Work to start on innovative Gloucester youth hostel

Work is set to begin on the largest building in Gloucestershire with a Passivhaus certification, writes Sam Jackson.

The youth hostel, which will contain 14 rooms, will be the first building of its kind in the UK to achieve this standard of energy efficiency, which emphasises excellent thermal performance, exceptional airtightness and mechanical ventilation.

Passivhaus experts Potter and Holmes designed and developed the structure for New Brewery Arts, who will run the project once construction has been completed in spring 2016.

Ali Russell, Centre Director for New Brewery Arts, said he originally pitched the idea to the trustees as a way of creating a sustainable future. He said: “We're really excited to see the project come to fruition and know that it will be a great addition to Cirencester and the County.

The Passivhaus status will be a bonus and hopefully the success of our project will be a pilot for more projects like this in the future."

Peter Holmes, architect for Potter and Holmes, feels more challenges have been presented by this build than other similar projects. He said: “The original design had to be pared back to meet lower than expected levels of funding.

“The finished product should be an impressive, Passivhaus-certified building which uses innovative approaches and may well form the blueprint of other, similar projects in the future."

Toby Cambray, director of Greengauge Building Energy Consultants, responsible for the Pasivhaus Assessment of the accommodation, added that the building will be certified under the Enerphit scheme. “The particularly challenging aspects of this project have been the design of the wall and roof insulation. Budgetary constraints meant a wholesale replacement of the roof would not be possible, and the new, thicker insulation had to be fitted internally, complicated by the need to upgrade some of the structural timbers.

“The wall insulation system will achieve a U-value of around 0.2W/m2.K. The roof and floors achieve around 0.1 W/m2.K, and windows at 1.0W/m2.K (centre pane 0.52W/m2.K). The ventilation system will recover 80 per cent of the heat from the stale exhaust air into the fresh supply air."

Technical details of the build include the external walls being insulated from the inside with a build-up of wood fibre insulation products, which allow the building to "breathe" and reduce the possibility of the build-up of water vapour and condensation. 

Also the existing roof coverings are being retained, and rigid insulation boards are being applied between and under the existing rafters to meet the required levels.

Furthermore the existing lower ground floor will be filled and the new ground floor slab will "float" on a thick layer of insulation board which will be turned up at the edge of the perimeter of the slab to remove cold bridges.

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