FERN Passivhaus Apartments

  • 2020

  • Architectural
    Architectual Design

Designed By:

  • Oliver Steele
  • Steele Associates Architects

Commissioned By:

Oliver Steele

Designed In:


What if you could stay in a private city oasis with the warmth and personality of home? What if this oasis was solar powered, triple-glazed, and at Goldilocks temperatures year-round? Steele Associates asked these “what if’s”, and answered with The Fern: The Southern Hemisphere’s first Passivhaus Certified apartments.

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Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
Image: Oliver Steele
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  • We challenged ourselves to design, build and develop high-density, net-positive, low-energy, bespoke dwellings on a tight city block. The site constraints meant that passive solar strategies alone wouldn’t be enough to make The Fern a joy to reside in. The north and south boundaries, which architects normally rely on for light and ventilation, were required to be fire-rated, so openings on these boundary walls were out of the question. This left only the eastern and western facades, along with the hot morning and afternoon summer sun, to do all the work of providing natural light and ventilation to the interiors.

  • The Fern has been designed as Sydney’s urban oasis. It works hard, so that you don’t have to; there are no compromises in Australia’s first Passive House apartments. Energy efficiency, filtered air free of allergens and pollutants, quiet and delightfully detailed interiors, and the city on the doorstep, are all achieved without the ongoing use of fossil fuels. Its sustainable, carbon neutral accommodation made luxe.

  • Providing peacefully quiet, thermally comfortable, naturally-lit, dust and pollution free homes and hotels with constant filtered fresh-air supply overcomes a longstanding problem:- the need to be close to employment, recreation and the buzz of the city – and being stuck with noise, dust, pollution and compromised amenity. Once people experience what’s possible in terms of beautiful, functional, sustainable spaces for living and working, market demand for these things will grow, driving early-adopters in the industry to gain market edge by improving performance and reducing environmental impact of buildings.

  • • Triple glazed doors and windows – 6 times more energy efficient than code compliant equivalents. • Airtight construction - 40 times better than average homes, keeping out dust, noise and insects. • Constant fresh, hypoallergenic filtered air free of dust, pollen and pollution through Heat Recovery Ventilation. • Structural thermal-breaks preventing unwanted heat transfer – world first design innovation. • Recycled concrete used throughout, with natural wax-burnished off-form feature walls. • 21kW of solar power running all services including hot water and cooking – with no gas required. Net-positive regenerative outcome achieved. • Individual metering of solar input, power-use and hot water via Australia’s first private network in a building under 40 apartments, opening up these benefits for boutique developments. • 9.3-10 star NatHERS energy ratings – Best ever achieved in Australian apartments. • Two 15m high green walls in the atrium to cool the heart of the building. • Australian-first ventilation design. We overcame building code shortfalss using computational fluid dynamics modelling for a performance solution for the HRV system. This modelling proved that the HRV was superior to code-compliant mechanical ventilation typically installed in apartment bathrooms, and enabled us to avoid doubling-up on systems. This solution is now available to other developers wishing to improve quality of life for building occupants.