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Smarter Living



Implementation across Europe by 2021

3 Airtightness - What’s it all about?


Step-by-step EnerPHit retrofit


Self Build - The Blogger’s View

4 What buildings will you go and see this year?



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NZEB - Implementation across Europe by 2021 Nearly Zero Energy Buildings is a term that will become increasingly known across Europe as it will be the energy standard for all new buildings by 2021. According to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EC), the definition of an NZEB building is one with an excellent performance where the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be substantially provided by renewable sources provided on-site or nearby. From January, 1st 2021, all new buildings will have to comply with the new NZEB standards. For public buildings, the NZEB standard will be introduced from January, 1st 2019. The Irish standards for Nearly Zero Energy Buildings are set out in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Goverment’s publication Towards Nearly Zero Energy Buildings in Ireland – Planning for 2020 and Beyond, issued in November 2012. For dwellings, the Irish NZEB standard will be equivalent to a primary energy value of 45 kWh/m2/annum (i.e. an A2 BER rating), with the energy performance co-efficient (EPC) and carbon performance co-efficient (CPC) not exceeding 0.302 and 0.305. For existing dwellings, the NZEB target will be set as a B3 BER rating based on standard insulation and heating upgrades. The addition of renewable technologies will be expected to further improve the BER rating of existing dwellings. For buildings other than dwellings, the Irish NZEB standard will be equivalent to a 60% reduction on the 2008 energy performance standards. All EU Member States are preparing to implement the NZEB standards, through their national plans, with some more advanced than others. In the Brussels region, NZEB standards became mandatory for all new buildings in 2015 and the building sector has gradually adapted to them. This table is an extract from a BPIE NZEB Definition Factsheet published in April 2015. During the NZEB Open Doors weekend from 13th - 15th November 2015, you will have an opportunity to visit some of the better examples of low energy buildings in Ireland and hopefully become inspired for your upcoming new build or retrofit projects. This year’s event is kindly supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). According to John O’Sullivan, Head of Development at SEAI, “The NZEB Open Doors events build awareness of the importance of energy efficient buildings and help prepare the way for the emergence of the NZEB standard in Ireland, a core element of the recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive”.


“One Year on in Newbridge”

Seamus Sheehy Newbridge, Co. Kildare


Self Build - The Blogger’s View Seamus Sheehy is building his own passive house in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and has created his own blog detailing progress on the project at Seamus‘ blog first featured in our 2014 magazine. It is extremely well laid out and documents the key design decisions made by Seamus at the various stages of construction. For the building structure, Seamus selected a glulam beam system because it allows for a flexible open plan design in the future where internal walls can be moved. As the building is a wooden frame structure, the choice of insulation was limited. Seamus opted for Isover Metac semi rigid insulation with a K value of 0.034 W/mK in order to keep the wall thickness to a minimum giving a U value of 0.09 W/(m²K).

The pitch of both roofs is  12.5 degrees. The architect choose this in order to optimise solar gain during the winter months and ensure both buildings receive adequate light. There is a roof overhang of 1.8 metres in order to control the solar gain during the summer. The roof U value is 0.102 W/(m²K) and the thickness is 530 mm  with 400 mm of Metac insulation.

Passive House Summer Shading

Within the blog, Seamus documents his reserach into lighting controls, solar water heating and solar PV providing superb references for self builders. Examples of extracts from his blog are laid out overleaf.


Lighting Control System For the electrical wiring I plan to use a central control system called KNX for the lighting. What this means is that the power for the lights will come from a central fuse/distribution board and the switches for the lighting will be independently controlled by an extra low voltage. The reasons for selecting this KNX control system are: • To reduce the impact of interfering with the airtight envelope (as the cable is similar to alarm cable thus less wiring will need to be installed and more room functions can be carried out with one cable). • Extra capacity can easily be included in each switch position in order to allow for wiring changes in the future. • The low voltage and DC will reduce electrical and magnetic fields and minimize the use of 230 volts AC (Alternating Current) from a health perspective. • Possible to use extra functionality already available in KNX such as timers/power down control. • When leaving the house one switch can be configured to turn off all the lights or turn on essential lights.

Data Logging and Monitoring I am now researching an economical building performance monitoring and control system that will record and display data over a longer period of time and allow me to control certain functions such as entrance gates, lighting etc. I have read that the actual performance of houses being built whether passive or standard do not always perform the way they were supposed to. I feel the only way to monitor this is to have an economical simple system (easy to use) that watches for failures and highlights issues during the life of the build. When one reduces the energy levels to a very low level finding problems before they increase cost is a must. The items I want to record are temperature, humidity, AC current, CO2, solar DC PV output, solar hot water inputs and outputs and relay outputs.

Measuring the Solar Energy (W/m2) In the winter months from tests I have carried out with my pyranometer (a device that measures the solar energy) I am recording solar power between 0 and 400 watts per m2 (it can be higher on sunny days). In the spring/summer months the power can reach 1000 watts per m2 and more.

The PV Plan I really like the possibility of converting light to electricity. In the spirit of innovation I will simplify the PV system and reduce the cost by returning to using DC power directly from the PV panels. As I have no intention of transmitting power around the countryside this is another reason for staying with DC. The passive house standard I feel helps in this approach by reducing the energy required in a house to a very low level which creates the synergy to make this leap for me to design a DC power heating system for our house.


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Harvesting solar energy in the winter months for me is the priority which will entail the correct location and angle of the solar PV panel for the winter sun. The strategy is to try capture as much of the winter sun as possible by balancing the solar gain of the glass in the south windows of the house (part of the passive house performance phpp calculations) and supplement this with the DC electricity from solar PV panels to provide space and primary heating etc. It is very noticeable at this stage of the build the real benefit of gathering energy from the winter sun through the glass. In order to give an idea of the solar energy available I recorded the irradiance when the sun was behind a dark cloud (see image below). This equates to around 200 watts per m2 solar energy. When the sun came out from behind the cloud it reached over 1000 watts per m2 in the month of April.

Sun behind dark grey cloud is approximately 200 W/m2 of solar energy. Most inverters start to lose their efficiencies at this point. Solar Irradiance Level examples over 10 minute intervals on a sunny/cloudy day in May.

In the above chart one can see an example of how difficult it is for an inverter to keep working efficiently (they work efficiently from approximately 200 W/m2). The bottom line on the left is 100 W/m2, the top line is 700 W/m2. In the winter time values from around 50W/m2 to 200 W/m2 are the lower limits and the upper limits are around 600W/m2. For the above I need to find a way of maximising the output power of the PV panels as the irradiance varies. For this I need to develop a simple black box (a small amount of simple components) that will match the solar energy created by the PV panels and maximise the output over the winter months. I am close to having a working prototype to see this in action (all tests look good so far). The equipment to be purchased for the above will be 4 solar panels and the mounting brackets. 4 solar panels will provide around 1 KW of power (max). This will cost around â‚Ź1,000. More groups of these will be added in the future. In essence I plan to create what I call a DC Solar Harvesting Unit (DCSHU) that will have specific electric power functions around the house.




Step-by-step EnerPHit retrofit Art McCormack & Mariana Moreira MOSART, WICKLOW, IRELAND

EuroPHit – Retrofitting one step at a time This existing 1960s house in Wicklow is undergoing a deep retrofit to achieve the EnerPHit standard - the passive house certification standard for existing dwellings. This retrofit is also one of a number of projects taking part in an EU programme called the EuroPHit project, demonstrating how to achieve the EnerPHit standard, using a step-by-step phased approach to retrofitting.

Stella Maris House, Wicklow This is a detached family house located on the edge of Wicklow town. It is orientated north/south where the main views to the sea are to the north. Towards the south there is a highly vegetated hill projecting considerable shading to the south facing facade. This house was originally a county council bungalow, built with concrete blocks without any insulation on all walls, roof and floor. In the 1990s this house was retrofitted and extended with a timber frame structure. At that time the existing floor was retrofitted with 50mm insulation and the walls were

internally insulated with 50mm of fiberglass. It is naturally ventilated with the traditional vents on the external walls. In 2009 a new gas boiler was installed along with a vacuum hot water solar system. The gas boiler heats the hot water tank and feeds all radiators installed in every room.














SINCE 1979

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The Step-by-step approach to the EnerPHit Standard The first step (started in June 2015) will improve the thermal performance of the existing roof, insulating in between and above the rafters. An airtight membrane will run directly above the rafters below the new insulation above it. The existing block wall facing north will be externally insulated with rendered 250mm EPS boards. The existing render on this block wall will be the airtight layer for this part of the building. The chimney will be externally insulated and updated to be connected to a wood log stove. New roof lights, windows and door to Passive House standard will be installed. The second step will  improve the side (East and West)  elevations where the 1990’s timber frame construction joins the original block walls. The timber frame walls will be insulated between and over the studs. The airtight membrane will be over the stud walls behind the new  external insulation.  Again, new windows  and doors will be to Passive House standard.

The third step will comprise a small extension to the south and an increase in southern facing windows (to Passive House standard) along with the improvement of the timber frame walls. A PH certified Heat Recovery Ventilation system will be installed in the insulated attic. Heating will be provided mainly by the ventilation system.

The Key Challenges An existing house with multiple wall types makes for a challenging retrofit but also an excellent example of solutions to the EnerPHit Standard. In particular, the usefulness of this project for the majority of home owners becomes magnified by the adoptation of the step-by-step approach required under the EU funded EuroPHit project, involving a phased strategy and budgetary constraints. Moreover, increased complexity in the design and energy analyses result from the fact that, with this house, views of the sea and mountains are afforded to the north whereas the southern aspect looks immediately into the upward slope of a planted hill.

A key catalyst for this project was the infiltration by wind, penetrating under roof tiles and bitumenbased roof felt and through fibreglass, negating this insulation. It also cut through the suspended floor and between floor boards to rob the house of its space heating. Besides poor construction generally, this failure of the roof to protect the house not only proved the need for this imperative radical retrofit, but prompted the first phase in a step-by-step approach. Also included in this phase was external insulation and the replacement of windows and doors to the north. PHPP Beta 9 was used to determine the existing performance but also as a retrofit design tool and a basis for the phasing of the work.


“block wall facing north will be externally insulated with rendered 250mm EPS boards”

This approach sought optimum performance in component selection, reflecting economic and technical feasibility, in order to compensate for disadvantages such as thermal bridges as well as contending with the northern view and the southern curtailment of solar gain. Accordingly, maximum efficiency in the mechanical ventilation system was considered critical along with excellent thermal insulation, rigorous attention to thermal bridge and airtightness detailing and execution on site and selection of high performance windows and doors. The latter included five-pane PHI certified rooflights with an extraordinarily low U-value – the first time used in Ireland! The EnerPHit Standard as end-game via the step-

by-step process necessited a careful orchestration comprising strategic phasing of the house parts to be retrofitted and, most critically, the systematic sequencing of component application in order to ensure the ultimate unbroken continuity of insulation, thermal bridging, airtightness and wind tightness. An example of this was the roof-to-wall junction along the verge where the retrofitted roof needed to anticipate the future insulation of gable walls that comprise one of three construction types: solid block, timberframe with concrete block external leaf, and timberframe with timber cladding. Given the complexities involved, quality assurance could only be achieved through a comprehensive set of details and specifications and a strict inspection regime on site.


Airtightness - What’s it all about? Most new homes and many refurbished homes are now being made ‘airtight’ – and even tested for ‘airtightness’ – but what does this mean? And, why is it important? The main reason for making homes airtight is to eliminate cold draughts in winter time. Not only do they make us uncomfortable, they also cost us money. If heating has been on, the air that we have just paid to heat is whisked away and replaced with new cold air coming in. Making a house airtight will significantly reduce the sources of unwanted air movement and can cut the heating requirement by a significant factor.

Airtightness, Draughts and Ventilation A common misconception is that an airtight home does not provide enough air for healthy ventilation. Two things are being muddled here – ventilation and infiltration. Infiltration and its counterpart exfiltration are the terms used to denote air which can enter and exit the home via gaps and cracks in the building: e.g. around pipes, poorly fitted windows, gaps in floor boards – the list goes on. These air movement paths are a significant source of draughts and are not really ‘ventilation’ – as the air has moved through possibly unsanitary pathways, and is completely uncontrolled with more air movement on windy days, or when there is a large temperature difference between the inside and outside. Ventilation on the other hand, is air allowed into the house with the express purpose of providing sufficient fresh air for the inhabitants. Ventilation can be provided by ‘hole in the wall’ or window vents, or via mechanical systems, some of which also have inbuilt heat recovery, providing preheated fresh air. Generally, the more common ‘hole in the wall’ vents are less controllable and can create draughts – especially on windy days. One other category of ‘air movement’ is the provision of combustion air for boilers, stoves, and open fires. In the latter case, we often have a 200mm open hole up through the centre of the home drawing heated air out of the house. For this reason, you won’t see an open fire in an airtight house – it’s not banned; it just doesn’t make sense for it to be there.

Testing for Airtightness During an airtightness test, ventilation points, chimneys, kitchen extractors etc. are sealed to exclude the air movement through them from the test result. The test result is therefore, an indication of the infiltration rate, not the overall air movement rate. The most common test is the ‘Blower Door Test’ - a Building Regulation requirement for new homes.


Gavin O’Sé

Greenbuild, Gorey, Co. Wexford

What is ‘Good’ Airtightness? In Ireland, a test result of under 5m3/hr.m2 is considered ‘good’ practise. For naturally ventilated new builds with this level of airtightness, you need to increase the opening sizes or the number of the ventilation openings. In real terms, for a new build or a renovation, air tightness test results of under 3m3/hr.m2 are becoming much more common and this is considered the upper limit of what might be ‘Best Practise’ in Ireland. However, even in these ‘airtight’ homes, there may be “hole on the wall” ventilation and/or open chimneys, all of which can still create draughts, so while they are more airtight, they may not be fully ‘draught free’. Passive houses and NZEBs built with very careful attention to detail are achieving results of less than 0.50 m3/hr.m2. In these very airtight houses, typically there is no chimney or open hole vents and these homes can really be considered ‘draught free’. Achieving Good Airtightness Really good airtightness in a new build or a renovation involves: • Proper planning • Proper workmanship • Proper materials Proper planning requires the careful consideration and design of the main ‘air barrier’ at design stage and the continuity of the air barrier at tricky junctions is thought through at this stage. Once on site, materials used must be fit for purpose and used appropriately. The person installing the materials must be careful and tidy. Achieving an airtight building on a messy building site is very difficult. In existing homes where there is no budget or appetite for a significant overhaul of the building fabric, noticeable improvements in draught levels and airtightness can be made by installing chimney dampers, sealing behind skirting boards, sealing gaps in suspended timber floors, sealing around pipe penetrations and cable holes and addressing window and door leaks. A fan is placed in a door or window and air is sucked out (de-pressurised) and blown back into the building (pressurised). During both these periods, the fan operator notes the amount of airflow. The airflow result is the average airflow during pressurisation and de-pressurisation – i.e. the amount of cubic metres of air per hour leaving / entering the home via gaps and cracks etc. The airflow per hour is then divided by the size of the building to give us the relative airleakiness of the building.

In Ireland, we divide the airflow result by the building envelope area (m2) to get the overall Air Permeability rate, giving us a m3/hr.m2 result. A typical result might be 4.5 m3/hr.m2 – this means that per square metre of the envelope, 4.5m3 of air movement permeates the envelope per hour. For passive houses, we divide the airflow result by the dwelling volume, to give an Air Change rate. So, we might likewise have a result of 4.2 ACH – Air changes per hour.


What buildings will you go and see this year? Further houses and public buildngs will be added over the coming weeks. Please follow us on one of our social media channels to keep up to date.

During the NZEB Open Doors weekend from 13th-15th November 2015, you will have an opportunity to visit some of the better examples of low energy buildings in Ireland and hopefully become inspired for your upcoming new build or retrofit projects.

NZEB Tours

To participate as an exhibitor or visitor, please visit our website, email us or call us at 01 454 8300 for more information.


NZEB Tours Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary The Cloughjordan Eco Village will host tours over all 3 days of NZEB Open Doors. The tours will be organised around particular themes, e.g. one focussing on straw bale houses, one on cob houses etc. Details of the tours will be announced on the website shortly.

Cork Passive House Tour Following on from the ‘See The Light’ Passive House conference in Cork on Friday 13th November, a short Passive House tour will take place on Saturday 14th starting at the CIT Zero2020 building. Details of the tour will be announced on the website shortly.

NUI Galway, Engineering Building The world-class teaching and research facility ushers in a new era for Engineering at the University, which has an excellent reputation in Engineering education. The building has been designed to be a teaching tool in itself, with exposed construction techniques and an array of ecological building methods. The four-storey architectural gem and its 400 rooms accommodates some 1,100 students and 110 staff. The 14,250 sqm building will support an emerging generation of engineers, engaged in a new wave of technologies, embracing innovation and entrepreneurship. Winner of RIAI Public Choice Award 2012 and RIAI Most Environmentally Sustainable Building Award 2012.

“I thought it was excellent , I just wish it was more frequent!”


Thormanby Hill, Howth, Co. Dublin The new 5 bedroom houses incorporate superior levels of insulation, increased levels of air tightness and the use of refined building details to reduce heat loss and minimise thermal bridging. ‘Whole House’ Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation system has been installed to provide a controlled supply of fresh air along with a solar PV system.

Gurteen, Co. Sligo This is a one-and-a-half story timber-frame post & beam house constructed in a picturesque rural farm setting. The windows are a mixture of alu-clad and PVC. The walls and roof are externally wrapped with Gutex woodfibre board insulation. The main house has a Gutex render plaster system and the single-story wings are clad with Tegral Cedral cement fibre-boards.

Toureeny, Moycullen, Co. Galway Standarised pre-manufactured Scandinavian Homes timber frame house in Moycullen, Co Galway. Timber frame with closed walls and factory installed windows. The house is equipped with a seasonal store system for thermal solar and is energy independent (heat and DHW only) until Christmas day every year by which time the stored solar heat from the previous summer is used up.

Drumcondra, Dublin 9 This 1930s house was renovated and extended from 80 to 150m2. The timber frame passive extension arrived to site substantially finished with insulation and plasterboard on the walls. Most of the frame was up in 2 to 3 days. The existing house was externally insulated with 120mm of plastered EPS achieving an airtightness result of 0.75 ac/h at 50 Pascals. A local heat recovery ventilation system was fitted in the wet rooms.


Wicklow Town, Co. Wicklow This 1960s detached house is undergoing a deep retrofit to achieve Enerphit passive house certification, using a step-by-step approach to the retrofit. The first step is currently underway and includes roof insulation between and over the rafters, an airtight membrane, external wall insulation to the north gable and chimney and new passive certifed rooflights, window and door. Future steps include additional insulation and airtightness membrane to timber frame walls and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

Drumcondra, Dublin 9 1948 house in Drumcondra that has undergone a deep retrofit and extension in 2015, bringing it from an F rating to a B1 rating - a perfect example of an NZEB retrofit to an existing building. All existing floors have been insulated and the original walls have been insulated with a combination of internal and external insulation. Triple glazed windows throughout and a Lunos Silvento demand control whole house extract ventilation system has been fitted. The homeowner was inspired as a visitor to NZEB Open Doors in 2013!

Dunboyne, Co. Meath Detached dormer dwelling completed in 2014 with low building fabric U-values and airtightness and an air-to-water heat pump with underfloor heating.

Mount Merrion, Co. Dublin Deep retrofit and extension of 1950s solid wall 3 bed semi-detached house in Mount Merrion, Co. Dublin. This is an exemplar deep retrofit improving from a G rating to an A2 rating. It also achieves the EnerPHit standard for specific space heating demand of 25 kWh/m2/year. This retrofit project was an Isover Energy Efficiency award winner in 2013.


Mullingar, Co. Westmeath Near Passive style single-storey house completed in 2011. The house sits on a concrete raft position on top of 300mm thick insulation. To this is added the same thickness external insulation on walls and roof. The south facing aspect is mainly glass. All windows and skylights are triple glazed. Internal walls are constructed with high density blocks to absorb and store all available solar energy. Energy for hot domestic water is supplied through a single gas filled solar panel. The house features a Heat Recovery system which exhausts any surplus of warm air.

Honeypark, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Honeypark is a high density mixed development on the 78-acre site of the former DĂşn Laoghaire Golf Club. Passive house principles have been adopted to reduce the energy demand with features such as; superior levels of insulation, increased levels of air tightness and using refined building details to reduce heat loss and minimise thermal bridging. ‘Whole House’ Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation system has been installed to provide a controlled supply of fresh air along with a solar PV system.

Glenealy, Co. Wicklow This self-built and self-designed timber frame house built to the passive house standard in Glenealy Co. Wicklow was completed in Spring 2014. Featuring Irish grown cedar cladding and locally grown spruce beams, cellulose insulation in the walls and roof, solar hot water, solar PV, wood burning boiler stove, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, triple glazed alu-clad windows and airtightness membrane with an air tightness result of 0.11 ac/h at 50 Pascals.

GAA Centre of Excellence, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow The innovative heating system use three alternative renewable energy sources based around the Ochsner heat pump system. Aquathermal energy from an underground well and suspended energy available in humidity are managed onsite by operating the most efficient energy heat pump on each occasion there is a demand for heat. The efficiency is maximised by taking advantage of high temperature humid air from Spring to Autumn, and high temperature underground water in winter months.

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NZEB OpenDoors Brochure 2015  

During the weekend of 13th – 15th November 2015, owners of low energy buildings will open their doors to the public nationwide during the NZ...

NZEB OpenDoors Brochure 2015  

During the weekend of 13th – 15th November 2015, owners of low energy buildings will open their doors to the public nationwide during the NZ...