Low carbon homes at £6m passivhaus scheme slash heating bills for tenants

Heating bills will be slashed by more than 80 per cent at a £6 million development of 21 low carbon homes in North Wales.

The properties at the Plas Penrhyn site in Penrhyn Bay in Conwy are being built to passivhaus standards thanks to a ground-breaking partnership between two housing associations, Adra and Cartrefi Conwy.

The timber frames and posi-joists for the affordable homes are being custom made for the Adra scheme by Creating Enterprise, a subsidiary of Cartrefi, at their factory in Rhyl.

The development was paused for a while when the original construction company, Brenig, went into voluntary liquidation but it’s now all systems go again after Beech Developments were appointed in their place.

Work has started on the site which will comprise a mix of social rent and intermediate rent properties of varying sizes, including a specially adapted one-bedroom bungalow, four two-bedroom bungalows, eight two-bedroom houses and eight three-bedroom houses.

The foundations for the first phase are in place with the frames to be trucked onto the site within weeks and the project due to be completed in around 12 months.

As well as being highly insulated and triple glazed, airtight seals mean that heat loss will be reduced so much that hardly any heating is needed at all.

Any additional warmth that’s required can then be provided by electric heaters, often powered by photovoltaic solar panels on the roofs.

All of the homes will also have mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems fitted, extracting stale and moist air and blowing in fresh air that’s warmed by a heat exchanger unit.

According to Adra, the properties are virtually self-sufficient in terms of heating with very little energy required from the grid – and no fossil fuels being used directly by the properties.

The green theme continues outside where there will be electric vehicle chargers which will be powered in part by the solar panels.

Adrian Johnson, Deputy Chief Executive of Cartrefi Conwy, who heads up Creating Enterprise, said: “We’re very proud to be working in partnership with Adra on this fantastic project and to be providing the timber frames and posi-joists to build these affordable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly homes for local people.

“The beauty of the passivhaus modular system is that it can be configured in different ways – ranging from a single storey one-bedroom bungalow to a two-storey family home.

“This development is tackling two different issues at the same time, reducing fuel poverty, with a saving of more than 80 per cent on heating bills as compared to traditional homes, and providing much needed homes to address the desperate shortage of affordable housing.

“We are creating a virtuous circle because the profit we make is being recycled for the benefit of our communities.

“The other gain from this project is that the workforce and the supply chains are local so 80 per cent of the cost of the project is going back into the local economy. We’re using the Welsh pound in the best possible way”

Gethin Thomas, Adra Development Project Manager, will be helping to manage the development through to handover to the tenants.

He said: “This is the first passivhaus development for us at Adra, occupants will benefit from increased energy efficiency and reduced bills and we hope this will be the start of a future of similar developments.

“Our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint aligns with our mission to benefit our tenants and contribute positively to environmental sustainability.

“Engaging in projects of this nature is personally exhilarating, as it underscores the pivotal role of carbon emission reduction and heightened energy efficiency in the trajectory of housebuilding’s future.

“From my own point of view, it’s really exciting being involved in a project like this and look forward to seeing the progression on site.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Craig Kelly Jones, Contracts Manager for housebuilder Beech Developments.

He said: “The timber frames and posi-joists are a great product to work with. This is the way the industry is headed, using modern methods of construction. It’s what we get into the building industry to do.

“The air tightness rating for these houses will be 0.6 on a scale of nought to ten where nought is zero emissions and the average new build house comes in at five or six.

“There’s mechanical ventilation at the property with a turbine in the loft space to circulate air and prevent damp while making use of the heat from activities like cooking to keep the property comfortable and warm.

“Collaboration with Creating Enterprise and Adra has been very good and we’ve worked together very well.

“This is Adra’s first passive house development and the first for us working with Creative Enterprise and I hope it’s going to be the first of many.”

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