A logical staircase to build PH design skills Collaboration with expert designers is a great first step

14 August 2023 by Jason Quinn

Seaward House, a newly certified Passive House on Auckland’s waterfront, is a fantastic example of how architects can build their skills in high-performance design in effective, methodical ways.

The architect entrusted with this ambitious project was Marc Lithgow from Space Division. First, he chose to bring in Passive House experts to do the PH design, doubtless learning a whole lot from that process. Next Marc completed formal training and qualified as a certified Passive House designer. Then his practice promptly applied that learning to real-world projects, with the oversight and support Sustainable Engineering can offer during the formal certification process. 

This is a great example of a methodical step-by-step process for developing capacity. I hope it’s one that other architects who want to be able to offer genuine high-performance buildings to their clients will follow. 

Passive House design for Seaward House was carried out by Architype. Its team has designed more certified Passive House projects than anyone else in Aotearoa, so it was a very safe bet. Architype doesn’t normally sub-contract Passive House design services—the practice is a one-stop shop for Passive House and architectural design—but Tim said yes to a friend and former colleague. Architype’s Sam Parish took a lead role and we hear the result was a seamless and fruitful collaboration between the three architects. Architype’s people are used to designing in colder climate zones. The mild weather in Auckland meant more margin, useful given the clients’ exacting requirements.

Marc went on to take the PHANZ Passive House designer course during the first Covid lockdown. Fellow Space Division colleague Julie Chrystall has gone on to design two projects targeting certification, doing the Passive House as well as architectural design in-house. 

Jumping in the deep end and figuring you’ll float doesn’t cut it when it comes to genuine high-performance design and construction. We’d much rather see fledgling Passive House designers follow the route that Space Division has taken. Working alongside Passive House experts delivered an outstanding outcome for their first Passive House project. It’s a solid foundation on which to build capability.

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