City of York Passivhaus Homes

Building hundreds of new homes to Passivhaus certification, with properties warmed and supplied with electricity and hot water without generating carbon emissions.

900 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Our story

City of York Council

The energy efficiency of UK housing is very poor, contributing significantly to carbon emissions, and around 13% of households are living in fuel poverty. It’s vital that new houses are built to higher standards, so they don’t need costly retrofitting in the future.

City of York Council is building 600 ‘zero carbon in use’ homes – properties that can be warmed and supplied with electricity and hot water without generating carbon emissions. The homes will be built to Passivhaus certification, a standard that leads to very little heat loss. Air source heat pumps will be used for heating and hot water, with roof-mounted solar panels supplying electricity.

The programme includes 600 homes across a number of council-owned sites. Two of these sites are in the planning process with construction due to start in early 2022 with first handovers by the end of the year. The homes will be in tight-knit terraces, improving their energy efficiency, and will be positioned to create maximum solar gain. The council is taking a holistic approach to make these developments truly sustainable, also offering car-free streets, free use of shared e-cargo bikes and planting schemes that increase biodiversity. The development will include homes for private buyers, social rental and shared ownership.

Our advice

Secure the political will needed for success:
The project started in 2017 as a build of standard affordable housing. However, following the council elections of 2019, the new Green Party/Liberal Democrat coalition was keen to deliver net zero carbon in-use across all developments, in line with York’s climate emergency declaration, which sets a target of 2030 for the city to reach net zero emissions.

Prepare a robust business case:
Building an entire development of homes that are net zero in terms of carbon emissions is more expensive, and therefore potentially costlier for residents to purchase or rent. By using new market sales to subsidise the cost of 40% of the homes, 20% will be affordable for social rent and 20% will be affordable for shared ownership.

Learn from best practice:
Council officers carefully recruited a multi-disciplinary design team that would work on the scheme for at least five years. By setting ambitious goals and embedding design principles at the heart of the procurement plan, City of York Council was able to attract more specialist consultants.

The development uses pre-made timber frames which makes the project lower risk for contractors; the project is also exploring other innovations such as more permeable paving and non-concrete drains.

Engage local communities:
Communities have been heavily involved in designing the scheme and during the various stages.

Build local skills:
York’s programme aims to give more local people the skills to work in sustainable building. The council set out minimum requirements for supporting skills and apprenticeships. Contractors also agreed to spend a minimum number of hours supporting the local college in teaching green skills.

Our metrics

  • Carbon reductions
  • Lower energy bills
  • Improved resident health
  • Upskilling of local workforce
  • Increasing local biodiversity
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