Designing a Timber Frame Passive House: A Guide for Yorkshire Builders

Building a timber frame passive house is a fantastic way to combine sustainability, energy efficiency, and modern living. In Yorkshire, where the weather can be quite variable, a well-designed passive house can provide comfort and reduce energy costs. This guide will walk you through the essential steps to design a timber frame passive house using a timber frame with full-fill insulation, insulated thermal bridge-free raft foundation system, triple-glazed windows, and Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR).

1. Timber Frame Structure

A timber frame passive house typically consists of two main structural components: an inner and outer timber frame leaf. This dual-frame system allows for greater flexibility in insulation and thermal performance.

  • Inner Timber Frame Leaf: The inner frame supports the interior load-bearing walls and the floor structure. It also provides a cavity for additional insulation and services such as plumbing and electrical wiring.
  • Outer Timber Frame Leaf: The outer frame supports the exterior cladding and weatherproofing layers. It is crucial to design this frame to handle external environmental factors such as wind, rain, and temperature changes prevalent in Yorkshire.

2. Full Fill Insulation

Insulation is the key to achieving passive house standards. The full-fill insulation method involves filling the entire space between the inner and outer timber frames with high-performance insulation material.

  • Material Choice: Use materials like cellulose, fiberglass, or mineral wool for their excellent thermal performance and environmental credentials.
  • Installation: Ensure that the insulation is installed without any gaps or compression, as these can significantly reduce thermal efficiency. The goal is to achieve a U-value of 0.15 W/m²K or lower, which is necessary for passive house certification.

3. Thermal Bridge-Free Raft Foundation

A thermal bridge occurs when a conductive material allows heat to bypass the insulation, reducing the building’s overall thermal efficiency. To avoid this, an insulated thermal bridge-free raft foundation system should be used.

  • Foundation Design: This foundation system consists of an insulated concrete slab that rests on a layer of high-performance insulation. This setup prevents thermal bridging and provides a continuous insulation layer from the floor to the walls.
  • Execution: Pay special attention to the connection points between the foundation and the walls to ensure that there are no thermal breaks.

4. Triple Glazed Windows

Windows are typically the weakest point in a building’s thermal envelope. Triple glazed windows are essential for maintaining the passive house standard.

  • Window Specifications: Choose windows with a U-value of 0.8 W/m²K or lower. They should have insulated frames and low-emissivity (low-e) coatings to minimize heat loss and maximize solar gain.
  • Placement: Optimize the placement of windows to maximize natural daylight and passive solar heating. In Yorkshire, south-facing windows can provide significant solar gain during the winter months.

5. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR)

An MVHR system is crucial for maintaining indoor air quality while minimizing heat loss.

  • System Design: The MVHR unit should be sized according to the building’s volume and occupancy. It works by extracting stale air from wet rooms (kitchens, bathrooms) and supplying fresh air to living spaces (bedrooms, living rooms).
  • Efficiency: Ensure the MVHR unit has an efficiency of at least 75%. This means it can recover 75% of the heat from the outgoing air and use it to warm the incoming fresh air.


Designing a timber frame passive house in Yorkshire requires careful planning and attention to detail. By using an inner and outer timber frame leaf with full fill insulation, a thermal bridge-free raft foundation system, triple glazed windows, and an efficient MVHR system, you can create a home that is comfortable, sustainable, and energy-efficient. These elements not only meet the stringent passive house standards but also ensure that your home can withstand the unique climatic conditions of Yorkshire, providing a healthy living environment for years to come.

To see how Pure House Design and Build integrates passive house principles into our homes, we invite you to join us at one of our open days. You’ll have the opportunity to explore our innovative designs, experience the comfort and efficiency of a passive house firsthand, and learn more about our commitment to sustainable living. Open days

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