Racecourse Estate

On awarding the top prize in the 2014 Sound Insulation Awards, the judges commented:

The Racecourse Passivhaus Estate in Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear, was the largest residential Passivhaus scheme in the UK on completion. This was a pioneering development for the UK in terms of design and scale delivering Passivhaus with a more traditional UK design aesthetic as well as a new approach to customer education and engagement. In the acoustic design, the performance achieved is of the highest quality – these may be the first dwellings to be measured in the UK to achieve the Class A categories for both sound insulation and ambient noise according to the Acoustic Classification Scheme proposed under COST Action TU0901, now to be adopted as an ISO Standard. Further, the method used to assess the sound insulation design is highly innovative and is transferrable to other design and testing assessments.


The judges noted that this project combined high performance thermal design with good sound insulation which offered a good way forward for sustainable development. They were pleased to see a post-occupancy assessment was undertaken and that ambient noise and noise from the ventilation system was considered. Using the latest information from the COST programme was an illustration of innovative and original thinking which helped this project to be declared the winner.

Mark Siddall, Project Architect commented:

As architects, we are often confounded by the demands of acousticians, but we were delighted by the approach taken by Apex Acoustics on this project. They were flexible in their approach, and always had suggestions that overcame the problems of detailing the junctions to control thermal bridging and maintain the integrity of the airtightness in a buildable way, while also clearly remaining responsible for the sound insulation performance.

The challenge for the sound insulation design was to integrate this with the detailing required to control thermal bridging and maintain the integrity of the airtightness.  The success of this has been proven by the co-heating tests undertaken by Leeds Metropolitan University, which demonstrated that the thermal performance of the Passivhaus homes is such that they have closed the thermal performance gap – no other building that they have examined over 20 years of research has ever achieved this goal.  The sound insulation tests prove the acoustic design.  Thus the combined performance requirements have, unusually, all been proven by testing.


In 2013 a Building Use Studies survey was conducted and revealed that residents are delighted with their new Passivhaus homes; the levels of sound insulation and quietness of the MVHR system are integral to achieving this outcome, contributing to the sustainability of the scheme in its truest sense.


Anonymised quotes from tenants:

“extremely satisfied” with the sound insulation.


“Felt like we were on holiday in Spain”


“Breathing in fresh air – feeling more awake.”


“Can’t comment on heating as we have never had the heating on since we moved in.”


“Air seems better, more comfortable.”


By helping to design and implement this project, and also by keeping a close eye on quality assurance, Mark Siddall of LEAP Architecture established himself as one of the UK’s leading low energy architects.


Association of Noise Consultants Sound Insulation Award 2014.
Regional Constructing Excellence Award 2012: Innovation
Regional LABC Building Excellence Award 2012: Best Large Housing Development
Regional LABC Building Excellence Award 2012: Innovation
Sunderland LABC Building Excellence Award 2012: Best Large Housing Development


Passivhaus Trust Awards 2013, Large Housing Project of the Year
Sustainable Housing Awards 2011, Large Housing Project of the Year, 2011


Location: Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland
Project type: Residential Passivhaus homes
Client: Gentoo Group
Size: 2185 sqm
Completion: 2012
Architectural team: Mark Siddall, Adam James
Passivhaus Designers: Mark Siddall, Alan Clarke
Mechanical services: Alan Clarke
Photography: Mark Siddall