Building a Sustainable Future: Residential Low Energy, Passivhaus & BREEAM Explained

The construction industry plays a pivotal role in the global movement towards sustainability. With buildings accounting for a significant portion of energy consumption worldwide, the imperative to reduce environmental impact through sustainable construction practices has never been more urgent. Our commitment to pioneering these initiatives is embedded in every project we undertake, ensuring that we meet the evolving standards of eco-friendly construction.

In this pursuit, we focus on three core industry standards: Residential Low Energy, Passivhaus, and BREEAM—each representing a benchmark in sustainable building practices. Our dedication to these standards is not just about compliance but about leading the way in responsible construction, creating homes as energy-efficient as they are comfortable and designing communities that will thrive for generations.

What Is Low-Energy Residential Housing?

A low-energy house is designed to use far less energy than a standard home. These buildings employ advanced architectural designs and materials to reduce their energy needs, primarily for heating, cooling, and electricity. By focusing on superior insulation, air tightness, and energy-efficient systems, low-energy houses minimise their environmental footprint while providing significant cost savings in utility bills over their lifespan.

The benefits of these designs are manifold. Firstly, they contribute to lower carbon emissions, a crucial factor in combating climate change. Secondly, residents enjoy a higher standard of comfort and improved indoor air quality, thanks to stable temperatures and reduced drafts. Additionally, the long-term savings in energy costs make these homes financially appealing, enhancing their market value.

Case Study: Landseer Avenue and David Anne Street Projects

In our residential development projects at Landseer Avenue in Manor Park and David Anne Street in Newham, we have fully embraced low-energy, sustainable construction according to the stringent Passivhaus standards.

Landseer Avenue: This project, located in East London for the London Borough of Newham, transformed a former garage site into a vibrant community with 11 new homes. The site now features a mix of wheelchair-accessible semi-detached houses and flats, all built with energy-efficient air source heat pumps instead of traditional gas boilers, enhancing their sustainability.

David Anne Street: As part of Newham’s affordable housing programme, this development added 12 new homes on a similar former garage site. These homes, built to adapt to future needs, also adhere to Passivhaus standards, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability.

What Is the Passivhaus Standards

The Passivhaus standard represents a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings. By minimising energy requirements, buildings reduce their ecological footprint. This approach seeks to maximise air-tightness, insulation, and heat recovery while allowing for natural ventilation.

The Passivhaus design revolves around five key principles: super-insulation, airtight building envelope, high-performance windows, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, and thermal bridge-free construction. These principles ensure that a building consumes up to 90% less heating and cooling energy than conventional structures and 75% less energy than average new builds.

The benefits of building to Passivhaus standards include:

  • Reduced Energy Costs: Due to the minimal heating and cooling requirements.
  • Comfort: Ensures a consistent indoor temperature without cold drafts in winter or overheating in summer.
  • Air Quality: The MVHR systems provide fresh air continuously, enhancing indoor air quality and reducing allergens.
  • Sustainability: Lowers carbon emissions, contributing to environmental preservation.

Case Study: Cannock Mill Cohousing Project

This project, executed in partnership with Cannock Mill Cohousing Colchester (CMCC), resulted in the construction of 23 environmentally-conscious homes. The development features a variety of residential options, including one and two-bedroom flats and houses up to three bedrooms, all designed with sustainability at their core. Additionally, the project included refurbishing a Grade II listed Mill into a communal house that now serves as the social hub for residents, facilitating shared meals and leisure activities and providing guest accommodations and a cycle store.

Sustainability was a priority throughout the construction, with each home built to minimise energy use and maximise comfort. The homes were equipped with high levels of thermal insulation, triple-glazed windows, and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems, ensuring high airtightness and energy efficiency. The Cannock Mill development meets the rigorous demands of the Passivhaus standard and creates a supportive and sustainable living environment for its community members.


The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is a leading global sustainability assessment method for master planning projects, infrastructure, and buildings. It recognises and reflects the value of higher-performing assets across the built environment’s lifecycle, from new construction to in-use and refurbishment. BREEAM does this through third-party certification of the assessment of a building’s environmental, social, and economic sustainability performance.

The importance of BREEAM in the construction industry cannot be overstated. It helps developers and owners measure and reduce the environmental impacts of their buildings while improving the well-being of the people who live and work in them.

BREEAM-certified developments are highly sought after for their proven track record in enhancing environmental performance and increasing sustainability. The benefits of achieving BREEAM certification include improved environmental performance, significant operational cost savings, and enhanced market value. Additionally, BREEAM-certified buildings provide healthier environments for their occupants and less impact on the natural environment. They also facilitate compliance with environmental regulations and demonstrate a commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Case Study: Melfield Gardens Lewisham Project

Melfield Gardens in Lewisham represents a groundbreaking 12.5m residential development designed and built for Phoenix Community Housing. The project entails demolishing an existing building to construct 32 new units, including a community room primarily for residents over 55, enhancing social inclusion and addressing the challenges of ageing. The development is uniquely designed to focus on intergenerational living, featuring a ‘good neighbour agreement’ that facilitates voluntary interaction between older residents and postgraduate students. This arrangement aims to foster a supportive, communal environment, helping older residents maintain independence and enhancing the social dynamics within the community.

Regarding sustainability, Melfield Gardens adheres to stringent Passivhaus standards, ensuring all homes are highly energy-efficient with minimal environmental impact. The thoughtful design includes optimal building orientation, efficient window placement, and simplified thermal envelopes to achieve these standards. Scheduled for completion in June 2024, the project promises to provide a supportive living environment and sets a benchmark in sustainable residential construction. By integrating BREEAM and Passivhaus certifications, Melfield Gardens exemplifies how modern urban development can synergistically achieve environmental and social sustainability.

Partner With Jerram Falkus for Your Construction Projects

Are you planning a construction project and looking for a partner who prioritises sustainability and quality? At Jerram Falkus, we combine decades of expertise with a commitment to environmentally conscious and community-focused building practices. Whether you’re embarking on a residential, commercial, or specialist construction project, our dedicated team is here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your vision becomes a reality with the highest standards of sustainability and innovation. Join us in shaping the future of construction. Contact us to discuss how we can bring your project to life with excellence and care.