we know what to expect, we know it’s going to perform,” Michael Bennett says. Meanwhile, Pro Clima Intello intelligent vapour barriers, supplied by Ecological Building Systems, form the airtight layer for the walls and roof. Engineer Niall Crosson of Ecological says that when he first visited the site, he was skeptical about whether the house could get over the passive house target of 0.6 air changes per hour, because of how complex the building is, and the sheer number of junctions. “The form of this construction is actually quite complex,” he says. Crosson credits the workmanship and teamwork on site, and the quality of the materials, with the fact the building easily met the passive house airtightness target. “I just thought it was phenomenal given the complexity,” he says. One way Bennetts helped to ensure airtightness was by putting up a noticeboard on site — any time someone put a hole in the airtight layer, they had to record it for the whole team to see. “If anything happened – either deliberate or otherwise – it was acknowledged and dealt with,” Michael Bennett says. As usual with a passive house, good communication was key to the project’s success. The whole team met on site with the clients once every two weeks. MosArt architectural technician Jill Noctor kept minutes of the meetings, and held everyone to account. “We left as clients with a lot of homework to do every time we had a meeting, because there were always choices,” Pat Cox says. “That intensity of contact pays back as well, because there’s a constant open communication flowing all the time.” Michael Bennett adds: “I think that’s the secret. One of the rules that we have, and we stick rigidly by it, is every two weeks we have a meeting. We look to have the owner, or whoever is going to live in the house, with us all the way.” He adds: “We walk away when we’re finished, and these are the people who have to live in it.”
test on the first go, coming in under 0.3 air changes per hour, though it ended up at 0.4 after further work on site. The Shoalwater team, led by Donal Mullins, was confident it would hit the mark, as they had been conducting their own airtightness tests all along. Cox says the detailed attention to airtightness paid off in other areas too. “It’s interesting that the quality spillover isn’t just about getting the airtightness. People are so into quality, that they’re getting everything right first time up, which is a fantastic experience if you’re on the customer side of the equation,” he says. The house is heated very simply, by a Greenstar condensing gas boiler delivering hot water to two radiators — one in the hall and one in the sitting room. Meanwhile solar vacuum tubes on the south-facing front roof provide a good chunk of the hot water demand. When Passive House Plus spoke to Cox in November of 2014, he had only turned the boiler on once to check it was working — but he had to turn it off when the house got too hot. There’s also a Dantherm mechanical heat recovery ventilation system, certified by the Passive House Institute. “I was pleasantly surprised how quickly we were living in the house. When you saw a hole in ground in October, and that you’re actually living in a fully completed passive house in April, it is a seriously good turnaround,” Cox says. “Our strong feeling at the end of it is that we’re the beneficiaries of the delays. What we’ve got is such a comfortable house to live in. We’re sat with doors everywhere open and there are no draughts.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Cox has become a public supporter of the passive house standard over the last couple years. He even addressed the International Passive House Conference in Aachen, Germany last year. And speaking later in the year at See The Light, the Passive House Association of Ireland’s annual conference, he called on Ireland to make passive house a national building standard.
Cox was most impressed by the huge attention to detail paid by everyone on site — it reminded him of hi-tech manufacturing facilities he visited during his time as a politician. “The only place where I’ve seen quality control of this sort is in world class manufacturing plant,” Cox says. “When I saw that here, it reminded me of visits I made to really world class plants. It was I guess, in some ways, the last thing I was expecting with someone doing a construction job on a site.”
“The time has come in Ireland for passive house standards to move from the margins to the mainstream, for building policy and its energy efficiency to become more active by becoming more passive,” he said.
The house comfortably passed its airtightness
He continued: “Ireland has the necessary design
He elaborated on this by saying the passive house standard should be recognised as an alternative means of complying with Part L of the Irish building regulations.