Net Zero Projects

Minimising waste and maximising enjoyment

As the extent and impacts of the climate collapse become ever clearer, we have sought to become more knowledgeable, and evidence-based in addressing sustainable design, working with software like OneClick and PHPP, and with like-minded colleagues in other disciplines, to understand and advocate alternative solutions to clients and stakeholders.

We are delighted to have won the BD online Net Zero Architect of the Year Award, and so proud of our team at vHH.

“…there was a lot of competition in the net zero category. The winner, van Heyningen and Haward, showed the value of comprehensive carbon data and applying the lessons learned from earlier projects to subsequent work.”

Judges’ citation from the award

Sustainability has always been a driver for us, but over the past decade we have set ourselves on a path to make more of a direct impact. Our design process focuses on low energy design and lifetime carbon reduction, to help combat the climate emergency. We do this through a variety of strategies – designing to Passivhaus principle, broadening our knowledge of biobased materials and renewable energy systems, and being on top of carbon calculations, both embodied and in use. Our Waterbeach Barracks Primary school will have lower whole life carbon than any building we have designed before, and we champion the reuse and energy upgrade of, listed buildings, such as at Houlton School.

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At Leicester Cathedral (grade II*) we proposed that their extension be a passivhaus. Despite resolute opposition by CFEC (the CofE planning body), and its necessarily awkward form factor, the building, under construction, will perform close to the passivhaus standard.


At Houlton School we combined painstaking retrofit of the Grade II industrial buildings and super-efficient new blocks to exceed the DfE requirements for new schools, and minimise WLC.

At St Gabriel’s we took the lessons from our initial phase POE to persuade our client to deliver a timber-framed building to the AECB standard.

At Waterbeach Barracks Primary School we will deliver a largely timber building which generates annually the equivalent to 80% of its entire energy demand.

We definitely don’t know all the answers – but we try to find, adopt and spread better practice with every project, without compromising their architectural quality.