The Fern – Australia’s First Passivhaus Apartments 2019

Alexandria NSW 2015
    • Housing Type:
    • Development
    • Project Type:
    • New Build
    • Builder
    • Steele Associates Construction
    • Designer
    • Steele Associates Architects

About The Fern – Australia’s First Passivhaus Apartments

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
    • Energy efficiency:
    • Draught proofing
      Efficient lighting
      Efficient appliances
    • Active heating cooling:
    • Ceiling fans
    • Water heating:
    • Hot water heat pump
    • Water harvesting and saving features:
    • Underground rainwater storage
      Low flow shower heads
      Hot water recirculation
    • Underground rainwater storage type:
    • Rainwater tank
    • Underground rainwater storage Size:
    • 5000L
    • Storage connected to
    • Garden
    • Energy Efficient Lighting
    • LED lights throughout
    • Window Protection:
    • Adjustable Shading
    • Recycled and reused materials:
    • Aggregate
      Steel frame
    • Insulation Type:
    • Under-roof
      Internal walls
      External walls
    • Floor Type:
    • Bulk - glass wool
    • Floor Rating:
    • R1.5
    • Under Roof Insulation Type:
    • Insulated panels
    • Under Roof Insulation Rating:
    • R6.0
    • Internal Walls Insulation Type:
    • Bulk – glass wool
    • Internal Walls Insulation Rating:
    • R2.0
    • External Walls Rating:
    • R3.5
    • External Walls Type:
    • Insulated panel system
    • All-Electric Home?
    • Yes
    • Energy star rating:
    • 9.3-10 Star
    • Renewable energy used:
    • Solar PV grid connect
    • Size of PV system:
    • 21kW
    • Cost estimate of sustainable home/features:
    • $20,000
    • Estimate of annual savings:
    • $1,200
    • House Size
    • 65m2 per apartment
    • BAL Rating
    • N/A
    • Roof
    • Insulated panel (sandwich panels)
    • Wall Materials
    • In-Situ Green Concrete
    • Window and Door Types
    • Low-e, films
      Stacking windows/doors
      Triple glazing
    • Universal design accessability
    • Adaptive design
    • Number of bedrooms
    • 1
    • Number of bathrooms
    • 1
    • Healthy home features
    • 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