Business Description

Constructive Individuals is a one-person practice based in York. Phil Bixby is an architect and Certified Passivhaus Designer. Over a period of more than thirty years we have run training courses for self-builders, been architects, project managers and training facilitators for community self-build projects, designed school extensions, community buildings, social and private housing, and helped various communities to decide, design and build. e have designed four Passivhaus projects and the country’s first domestic Passivhaus Plus.

Recently Phil has worked with Helen Graham to develop My Future York, an initiative to get York thinking creatively about its future, while using its past as a resource, resulting in the My Castle Gateway and My York Central community engagement programmes and shaping the council’s engagement strategy.

Distant design for a Passivhaus

Tim and JJ Shepherd lived in Singapore, with Tim approaching retirement from teaching geography at an international school. They were moving to the UK.

After some searching, a site was identified. Tim produced the perfect brief – a short story – a day in his life when his new home was completed. This told me what the place needed to provide, but left me complete freedom in design.

The contractor – Kent Building Developments – was appointed following discussions with a short list, and the design process progressed swiftly, making the most of Tim & JJ’s UK visits, and otherwise proceeding remotely using shared project management software.

The three-bedroom house is easy to keep comfortable. It has whole-house mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (A Zehnder system designed and installed by ADM), and a supply air heater, plus heated towel rails in bathrooms. The house has a whole-roof PV array on the south side, providing over 6kW peak output.

Moving Next Door to a Passivhaus

Peter & Margot had lived in their fairly substantial home for many years, but quietly hankered after something warmer and easier to maintain as they got older. Conveniently, their detached home had a substantial garden and there was an inviting gap between their house and the neighbouring one – like a missing tooth in the streetscape. We started making plans for a new home to Passivhaus standard which would slot into this gap.

The rear of the house faced south across a lengthy garden, inviting lots of glazing with shading to prevent summer overheating. The north-facing street elevation was more of a challenge though – how to create something which paid respect to the public side despite small glazing areas.

The rear face of the roof is entirely clad in PV’s installed by The Phoenixworks giving an array of over 6kWp, and battery storage is being considered.

Our Home, My Office

Shortly after Tim and JJ’s house was completed, the Victorian end-terrace house next door came up for sale, & we bought it.

Our plans were twofold – to extend across from the back addition to create a new living/cooking space looking out onto the trees, together with an office for me to the front, separated by a small courtyard. Secondly, we planned a major energy retrofit on the existing structure, sufficient to remove the need for conventional central heating. We also planned to install renewables.

The existing structure was improved by internal insulation to the front and rear, and external insulation to the gable wall. Triple-glazed sash-lookalike windows were installed from Eksalta.

The extensions were built on highly-insulated raft foundations using the same Buildakit timber frame system employed on the Passivhaus next door, together with Gaulhofer triple-glazed windows and doors, and a sedum roof system. Airtightness was around 3/hr, and a whole-house MVHR system installed.

Phil Bixby