The Deerings

A new build modernist certified Passivhaus on the cutting edge of sustainable design, constructed utilising modern and innovative methods and built with family living in mind.

About this project

The Deerings is a brave addition to a traditional suburban street scene in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Obtaining consent was a challenge, being a modern, simple form surrounded by very traditional, suburban designs. 

Striving for excellence in sustainability

Far removed from the former bungalow that sat on the site, the building has been designed to optimise its performance by adopting a ‘fabric first approach’. The house was built from a super-insulated timber frame, which was constructed off-site. The frame was supplied with insulation and airtight membrane, and erected on a passive slab in 3 weeks, speeding up the overall programme, and minimising wastage and disturbance to neighbours. Recycled paper insulation and timber cladding externally was chosen to reduce the carbon footprint of the building, minimising the use of concrete and steel to less than 10% of the total volume of the building.

Modernist design in natural materials

The client chose the toughest route as the best way to achieve what they’d originally intended, and to get Passivhaus certification. The result is a simple, cuboid family home, where a central duplex space and sliding doors to the garden create light and a feeling of openness. A mezzanine galleried space with seating and books at the top of the stairs overlooks the main family area. Off the main ground floor space are an office and den, while the main bedroom has a large roof terrace with a Japanese bath overlooking the garden. Internally and externally, natural materials are used as much as possible, including Ash dieback for panelling, flooring and detailing. 

Energy efficient solutions

The certified Passivhaus has solar thermal and pv plus a stove for hot water and a small gas boiler for emergencies. Bills and gas use were virtually nil through a particularly cold first winter. The client says the house is so comfortable that they regularly go out under-dressed, not realising it’s cold outside. 

The client’s own building management system monitors data that will feed back to the Passivhaus community.


RIBA East award 2018

Further information



Key contacts


Gresford Architects & Nicolas Tye Architects

Project management

Mike Jacob

Timber contractor

MBC Timber Frame 



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