The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream from an energy efficient home into a reality.



Other Little Challenges


It has almost been 3 months since I last posted an update on our own passive house and lots of people have been asking me what’s going on. So I thought I better write a quick update.

Sadly our own house is last in line, so we haven’t had much time working on the finer details yet. We are still aiming to start building in January 2019. And to make sure this is happening we do want to have all the documentation ready for the building permit in October – November. To give us a bit of a buffer in case we run into some problems.

 While Ben is working on the passive house calculations, to make sure we haven’t oversized the windows and that we have allowed for the appropriate insulation everywhere. We have started to put in some more structural details into the plans.

As I had explained previously, with our house we have to comply with stricter setback regulations than usual, which, combined with a sloping block can lead to some challenges. We do want to build the house as compact as possible, having first floor walls sitting directly on top of ground floor walls. For structural and costing reasons as well as for energy efficiency reasons. Due to the wide easement and the setback regulations the size of our 2 kids bedrooms upstairs is already on the small side, with a width of only 3.2 metres and no room to make them wider. This was one of the main reasons we have decided on a gabled roof, as this allows for nice high ceilings within the bedrooms, making the rooms appear bigger than they are.

However, when we were detailing the house further I was quite shocked to see that the roof and wall height at the very south west corner of our house was outside the allowed maximum height. Just at the very corner, due to the fall of the land. How frustrating.

Leaving us only 2 options. Either making the upper level 300 mm smaller. Which would be a deal breaker, making the kids bedrooms too small. Or lowering the entire roof by 300 mm.

So, we played a bit around. And did the following.

Lowered the entire house by 100mm, removing one step at the entry.

  • Reducing the ceiling height in the kitchen from 2.7 to 2.6 metres
  • Lowering the pitching point of the first floor roof from 2.4m to 2.3m

Luckily we do have raked ceilings throughout our upper level, which means that even though the roof will pitch from only 2.3 metres, rather than 2.4 metres, the rooms will still feel open and spacious, due to the high ceilings.

While this may sound as the perfect solution, it will also bring more challenges and possibly a higher build cost. Lowering the house means that we have to excavate more at the back of the house and will need higher retaining walls, which could add quite a significant amount to our build cost. Finger’s crossed it won’t be too much.

Hopefully next week we’ll find some time to finish off the preliminary drawings, so that we can send them off to the sips manufacturer and window manufacturer for some initial quotes. And also to get a quote for the engineering.

Stay tuned.

PS, the design has changed again since the above render image has been done.