Barberry Close

Exeter City Council own-build Passivhaus, Healthy Social Housing

We offer on-going guidance and training to residents of our Passivhaus developments to ensure that they live in their properties in an optimum way thus ensuring they realise the cost benefits associated with living in this type of property.

Emma Osmundsen, Housing Development Manager & Client Lead (Build), Exeter City Council

The development of 6 terraced houses, including two wheelchair accessible units, at Barberry Close, off Bennett Square in Exeter, is one of 3 sites developed by Exeter City Council (ECC) to deliver high-quality, affordable, healthy, Passivhaus homes for Exeter's social tenants.


Completed in July 2015 and occupied shortly thereafter, Barberry Close is part of the second wave of council-own-build developments in Exeter designed to optimise underused sites in the city. Together with sites at Silverberry Close and Reed Walk, Gale & Snowden Architects have helped ECC deliver a further 20 family homes. G&S first introduced ECC to the concept of Passivhaus and Healthy Buildings during the first wave of Council developments in 2008.


The design of the houses utilises dense concrete blockwork walls, wrapped with high levels of external wall insulation and colourful render. The combination of high internal thermal mass, insulation, thermal-bridge-free design, and exceptional airtightness will result in excellent, stable comfort levels and very low energy bills for occupiers.


The houses tackle fuel poverty and provide exemplar living conditions with the specification of healthy building materials based on Building Biology principles featuring:


  • non-toxic materials
  • organic materials
  • designing out the risk of dust mites
  • minimising electromagnetic radiation by good wiring design and specification
  • high levels of thermal comfort
  • high levels of natural daylight


Air quality in the homes is maintained to a high standard via highly-efficient mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR), and is also achieved by the specification of non-toxic materials and finishes such as mineral paints and organic waxes.


The external colours were carefully developed to reflect natural building materials of the Exeter area such as Devon sandstone, blue lias, green marble, clay brick and Heavitree stone. Internally, a distilled palette of high-quality, robust materials accentuates simple, efficient floor plans.


The site presented its own range of unique challenges and the design team overcame issues of demolition to provide access onto the site, an adjacent railway line, and off-site services and drainage, all within the context of an existing tight-knit residential area.


Ecological landscape design strategies have been employed for the site with all communal and private garden areas designed to follow permaculture principles. Bird boxes are mounted on the building, whilst habitats for bats, swifts and insects have been installed throughout the site establishing wildlife corridors linking the site to existing local ecology.


The fourteen houses at Silverberry Close and Barberry Close have been shortlisted within the 'Domestic New Build' category at the 2015 INCA Awards.