Our approach

Introduction

We are widely recognised to be the UK's leading Passivhaus architects, founded by Justin Bere in 1994. Bere:architects was the first architectural consultancy in the UK to train a team of architects to become passivhaus designers and to provide a comprehensive passivhaus design service for our clients. Our Certified European Passivhaus Designers carry out in-house PHPP analysis, thermal bridging analysis, fabric moisture analysis, building performance analysis and overall architectural design and project management. At the same time, we remain design-led architects, using Passivhaus techniques to deliver healthy, comfortable buildings that perform efficiently and look beautiful.

 

We carry out a wide range of passivhaus research, most notably:

- Passivhaus low cost housing
- We run the Passivhaus Cost Project (PHCP), a confidential research project with several housing associations
- Passivhaus investment and whole life cost analysis
- Passivhaus building performance measurement and analysis
- Indoor air quality research

 

From our experimental offices tucked away behind Poets Road in the London Borough of Islington, bere:architects endeavour to increase awareness of the opportunities afforded by sustainable and environmentally responsible strategies. The lessons learned are embodied not only in the physical buildings we create but also in the social fabric of the environment in which we work and live. The office, which is also the home of founding director Justin Bere, is developed according to a holistic, ‘fabric first’ passivhaus approach to sustainable design and also features a thriving micro-environment on its green roofs.  

Our work encompasses the public and private sectors, including award-winning new build Passivhaus projects, deep Passivhaus or Enerphit retrofits and refurbishments, high specification private houses and apartments, social housing, offices, historic monuments, public space design and transport infrastructure.

Our work has won numerous design awards and won the Building Research Establishment's Passivhaus competition in 2012. As a result, two Passivhaus homes will be built at the BRE Watford Innovation Park, for research and disemination purposes and these will build upon the lessons learnt from the Passivhaus low cost social housing prototypes that the practice completed in Wales, also won in a BRE competition in 2010.

The Welsh prototypes included the UK's first zero carbon, CSH code 6 passivhaus, and the UK's first code 5 passivhaus.

In 2010 the practice also completed London's first passivhaus and jointly England's first certified passivhaus. This house, in Camden, also shows how easily and cost-effectively a passivhaus home can exceed the UK's 2016 zero carbon compliance target.

The practice also completed the UK's first non-domestic full passivhaus retrofit project which was certified in 2011, and is working on numerous other domestic and non-domestic new build and retrofit Passivhaus projects.

Current work in 2012 includes University, Housing Association and Local Authority clients as well as English, German, Swiss and American private clients.

We strive to ensure that our urban and rural development projects meet present-day needs, without compromising their potential to meet the requirements of future generations. We work in accordance with the sustainability ethos laid down at the first Earth Summit in Brazil, and aim to protect the environment and use natural resources carefully – objectives set out in the UK’s Sustainable Development Strategy.

From the beginning, the practice has advocated the principles of sustainable development, and we apply strict ecological, environmental and sociological criteria to the projects that we undertake. The practice aims to create a bridge between the past and the future, bringing together the historic and the contemporary as far as possible. We bring a craftsman-like approach to all aspects of the building process. Our respect for traditional techniques does not hinder us from using modern materials and techniques where their use is sustainable. We take advantage of indigenous materials, techniques, traditions and industries when they can be sourced locally without compromising cost, environmental concerns or the appearance of the finished product. We acknowledge the value of history and location while expressing the beauty inherent in a modern ecological approach.

Besides the day to day running of the office, bere:architects has hosted numerous seminars, talks, and tours centred around the opportunities and lessons learned in constructing, living and working in one of Britain’s greenest buildings. Lessons learnt in the ongoing design and self-build process of this house and office has informed the practice’s focus on Passivhaus construction with the aim of maximising reductions in carbon emissions from buildings, and enhancing their provision of ecological habitats.

Now, as the UK’s foremost Passivhaus practitioner and winner of numerous design awards, time and finances are set aside to encourage staff to train as European Certified Passivhaus Planners and become experts in other specialist skills. Such investment has paid off with motivated, energetic staff sharing sincere environmental concerns, clients delighted with the look and performance of their buildings, and an increased practice workload with good business performance.

Services provided

Energy preservation is a key element of sustainable living. It is one of the central principles in bere:architects’ choice of materials and design aesthetics: we combine ecological effectiveness with pleasing forms. All our buildings, both domestic and public, are intended to be exemplars in energy efficiency and to set precedents in sustainable and affordable design.

bere:architects are at the forefront of the development of the Passivhaus movement in the UK. Passivhaus is a German approach, defined by the Passivhaus Institute, that requires a high level of insulation and a draught-free construction, and, to maintain a flow of fresh air, an efficient heat recovery ventilation system. This uses very little energy, and saves a lot of energy that would otherwise go to waste. Other forms of energy become viable alternatives to fossil fuels, meaning that zero-carbon building is readily achievable. Passivhaus demands a particular approach to design and construction, and demands rigorous on-site testing during the building process. 

To enable us to deliver quality-assured low carbon buildings, we have developed in-house skills in building physics, and use software such as the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP),  Heat 2, Therm and WUFI. These methods have enabled us, for example, to design our Mayville Community Centre in such a way as to save 97% of the energy used by the existing building; and enabled us to accurately predict the in-use energy consumption of our Camden Passivhaus; and design our  zero carbon Welsh social housing prototype to achieve overall negative energy costs; earning over £1300 per year.

High level of low carbon training and investment

For a practice of just twelve people, we have invested heavily in low carbon training. 

Already we have successfully produced five of the UK’s first Certified European Passivhaus Planners. A clear understanding of the calculations and predictions involved in low-energy Passivhaus building relies upon the use of accurate thermal modelling software to inform the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP). So far, half of our staff have been trained to carry out thermal bridging calculations using Heat 2 and three members of staff have received Therm training. Four staff members undertook WUFI training in 2010 enabling them to accurately calculate thermal bridges and building fabric moisture).  

As well as receiving training, we give free training to others in collaboration with organisations such as the RIBA and BRE, and also give numerous lectures around the UK to universities and other organisations. 

Besides conferences, we are active in improving knowledge and skills in construction. When working on the Passivhaus social housing project in Ebbw Vale, we facilitated the local manufacturing of passivhaus windows, with the aim of establishing a Welsh leadership in low carbon timber window manufacturing to help the Welsh economy benefit from the growth in demand for Passivhaus products. One of our partners, Woodknowledge Wales, brought together a consortium of Welsh joinery firms and bere:architects brought together a design and training team including a designer of passivhaus windows and a German window manufacturer to help inspire the Welsh team. The result is the UK’s first Passivhaus Institute certified window.

The Vale Passive Window system sets a new standard in the UK for energy efficient, long-life, home-produced timber windows. It is the most radical development in window design in Wales for decades – it opens up massive new potential for Welsh timber to deliver not only new opportunities for high efficiency buildings but also new jobs in manufacture and fitting.