A recent UEA academic report on ‘Delivering low energy building’ called for radical changes in construction practice and called for investors, politicians and developers to ensure “most new homes in the UK are built passive – for better homes, lower bills and better returns”. The report is based on a four year study of building performance in the UK, Sweden and Germany, as part of Build with CaRE programme promoting energy-efficient buildings. The report’s author Dr Bruce Tofield said that “Building as we do today could create a disastrous legacy spanning many decades of higher bills, poorer health, and the country unable to meet climate change targets... Building to the Passivhaus quality standard is the route to better homes, lower bills and better returns”.
I couldn’t agree more. We in the UK have been so woefully behind the times compared to our European counterparts. It is estimated that there are now over 37,000 Passivhaus buildings in the world. In the UK there are now roughly 30-40 Passivhaus projects in existence, so a very small proportion of the global total. The good news is that Passivhaus seems now to be growing exponentially in the UK, with projects – including large scale schools and social housing - springing up almost daily. There are now almost 200 certified Passivhaus designers and consultants and Passivhaus is becoming increasingly taught at Universities.
It is excellent news that Passivhaus is getting onto the academic radar, which will hopefully soon affect the Government policy agenda. The Passivhaus Trust is working hard to raise the profile of Passivhaus in the UK – including the forthcoming conference and open days this week. As a supplier of Passivhaus products in the UK and small-scale building contractor in Yorkshire, my company Green Building Store has been doing its best to help kickstart the ‘Passivhaus revolution’. The inception of our Denby Dale Passivhaus project (the UK’s first cavity wall Passivhaus) coincided with the very early stirrings of interest in Passivhaus in the UK and we hope it has played a part in helping to showcase the advantages of the Passivhaus approach and methodology.
There is still much to learn and develop as the UK gets to grips with Passivhaus approaches. We are very excited to be currently working on a Passivhaus refurbishment project at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Stirley Community Farm in Huddersfield.
The project aims to transform a derelict farm building into a low energy flexible, all-purpose educational centre and space. A super-insulated timber frame structure will be built inside the existing stone building, preserving the outward appearance of the barn, while working at EnerPHit levels of performance. EnerPHit is the Passivhaus Institut ‘s standard for retrofits and recognises the difficulty of achieving a full Passivhaus standard in existing buildings , by having slightly relaxed requirements for airtightness and space heating demand.
The space heating requirement for EnerPHit is 25 kWh/m2/year (as opposed to 15 kWh/m2/year for Passivhaus) and airtightness requirement is 1.0 (rather than 0.6 air changes/ hour). Applying Passivhaus principles to retrofit projects is inevitably more challenging than for new build. You can read more about the project’s challenges and lessons in my regular blogs at www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/enerphit
Geoff & Kate Tunstall, owners of the Denby Dale Passivhaus have described Passivhaus as a “victory for commonsense”. The UK needs to embrace it urgently and the construction industry can play an important role in hastening its uptake.
Bill Butcher, Director, Green Building Store www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk
Posted 06-Nov-12 08:48
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