reduces heating bills and serves as a highly effective strategy to prevent vulnerable people falling into fuel poverty.

Secondly, the entire scheme was constructed using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Yr Hafan was designed in the PHPP (Passivhaus Planning Package) and constructed using Beattie Passive’s ‘Passivhaus-certified’ timber frame build system at the firm’s offsite factory in Norwich, Norfolk. As part of the project, Beattie Passive commissioned data analyst CERCULA to conduct a lifecycle analysis at Yr Hafan over a 60-year period. According to CERCULA, the whole life carbon impact of the project is 1,460 tonnes, which is 78% lower than a traditional build, resulting in an estimated saving of 5,189 tonnes of carbon – equivalent to 12,067 barrels of oil. Yr Hafan has a net zero carbon operational performance rating, with embodied carbon at 242 tCO2e/m2, which is compliant with the RIBA 2030 Challenge. CERCULA estimates that residents will save a considerable amount on their annual energy bills.

Finally, the entire scheme is demountable and relocatable. This gives Cardiff Council the ability to respond to changing housing needs in the city, without the need for demolition or new building sites – both of which are carbon intensive. Ron Beattie, founder and managing director at Beattie Passive, said: “Cardiff Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished together, not just in terms of the environmental impact of achieving net zero, but also the social benefits of the scheme for everyone involved. Yr Hafan really does show what can be achieved using modern methods of construction.”

“The homes are extremely energy efficient, healthy, sustainable, affordable to run, and comfortable to live in. As the saying goes, the cheapest and most renewable energy is always the energy you don’t use. That’s the beauty of Passivhaus and the Fabric First approach – the energy demand is so low that simply fitting PV panels on the roof spaces was enough to achieve net zero for operational carbon.”

It’s no secret that the UK is in the midst of a chronic housing crisis and rates of homelessness are on the rise. Ron believes that schemes like Yr Hafan can ease the housing crisis, provide homes for the homeless, alleviate fuel poverty and reduce the reliance on private accommodation, such as hotels and B&Bs, to house refugees, migrants and asylum seekers [2]. “Last year, the Home Office disclosed that the government spends around £7 million every day on private accommodation.” said Ron.

“By investing in our modular homes, local authorities and other housing providers end up with a long-term asset that meets their needs in terms of affordability, speed, environmental sustainability and low energy costs. The carbon savings are enormous, and the potential lifecycle cost savings for Yr Hafan are expected to exceed £17 million when compared to a like-for-like masonry build, with average energy consumption. CERCULA also estimated that residents would save a considerable amount on their energy bills, and that was before the sharp rise in energy prices last year,” added Ron.

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