Richard and Rachel Stent replaced their old 1930s home with a contemporary PassivHaus — in just four months. Their new, white rendered home was built as a turnkey project by German manufactures Hanse Haus.
Richard and Rachel will never forget the day they moved into their 1930s house in the Somerset village of West Quantoxhead: it was the day their eldest son, Michael, was born. Fifteen years later the family watched as their home was bulldozed to make way for a contemporary, energy-efficient successor. “We’d been paying a mortgage on the property for years and then just demolished it, which felt strange,” admits Richard.
The couple had explored the idea of extending and refurbishing their previous draughty home, before deciding that it would actually be just as cost-effective to start again. A visit to the Homebuilding & Renovating Show in 2009 introduced them to Hanse Haus, and the company impressed them so much that they decided to build a Hanse Haus PassivHaus — the first in the UK.
“We were working full-time running our optometry business, and particularly liked the idea of a turnkey package for a fixed price, so that we wouldn’t need to worry about co-ordinating tradesmen and sticking to a budget,” says Richard. “After visiting the factory and sample centre in Germany, the quality of the Hanse Haus product was obvious and the team’s can-do attitude shone through.”
Richard and Rachel worked with Hanse Haus to devise a design for their new home, which stands within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Despite certain planning constraints the resulting house is distinctly modern, with white rendered walls, a zinc-clad roof, large areas of glazing and externally fitted blinds to the patio doors.
“We did talk to the planners personally, and the planning officer visited us at home, but everything else was handled by Hanse Haus — often via emails to Germany,” explains Rachel. “The actual footprint is not much bigger than our old 1930s house, but there were single storey extensions which are now two storey, making the first floor bedrooms far larger.”
With planning permission in place, two further trips to Germany were scheduled so that the couple could refine the drawings and specify internal finishes, including flooring and sanitaryware. “Our input with the actual build was minimal so it was important to get fully involved in the design process and pay attention to the details,” Rachel continues.
Quick build times are a common with Passiv Houses, due to the large amount of factory prefabrication involved. Indeed, the shell of the house was completed in just two days, whilst four months after work first began on site, the family were able to forgo caravan life and move into their new home.
Living in the house has surpassed their expectations. Not only are their fuel bills far lower than before, but the building’s internal temperature remains constant, thanks to the triple glazing and high levels of insulation.
“The site is quite exposed and we used to hear the wind whistling through the window frames in our old house, but now it’s so quiet, and we don’t experience wild fluctuations in temperature,” says Richard. “We no longer have a gas bill landing on the doormat and our new home feels so much warmer and more comfortable — without having any heating on.”