How to Build a Passivhaus

More and more people are looking at sustainable ways of living. A passivhaus is the gold standard of energy efficiency, built to rigorous principles using complex software.

This article is a very brief overview of quite what passivhaus construction entails, and what to consider if you’re thinking of building one.

What is a passivhaus?

If a building is a passivhaus, that means that it’s been constructed according to a rigorous standard of energy efficiency – what the energy saving trust calls ‘gold standard.’ First conceived and developed in Germany, a passivhaus building is constructed to be as efficient as possible, so that they require minimal heating or cooling – usually around 75% less than a standard new-build.

Passivhaus construction is not the same as carbon neutral buildings, as the passivhaus process aims to reduce the amount of energy used in the first instance. On the other hand, carbon neutral buildings have emissions minimised during construction and offset by other climate-friendly initiatives, like planting trees.

Typically, passivhaus construction methods include features including exceptional insulation, triple glazing, airtightness, mechanical ventilation, and a single compact shape, amongst others. Although older buildings can be retrofitted to passivhaus construction principles, this won’t reach the same degree of efficiency as a custom-build property. Understandably, custom-build passivhaus buildings are likely to be more expensive.

How to build a passivhaus

Building a passivhaus is no small feat – the Passivhaus Trust recommends setting out on any design process from the earliest possible point, so as to maximise integration of passivhaus principles and practice into any design. If you decide at a later point in the design process to integrate passivhaus principles, you may find it challenging to comply with correct construction processes.

You’ll need to consider the following when looking to build a passivhaus:

Passivhaus cost

It’s worth noting that a passivhaus might be more expensive to build, but you’ll likely benefit from cumulative savings on energy bills as the years go on.


To be a passivhaus, the building has to be modelled via a piece of software known as PHPP or Passivhaus Planning Package software.

As a result, if you’re looking to hire an architecture and builder, it’s best to hire one with knowledge and experience of passivhaus design and construction. They’ll be familiar with integrating complex PHPP software into their plans, as well as with the overall software.

An architect can also help you to secure planning permission for a passivhaus, which are typically looked on favourably thanks to their energy efficiency.

Key principles

To be a passivhaus building, certain key principles have to be adhered to. These include energy efficient glazing and windows, low heating, maximum ventilation, stringent airtightness, minimal thermal bridging, optimised solar gain, and super insulation.

These essential principles have to be taken into account throughout both the design and the build period. That’s why it’s beneficial to use a passivhaus approach from the get-go.

Speak to us about a passivhaus building

If you still have questions about how to achieve a passivhaus build, or want advice on the cost and construction, speak to CODA Bespoke today.

With over 40 years’ collective experience, as well as a long list of awards and nominations, our team can help you to design and build a bespoke, luxury home in Sheffield and the surrounding areas. Get in touch today to begin your life-changing journey.

If you’ve just had planning permission refused, you’ll no doubt be wondering why. Or maybe you’re looking to avoid getting planning permission denied in the first place? Whatever the case, an architect can help – as this article will outline.

Why does planning permission get refused?

There are a few reasons why you may have experienced a planning application refusal. Some of the most common ones include conflict with a national or local planning policy, environmental concerns, issues with the design either in terms of building material or visual appearance, and loss of privacy for a neighbour.

If your proposal has been denied, there are steps that you can take in order to work around this – including help from an architect.

Can an architect help to secure planning permission?

Yes, an architect can help you secure planning permission, and they can also help to rework any planning application that has been refused for re-submission. However, as the Architects Registration Board specify, no architect can absolutely guarantee planning permission – the authority for that lies with the planning board.

An architect will be able to help you consider any local authority guidelines, as well as any other regulations by which your planning permission needs to abide. As such, it might be wise to consult with an architect before putting in your proposal, to maximise your chance of securing permission.

What to do if your planning permission is refused

If your planning application has been refused, there are steps that you can take, including the following…


If you feel that your permission was unfairly refused, you can appeal the decision to the Secretary of State. This has to be done within twelve weeks of the refusal. It’s worth bearing in mind that appeals tend to be long, sometimes costly processes, with infrequent success if no changes are made to the application.

Hire an architect, withdraw, and revise

As detailed above, hiring an architect isn’t a failsafe way of getting your approval, but they will be able to advise on the appropriateness of your proposal.

If you’re concerned that your application might be rejected, you can withdraw it before refusal and revise it for resubmission. This might be a useful step if you and your architect realise that the proposal has a potential issue that might lead to refusals.

Hire an architect and resubmit

You can hire an architect if your initial application was refused, as they can help you to make the changes necessary in order to accord with the planning council’s feedback. You then have the chance to submit another application for free within a year of refusal.

The council or planning body will have provided you with detailed reasons for the refusal, which you can then take on board when you rework your submission.

Speak to us about your planning permission

If you’re looking to submit a planning proposal, talk to the team at CODA Bespoke today. We can help you to develop a successful, uniquely tailored planning proposal based around your individual needs and wants.

With over 40 years collective experience in luxury residential architecture, as well as a host of awards under our belt, we’re confident that we can design and deliver superior living spaces. Contact us today.

Many people spend a lot of time and money searching for a suitable piece of land to build on. But if you have enough space in your garden, it could be the perfect solution. Read on to learn more about the factors you’ll need to consider when building in your garden...

Check for covenants

The first step you should always take before building in your garden is to check the Land Registry for covenants on your property, as they can even override planning permission. Covenants are provisions that set restrictions or specifications for the usage of a piece of land, usually for the benefit of surrounding land or property.

Restrictive covenants are generally applied to the land, rather than the owner, so will usually still be applicable even after the original owner has moved. If there is a restrictive covenant on your property, seeking advice from a solicitor is the best move. In some cases, you may be able to remove the covenant through the court system.

Planning permission

You’ll also need to be clued up on planning permission, as outcomes will vary depending on the size and usage of the planned building.

You won’t need permission if...

Your development is a Class E building that fits within the guidelines. Class E buildings refer to any building that is built within the curtilage – land surrounding the house – and is ‘incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house’. It should not cover more than 50% of the curtilage, nor should it be constructed at the front of the property.

As Class E buildings are intended for incidental use, this will normally cover sheds, summer houses, garden offices and the like. However, there are some guidelines that buildings will need to adhere to in order to qualify for Class E exemptions...

You will need permission for...

Whether your building is incidental to your main property or not, there are certain types of garden constructions that you will need planning permission for. This includes buildings...

  • With more than one storey, or a single storey with eaves over 2.5 metres high
  • With an overall height of over 4 meters for dual-pitched roofs, or 3 meters for other types of roof
  • With an overall height of over 2.5 meters and positioned within 2 metres of the boundary of the property’s curtilage
  • That take up more than 50% of the curtilage with all other outbuildings. (So, if your summer house already takes up 30%, any new construction would need to be under 20% to avoid requiring planning permission.)
  • With a veranda, balcony or raised platform
  • That will be used for sleeping accommodation
  • That could impact your neighbours’ privacy

You're more likely to receive permission if your property fits in with your council’s Local Plan, so it could be beneficial to check out their planning policies beforehand. There are further restrictions for heritage sites, and developing an outbuilding in the curtilage of a listed building will always require planning permission.

Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a tax levied on profits obtained when an asset that has increased in value is sold or ‘disposed of’. If you obtain planning permission for a piece of land in your garden and then sell it off without developing on it, your profits should be exempt from CGT if the land measures under 0.6 hectares. If you move into the new property and sell your old home, you’ll also be exempt from CGT on the sale.

However, you’ll be liable to pay the CGT if you sell the property off immediately or subesquent to renting it out. It's always a good idea to discuss your circumstances with a financial advisor before deciding on a course of action.

Building in your garden – the next steps

Once you’ve sorted out the technicalities, it’s time to think about designing your outbuilding. Whether you’re looking to build an outdoor office or a new-build home for your extended family, CODA Bespoke has over 40 years of combined experience creating outstanding luxury buildings.

If you’d like to know more about our award-winning services, don’t hestitate to reach out to our team. Alternatively, take a look through our projects to get a sense of what we create.

If you’re looking to self-build your dream home, you might be confused about where to start. There are many options available to those looking to build – some with fierce competition and pitfalls to overcome. In this guide, we’ll cover how to find and buy the right land for your self-build project.

How to find land for self-building

There are several places to look when searching for land:

  • Plotfinding websites – These websites are tailored to help you find available plots of land, as well as properties suitable for renovation or 'buy to demolish’. They can be highly competitive, however. They’re also important for market research, giving you a broader idea of potential locations and price ranges.
  • Estate and land agents – Estate agents are another good point of call for self-builders, so you should always register your interest with them. Some estate agents don’t sell land, so keep your focus on the right agents local to your area of interest.
  • Property auctions – As well as estate agents, you should also try property auctions. Buildings suitable for demolition and rebuilding are often sold at auction.
  • Visiting the local area – Physically visiting areas of interest to look for suitable plots of land and approach potential sellers is another effective strategy.
  • Asset disposal websites – For example, the Government Property Finder features disused buildings that are up for sale, some of which could be used for self-building.

Factors to consider

The most important factor to consider when searching for self-build land is planning permission. A lot of land is unsuitable to build on, and some unscrupulous sellers will attempt to sell land that is highly unlikely to ever receive planning permission.

Generally speaking, you should avoid land without planning permission, or discuss the land carefully with a local planning officer beforehand. You'll also need to consider access to the land by road.

Brownfield vs greenfield

Greenfield sites are pieces of land that haven’t been built on before, including everything from countryside fields to the land between two properties. This type of land is often very difficult to obtain planning permission for.

Your best bet for self-build land is usually a brownfield site, referring to land that has already been developed on. Councils are more likely to approve planning for these sites, and they’re relatively inexpensive. However, there are demolition costs to consider.

Local authorities are required to keep Brownfield Registers, which detail all the brownfield land suitable for residential development in the local area. Whilst some of these plots might appear rough around the edges, many can be transformed into wonderful locations for a new self-build home.

The buying process

The process of purchasing land varies. It could involve bidding on a brownfield site at an auction or approaching the council for a disused plot. Before buying, you should hire a surveyor to check for any issues with the land, including whether it’s suitable to build on or whether there are any environmental issues.

You’ll also usually need to hire a solicitor to assist with the legal process, which will include checking for any covenants or other restrictions. Finally, if the residential land is worth over £125,000, you’ll also need to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax.

Architects for your dream self-build home

Once you’ve bought your land, you can make a start on the design process. At CODA Bespoke, our award-winning Sheffield team specialises in creating show-stopping luxury properties, so your dream self-build home can become a reality.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards a bespoke self-build home, contact our team to discuss your plans. Or take a look at our portfolio to see our previous projects.

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