Chester Long Court

Passivhaus, Healthy Homes for Exeter City Council Tenants

Passivhaus Social Housing Flats Exeter Construction Site
Passivhaus Social Housing Flats Construction Section
Porotherm Monolithic Clay Blocks Passivhaus
Passivhaus Social Housing Flats Exeter Construction Site

Gale & Snowden first began working with Exeter City Council (ECC) in 2008 to design and deliver new-build, Council-owned homes to optimise underused sites in the city. ECC was one of the first councils in the UK to once again begin developing new housing and their brief was exacting, leading the way in environmental aspirations.


The latest phase, in Whipton, Exeter, is currently on-site and will deliver 26 high quality, affordable, Lifetime Homes compliant, healthy, Certified Passivhaus flats for Exeter’s social tenants. The development, including one fully-accessible wheelchair unit, is aimed at providing downsizing apartments for over-60s, in turn freeing up larger council-owned homes for families in need.


The scheme was procured using a two stage competitive tender and traditional contracts (JCT Intermediate 2011 with Contractor’s Design portions). Gale & Snowden are providing full RIBA Stage 0-7 architectural, mechanical and electrical engineering, landscape architecture, and lead designer services.


The new flats represent the largest housing development that Gale & Snowden has undertaken with Exeter City Council. The Passivhaus scheme, incorporating Building Biology principles, marks almost 10 years of teamwork delivering low energy, healthy homes for Council tenants. The design represents the latest step in Gale & Snowden’s evolutionary approach to Passivhaus aimed at reducing costs, enhancing collaboration with the contractor, and optimising building performance for future climate scenarios.


Utilising a monolithic clay block construction with high performance render externally and plaster internally means an entirely mineral wall build-up which is hygroscopic, helping to regulate internal humidity. Designed around the large format block coursing, construction time is greatly reduced, drying out period is minimised, and come the end of the building’s life, the construction can be simply crushed up without the need for separation and disposal of composite elements.


Designed and built to the Passivhaus standard means that the apartments will naturally have a very consistent and comfortable temperature and indoor air quality. Heating bills will be approximately 10% of those in a ‘standard’ property, thus helping lift tenants out of any potential fuel poverty issues. The designs have also been designed to mitigate against predicted future climate change using Exeter University’s Prometheus weather data up to 2080.


Exeter tenants currently living in their new Passivhaus homes, Barberry Close and Silverberry Close, elsewhere in the city have reported that they had not once had to use their heating system and that the internal spaces were comfortable through the changing seasons.


The flats will provide exemplar healthy living conditions based on Building Biology principles featuring: non-toxic, organic and easily cleanable materials and surfaces; excellent air quality; good wiring design and specification to minimise electromagnetic radiation; and high levels of thermal comfort and daylight. Air quality in the homes is maintained to a high standard via highly efficient mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery (MVHR).


The site presented its own unique challenges and the design team overcame issues of demolition of a multi-storey car park, contaminated land, relocation of electrical and mobile telephone services and a very constrained site boundary, all within the context of existing residential areas. The flats at Chester Long Court will push the number of Passivhaus dwellings developed in collaboration with Exeter City Council beyond 100.


The project is due for completion during Summer 2017.

Updates to follow.

Passivhaus Social Housing Flats Exeter Elevations