The Fern - Australia's First Passivhaus Apartments 2019

The Fern – Australia’s First Passivhaus Apartments
Alexandria NSW 2015
Booking required – see link below
12pm - 1pm
House Open Style
Guided Tour and Presentation Only – Booking essential (address will not be listed on website)
Housing Type
Project Type
New Build
Steele Associates Architects
Steele Associates Construction
House Size
65m2 per apartment
Number of bedrooms
Number of bathrooms

Book your tickets here to visit The Fern – Australia’s First Passivhaus Apartments.
This home is open for pre-booked tours only, the address will not be displayed. 

 $20 each for tickets (children under 12 free) this includes the presentation and tour of apartments

What if you could stay in the heart of a city, in a private luxury oasis, with carefully and thoughtfully detailed interiors – that still had the warmth and personality of home? What if this accommodation was also carbon neutral, so you could relax, knowing that your travel would have minimal impact on the planet? Steele Associates has asked all these “what if’s”, and answered with The Fern.

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. It’s sustainable, carbon neutral accommodation made luxe.

Set on a challenging, compact city site, passive solar design was made difficult by the necessity for fire rated walls on the north and south boundaries making the only opportunity for light and ventilation on the problematic eastern and western facades. Additionally, all of the noise, dust and pollution associated with bustling city life lie just outside the front door.

Thankfully, the Fern achieves passive house principles of stringent air tightness, continuous unbroken insulation, high performance glazing, structural thermal breaks, and heat recovery ventilation. The building envelope is highly efficient, and provides comfortable temperatures, fresh and healthy air, and peace and quiet, all while nestled into Sydney’s vibrant urban landscape.
In order to become Passive House certified, The Fern was required to achieve the following KPIs:

  • Less than 0.6 air changes per hour at an air pressure of 50 pascals, verified by blower door testing, 40 times better than NSW average.
  • Passive House dwellings must use no more than 15kWh/m2 per year. This is 10-20% of average energy use.
  • Internal temperatures of between 18 and 24 degrees, all year round.
  • Elimination of thermal bridges with continuous insulation, including structural thermal breaks.

We met these KPIs with innovations including:

  • Unbroken insulation of R6.0 to roofs, and R3.5 to walls.
  • Structural Thermal breaks we invented in-house, combining acoustic isolation dowels and rigid insulation cast into concrete floors and walls.
  • Triple-glazed, low-e timber-framed, aluminium clad lift & slide doors and tilt & turn windows. U value is 1.43 and SHGC 0.33.
  • Automated external venetian blinds to shade summer sun.
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation to all apartments using 40w to supply and exhaust constant fresh air, filtered to allergenic levels, with a heat exchanger built-in to keep interiors warm in winter and cool in summer. Imagine clean, dust-free fresh air without the need to open windows. Always quiet, always clean.
  • 7-star 2kW AC unit in each apartment to ensure goldilocks temperatues even in heatwave conditions, using maximum 450w.
  • 21kW solar system making The Fern net-positive.
  • Solar-powered heat-pump hot water using 1.65kW for the whole building.
  • Two 15m high green walls in the atrium to cool the heart of the building.


Years Open
Cost estimate of sustainable home/features
Estimate of annual savings
Universal design accessability
Adaptive design
BAL Rating
Roofing materials
Insulated panel (sandwich panels)
Wall materials (external and internal)
In-Situ Green Concrete
Window and door types
Low-e, films
Stacking windows/doors
Triple glazing
Window and door shading
Adjustable Shading
Recycled and reused
Steel frame
Insulation - Under roof
Type: Insulated panels
Rating: R6.0
Insulation - External walls
Type: Insulated panel system
Rating: R3.5
Insulation - Internal walls
Type: Bulk – glass wool
Rating: R2.0
Insulation - Under floor
Type: Bulk - glass wool
Rating: R1.5
Healthy home
Airtight house design
Cabinet design to minimise dust collection
Heat recovery ventilation (HRV)
Low VOC paints/sealer/varnish
Natural light and ventilation
Wax based sealer/finish
All electric home
Renewable energy
Solar PV grid connect
Size of PV system
Water heating
Hot water heat pump
Active heating cooling
Ceiling fans
Energy efficiency
Draught proofing
Efficient lighting
Efficient appliances
Water harvesting and saving
Underground rainwater storage
Type: Rainwater tank
Size: 5000L
Low flow shower heads
Hot water recirculation