Sustainable Architecture Studies student wins Passivhaus Competition

Karl Higham has been announced as a winner in the Passivhaus Student competition 2017. Karl is studying on the MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies course and was awarded the prize for his entry ‘Passivhaus on a Mountain’.


Karl Higham - Passivhaus on a MountainCompetitors were asked to identify one retrofit or new build project and provide a detailed design to turn this into a certifiable Passivhaus building. The competition was incorporated into the teaching schedule of the five participating Universities, forming part of the students' ongoing coursework.

Karl chose a site in Zurich which is situated on the peak of the Uetliberg Mountain, a key Swiss monument. The design philosophy was that the building meets Passivhaus standards, embraces traditional Swiss vernacular, responds to complex site topography and utilises ground thermal mass.

Six Universities were invited to take part in the competition and each one shortlisted their top Passivhaus schemes. The judging panel decided on the winners with one student being selected from each University.

Hattie Hartman, Sustainability Editor, Architect's Journal comments “The Passivhaus Student Competition is a highly effective way for students to deepen their understanding of the nuances of key passive design concepts such as orientation, building form, daylight, and shading and get to grips with how these issues directly impact a building’s environmental performance.”

The winners, are invited to the UK Passivhaus Conference, held in London later in October, for the official prize giving ceremony.

Full list of winners

The competition allowed all students on the MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies course to undertake a range of visits and activities which explored the Passivhaus principles.

In the autumn, they attended the Passivhaus Conference which aimed to support architecture students in learning about using Passivhaus principles and provide an opportunity to apply the standard to their own designs. Students also received Passivhaus training and were given access to Passivhaus design software, in addition to visiting real buildings. Students visited the University of Leicester’s Centre for Medicine, a newly certified Passivhaus building and the largest non-domestic Passivhaus in the UK.

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About Passivhaus

Passivhaus buildings provide a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling. They are built with meticulous attention to detail and rigorous design and construction according to principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany, and can be certified through an exacting quality assurance process.

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