As the Government made the controversial decision to stop pursuing zero carbon homes targets, the industry will have to work to push for higher standards during the Government’s upcoming review of building regulations. Here, Saint-Gobain’s Stacey Temprell shares her thoughts on how we can continue to drive down carbon.
We believe that fabric first is the most sustainable approach to improve the energy performance of a building, as well as providing the public with security over energy costs.
Building environmentally friendly homes relies on the fabric of the building being constructed to a sufficient standard in order to achieve optimum levels of energy efficiency. The approach revolves around building an airtight and thermally effective envelope, first and foremost, before adding renewable technologies into the building. The best type of building, after all, is one so efficient and comfortable for its occupants that it needs very little energy in the first place to maintain overall comfort, including good indoor air quality.
This approach requires considerable planning in the early design phases of a new building, the right use of materials and application of building solutions and the right skills and knowledge to enable those constructing our buildings to do so in a way that leads to the building’s performance being as good in practice, when in occupation, as its design had intended.”
With carbon reduction in mind, looking at the fabric from the outset can result in a more cost-effective project, reducing the need to add renewables. By applying the fabric first approach properly, it is possible to diminish the need for additional energy to heat or cool the building, creating a comfortable living space, ultimately improving the health and wellbeing of the occupants, as well as cutting bills and saving energy and carbon.
One approach to construction that places a fabric first approach at its heart is championed by the Passivhaus Trust in the UK, an organisation of which Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland is a Founder Member. The Passivhaus standard has been raising the bar for building industry standards for the past 20 years. By focusing on design principles that emphasise dramatically reducing the demand for heating and cooling, the standard also creates excellent indoor air quality and comfort levels.
Passivhaus aims to reduce the need for additional air circulation, heating or cooling systems by creating buildings that are more airtight than conventional buildings. As well as increasing comfort levels for occupants, this leads to less energy being used and wasted, reduced carbon emissions and lower energy costs. By ensuring that the building fabric is as structurally sound and well insulated as possible, Passivhaus buildings are among the best performing buildings for energy efficiency in the world.
I believe – and much of the research undertaken at Saint-Gobain suggests – that by adopting a fabric first approach many of the issues we are having now and trying to solve by affixing retrospective measures to poorly built housing stock would be alleviated.