Passive House Plus (Sustainable building) issue 32 IRL

Page 1

INSULATION | AIRTIGHTNESS | BUILDING SCIENCE | VENTILATION | GREEN MATERIALS

S U S TA I N A B L E B U I L D I N G

STIRLING WORK

Issue 32 €4.75 IRISH EDITION

Passive social housing wins UK’s top architecture award

Doctor’s orders

The complex relationship between retrofit & human health

Mies En Scéne

Iconic Dublin modernist offices get deep green treatment


OKNOPLAST

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2 | passivehouseplus.ie | Issue 29


ADVERTORIAL

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WARM & SECURE How to

achieve both an energy-efficient and burglar-proof home?

R

egardless of where we live – in a detached house, mid or end-terrace or the lower storeys of an apartment block – we should always protect our homes from potential burglars. For this reason, it is good to invest in windows, doors and other accessories which are sure to improve the level of security of our homes. As well as being highly energy efficient, all Oknoplast products provide intelligent solutions that ensure additional protection against break-ins. What exactly can help us defend the home from unwanted guests?

class further increases the number of locking points around the perimeter. Products can also be equipped with an innovative sensor for the closure of windows and doors, providing an additional layer of security.

TECHNOLOGY OFFERS A HELPING HAND

MORE ADVANCED ROLE OF THE HANDLE The first step in securing our home should be selecting windows with an adequate handle, resistant to attempted turning from the outside with the help of most popular methods, using a string or screwdriver, for example. This solution can be adopted in all Oknoplast windows with various handles, e.g. the Pixel window with a dESIGN+ handle will not only provide security to the outer envelope, but an elegant touch to the interior.

RC1

ADVANCED HARDWARE IS KEY TO PROTECTION Most importantly, for windows to be secure they need to be fitted with high-standard locking systems. Forcing or drilling through the locking points is made impossible by the Winkhaus activPilot Control hardware. Octagonalshape locking bolts made from high grade steel will ensure a high level of security even in the standard offer. All Oknoplast windows incorporate a circuit locking mechanism which locks the sash all the way around its perimeter, helping the window achieve an RC1 class of burglar resistance (EN 1627). The optional upgrade to RC2

it is to penetrate. Laminated glass will not shatter even under extreme impact, while the toughening of the glass further re-inforces it. Toughened and laminated glass can be easily incorporated into Oknoplast’s tripleglazed units to provide both high security and low heat losses.

If we want to intimidate the burglar even more, we can consider installing an integrated alarm system in the windows & doors. Technology comes in handy here – the Aluhaus front doors can come with a fingerprint scanner lock, keeping all unauthorised personnel out. However, special attention in the world of innovative security products should be given to the Smart Home Oknoplast solution, enabling the control of windows, doors and roller shutters by voice, remote, wall switch or mobile app. Upon any attempt to breach the window, the smartphone app automatically produces a notification for the owner to verify the situation. If the threat proves to be real, the alarm can be activated with one click. Intelligent technologies also allow us to program the shutters in such a way, that they will open and shut at specified times in the day.

NO COMPROMISES

RC2

UN-BREAKABLE GLASS Glass makes up the majority of a window’s surface, hence the importance of selecting the right unit to help with the protection against intruders. The rule is quite simple – the more layers of glass and foil, the harder

While choosing windows with high levels of security, we do not have to compromise on other parameters. Energy efficiency is a crucial factor in windows, and can be complemented by highest levels of technology and stunning design in an overall secure window. The best examples of this are the Oknoplast products, which offer unique profiles and RC2 security while not exceeding Uw of 0.9W/m²K and even 0.6W/m²K in the Winergetic Premium Passive system. ph+ | oknoplast advertorial | 3


EDITOR’S LETTER

PA S S I V E H O U S E +

Publishers

Temple Media Ltd PO Box 9688, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland t +353 (0)1 210 7513 | t +353 (0)1 210 7512 e info@passivehouseplus.ie www.passivehouseplus.ie

Editor

Jeff Colley jeff@passivehouseplus.ie

Deputy Editor

Lenny Antonelli lenny@passivehouseplus.ie

Reporter

John Hearne john@passivehouseplus.ie

Reporter

Kate de Selincourt kate@passivehouseplus.ie

Reporter

John Cradden cradden@passivehouseplus.ie

Reader Reponse / IT

Dudley Colley dudley@passivehouseplus.ie

Accounts

Oisin Hart oisin@passivehouseplus.ie

Art Director

Lauren Colley lauren@passivehouseplus.ie

Design

Aoife O’Hara aoife@evekudesign.com | evekudesign.com

Contributors

Toby Cambray Greengauge Building Energy Consultants Marc Ó’Riain doctor of architecture Mel Reynolds architect Peter Rickaby energy & sustainability consultant

Print

GPS Colour Graphics www.gpscolour.co.uk | +44 (0) 28 9070 2020

editor’s letter P

ublishing a magazine like Passive House Plus is a curious experience – at least in our case. The production team here tend to work remotely, including three of us in two Dublin locations, a deputy editor and reporter in Galway, with other reporters living in places as disparate as Kildare, the Forest of Dean and Paris – not to mention our regular columnists in Sandycove, Cork, Bradford-on-Avon and Milton Keynes. So I rarely get to meet many of my colleagues, let alone our readers. On the occasions that I do manage to extricate myself from my desk to attend a conference or show, I’m taken aback by the contrast between the lot of the publisher and the event organiser: what a crystallising experience it is – for better or worse – to have your entire audience before you. This contrast is brought into sharp relief when a stranger approaches you at an event and says they enjoy the magazine. At one recent conference, a German architect who moved to Ireland in the 1990s approached me, explaining that she was shocked at the dearth of detailed technical information on construction in Ireland at the time. Then she discovered our former magazine, Construct Ireland, after we launched in 2003, and she’s been devotedly reading our magazines ever since. I should get out more. Usually we don’t get to experience that much feedback – positive or negative – from our readers, so self-doubt creeps in and you wonder what impact your work is having. You get the odd hint though. We have a hardcore of extremely loyal advertisers – including four companies who have advertised in all 31 UK editions of Passive House Plus to date, and some companies who have advertised in virtually every Irish edition we’ve put out for ten years or more. Without that kind of backing and moral support, this magazine frankly wouldn’t exist. But evidently most people aren’t prone to reaching out arbitrarily to a stranger like

ISSUE 32 me to talk about the effect our magazine has on them and their work. So we approached the idea of our first ever reader survey with trepidation. We had been spurred on by our partners in the UK’s Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), who surprised us a couple of years ago with the results of a survey where they asked their members about their impressions of the magazine. The results were generally very positive, with lots of effusive praise. Still, that was a devoted audience of green-minded construction professionals. What would our broader readership think? We needn’t have worried – the results have been almost too positive. A clear picture has emerged – as is revealed in the report on the survey findings on page 17. If these responses are anything to go by, the vast majority of our readers value our work, and our efforts to carefully curate articles and adverts are affecting real decisions on countless construction projects of all shapes and sizes all over Ireland and the UK – and hopefully helping to make as many buildings as possible as sustainable as possible. We hope this latest issue has a similarly positive affect on you and your work. Among all the latest news, insightful columns and features, we’re thrilled to include detailed case studies on four markedly different projects, ranging from the Stirling Prize-winning passive social housing scheme – a combination of words I never expected to hear – adorning our cover, to the bravura deep green retrofit of an architecturally significant oil-age glass box that seems the very definition of hard to treat, to a pair of nearly zero energy homes built using a highly innovative flat pack build system, to an ecological passive house build system manufacturer building their own offices in their own factory. We hope you find all of this as inspiring to read as it was to write about. Regards, The editor

Cover

Goldsmith Street Photo by Jim Stephenson

Publisher’s circulation statement: 9,000 copies of Passive House Plus (Irish edition) are printed and distributed to the leading figures involved in sustainable building in Ireland including architects; consulting; m&e and building services engineers; developers; builders; energy auditors; renewable energy companies; environmental consultants; county, city and town councillors; key local authority personnel; and to newsagents nationwide via Easons. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Passive House Plus are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers.

ABC Certified Average Net Circulation of 6,417 for the period 01/07/18 to 30/06/19

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About

Passive House Plus is an official partner magazine of the International Passive House Association. Passive House Plus (Irish edition) is an official magazine of the Passive House Association of Ireland.


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CONTENTS

PA S S I V E H O U S E +

CONTENTS

10

26

38

26

08

Architect Mel Reynolds assesses the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin City and asks what is the cost to the state, and is this sustainable?

10

16

NEWS

24

COMMENT

38

This issue features the first certified passive house in the region of Murcia in south-east Spain.

Software errors create a false NZEB compliance picture, readers survey shows nine out of ten Passive House Plus readers have made decisions based on our articles, and a new zero carbon standard for Irish homes is launched.

Dr Marc Ó Riain traces the roots of today’s environmental consciousness back over half a century.

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Mies En Scéne Iconic Dublin offices get deep green treatment

The deep and comprehensive refurbishment of the Miesian Plaza complex on Dublin’s Baggot Street provides a radical blueprint for how to transform mid20th century city office buildings into comfortable, healthy and super low energy spaces that support sustainable transport and working patterns.

COLUMN

INTERNATIONAL

CASE STUDIES

46

Flat Pack Hijack

Flat-pack furniture has become a fixture of modern living, but what happens when the same concept is applied to housing – and when the client is an architect seeking to build to passive house and nearly zero energy building levels?

Stirling Work The passive social housing scheme that won British architecture’s top award

Early in October, Norwich City Council’s Goldsmith Street development become both the first passive house and the first social housing project to win the Stirling Prize, British architecture’s most coveted award, with the judges calling it “high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form”. Leading building energy expert Dr Peter Rickaby visited the scheme for Passive House Plus to see this ground-breaking project for himself.


PA S S I V E H O U S E +

CONTENTS

COVER STORY

46

58

58

Office Romance Passive house supplier walks the walk with new office & factory

When Welsh sustainable building specialists PYC decided to start making their own timber frames, they got down to work designing and building their own factory. Once that was finished, it was time to test their system on their first order: to build their own passive house certified offices right next door – and to be bold enough to decide not to install central heating.

66

78

INSIGHT

Super Streamed Growing SuperHomes scheme making deep retrofit easy

Home retrofit can be a messy process – an attempt to pull together a disparate bunch of suppliers and tradespeople, often without a clear understanding of how the upgraded building will perform, and of any potential unintended consequences. The streamlined, customer focused SuperHomes scheme is simplifying and de-risking the process for hundreds of homeowners all over Ireland.

Fixer Upper One housebuilder’s pioneering journey into sustainability

In 2009, as the mother of all recessions took hold in Ireland, prominent housebuilder Durkan Residential came up with a creative response to unspeakably bad market conditions – setting up a specialist retrofit contractor, Ecofix. Ten years on, and having delivered new build and retrofit schemes up to the passive house standard and beyond, what lessons did the early adopters learn?

Doctor’s Orders The complex relationship between energy retrofits & human health

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence that home energy retrofits, done well, can improve the health of those who receive them — and equally there are horror stories about shoddy upgrades causing damp, mould and illness. But what does the evidence say about how energy upgrades effect occupant health, and what lessons can be learned for the future of how we renovate our homes? Kate de Selincourt reports.

74

74

82

90

MARKETPLACE Keep up with the latest developments from some of the leading companies in sustainable building, including new product innovations, project updates and more.

In Praise of Impermanence

We hear a lot about the importance of designing our buildings to have a long lifespan, but might there come a time when it actually makes to more sense to design buildings to have relatively short lives —and to be easily taken apart and re-purposed in response to a changing climate and society? Toby Cambray, cofounder of Greengauge Building Energy Consultants, ponders the idea of impermanence in construction.

ph+ ph+ | contents | contents | 7 | 7


MEL REYNOLDS

COLUMN

Is the O’Devaney Gardens deal

social vandalism?

The redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin City has grabbed headlines. Commentary has focused on the low levels of social housing proposed, high prices for private homes, and developer profit. But what is the cost to the state, asks Mel Reynolds, and is this sustainable?

B

uilt in the 1950s, O’Devaney Gardens was once home to 272 families contained in thirteen four-storey blocks on a 14 acre site. The social housing complex has been derelict for ten years since the collapse of the last redevelopment agreement. In 2015, nine blocks were demolished and a proposal to refurbish 80 remaining dwellings at a modest cost of €60,000 per dwelling (€5m budget) was refused by Dublin city councilors. In 2016, the main project was revived and a “competitive dialogue” process was initiated under the Housing Land Initiative. A total of six competitive bidders competed for the scheme and recently a preferred bid was voted-on by city councilors. The proposed scheme will contain 824 dwellings, including 56 social dwellings being developed by Dublin City Council (DCC) on another section of the site outside of the preferred bid. The preferred bid includes 768 units – 192 social and 576 private homes. Some of these private homes will be subsidised “market-discounted” (controversially termed “affordable”) dwellings. The overall mix of this bid will be 23% (192) social homes, 20% (165) market-discounted / ”affordable” and 50% (411) private for sale or rent. Adding in the 56 units DCC is developing itself brings the overall proportion of social housing on the site up to 30%. Costs for housing We assume here that the social housing is sold to DCC for €360,000 per unit – similar to what DCC are paying on the adjoining site. If the price is €450,000 (tender price), costs will increase by more than €17m. Market-discounted “affordable” units are at a ‘discounted’ tender price of €360,000 each. They are subject to a state subvention of €10,000 (development levies waiver) plus a serviced site fund grant of €50,000, giving a reduced sales price of €300,000 to qualifying buyers. The state forgoes the site value of each “affordable” dwelling but retains €50,000 equity in each house payable over twenty years. For the 411 private units the state forgoes the site value (€34.9m) and the developer retains all profits from the anticipated sales price of €500,000 for each unit. Total costs are listed in the table above. The cost to the state including site value forgone, subsidies and social homes purchased is €128m. The state benefits from a developer

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Type

%

Tender Price Per unit (€000)

Site Costs per unit (€000)

Other Costs per unit (€000)

Subtotal Costs per unit (€000)

Number of Dwellings

State Costs Subtotal (€m)

Social Housing

23

360*

-

360 (DCC purchase)

360

192

69.1

Market- discounted ‘affordable’ for sale

20

360

85

60 (levy waiver + serviced site fund grant)

145

165

23.9

Private for Sale or Rent

50

450

85

-

85

411

34.9

TOTAL COSTS O’Devaney Gardens redevelopment: summary of costs

contribution of €7m and a developer-built community centre for €1m plus the equity share of market-discounted “affordable” units of €8.25m — a total benefit of €16m. When these benefits are taken into account, the net cost is €112m. Eventually the state will own 192 social units at a net cost of €583,000 per home. If the full tender price is paid for social housing, overall costs increase to €131m, or €683,000 per unit. Some buyers will pay more than €300,000 each for “discounted” homes and the remainder will be full market price, all severely unaffordable. These may end up being build-to-let blocks owned by private equity funds. Costs and benefits PPP regeneration schemes are prone to failure during downturns and take decades to complete. Once a complex has been earmarked for regeneration, de-tenanting occurs over a prolonged period leading to vacancy, dereliction and antisocial behaviour. Adequate building maintenance is curtailed giving rise to poor living conditions for those remaining. Existing communities are ‘filleted’. The state loses housing capacity and large amounts of property remain under-utilised for significant periods of time. In 2016 the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) recorded that DCC owned almost one thousand dwellings that had been vacant for longer than ten years “pending regeneration”. There are a number of more straightforward options. Environmentally it is preferable to refurbish existing dwellings and take advantage of existing embodied carbon rather than build new. Nine existing apartments could be refurbished for the cost of one new unit in this proposal. For social housing, DCC could simply sell half the site and use the proceeds to employ

128 * Assumed lower end social housing cost

contractors directly to build twice the number of local authority homes for the same cost. Or look to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s exemplar refurbishment of Rochestown house, existing council flats retrofitted to passive standard with a 30% increase in density, all for €100,000 per unit. For private housing, officials could look to O’Cualann Co-op who, in partnership with DCC, are selling two-bed dwellings for less than €250,000 on state land (at zero cost) in Ballymun, 30% less than the more heavily subsidised “affordable” prices at O’Devaney Gardens, and half the projected market sales prices for the bulk of private housing in the deal. DCC appear to have obtained little value from a site worth €65m. Three-quarters of the site value is foregone and the three-quarters of housing proposed is severely unaffordable. O’Devaney originally contained 272 social homes and the total proposed in the final development will be 248, resulting in a net loss of 24 social dwellings. This is a poor deal for the taxpayer and local community. If this model is expanded to deliver 1,500 social homes in regeneration projects as planned, it will be a very costly €1bn exercise with major social and political impacts for future governments to deal with. Pay twice the price, get half the homes. n A fully referenced version of this article is online at www.passivehouseplus.ie Mel Reynolds is a registered architect with more than 25 years of experience in project management, conservation, urban design and developer-led housing. He is also a certified passive house designer.


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INTERNATIONAL PASS I V E & EC O B UIL D S F R O M A R O UND THE WO RL D

IN BRIEF Building: 165 m2 detached home Architect: Zink Arquitectura Method: Timber frame Standard: Passive house certified

10


S PA I N

Photos: David Frutos

I N T E R N AT I O N A L

CASA PARA ECO, LA ALCAYNA, MURCIA, SPAIN

T

his gorgeous new home, dubbed Casa para Eco, is the first certified passive house in the region of Murcia in south-east Spain. Built with a timber-frame structure that’s insulated with mineral wool, the three-bedroom house manages to be striking yet simple and is a relatively modest 165 m2 in size. Of course, in the hot semi-arid climate of Murcia, keeping cool in summer is just as important as keeping warm in winter, so a combination of overhangs, and recessed and rotated windows, helps to block the hot summer sun, while letting in the lowerangle winter light. Winter temperatures still drop under 5C regularly on winter nights, so the fabric-first approach is crucial for keeping warm too. “Data from its first year of occupation shows a great level of comfort experienced by its occupants both in winter and summer, with a very low energy

consumption,” says project architect Joaquin Ruiz Piñera of Zink Arquitectura. Ruiz Piñera says he aimed to use natural, low embodied energy, and recycled materials as much as possible — this includes cork insulation in the roof terrace — with the aim of delivering a comfortable, healthy and ecological house that, he says, is “shaped by the sun”. The roof also boasts a 2.5kW solar photovoltaic array, while a small air source heat pump covers its mechanical heating and cooling demand. Inside, the finishes are modern and minimal yet warm and bright, with the striking floating staircase contrasting nicely with warm wood finishes. And if you’re wondering how much energy the small swimming pool uses, it’s unheated, simply providing a cool place for a dip on hot days, so the only operational energy used is for its cleaning filter.

ph+ | spain international | 11


WANT TO KNOW MORE? The digital version of this magazine includes access to exclusive galleries of architectural drawings. The digital magazine is available to subscribers on www.passive.ie

12


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14 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32


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NEWS

PA S S I V E H O U S E +

NEWS Software errors create false NZEB compliance picture

T

eething problems with the software used to generate Building Energy Ratings and determine compliance with Part L of the building regulations may be rendering it unfit for purpose, Passive House Plus can reveal. The new web-based version 4.2.0 of the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP), the tool used to determine compliance with Part L of the building regulations, is suffering from a number of glitches and errors, including incorrectly marking non-compliant insulation levels as compliant in the case of new homes. Passive House Plus used the software to generate DEAP calculations for two new hypothetical homes – respectively checked for compliance against the 2011 and 2019 versions of Part L. U-values of 0.20 and 0.21 were selected respectively for pitched roofs insulated on the slope, pitched roofs insulated on the ceiling and flat roofs, along with a U-value of 0.27 for walls, 0.25 for floors without underfloor heating, and 0.16 for floors with underfloor heating. Only the U-values for pitched roof insulated on the ceiling and floors with underfloor heating were correctly shown to be non-compliant. The compliance gap was most pronounced in the case of wall U-values – where a backstop U-value of 0.27 in both sets of calculations was incorrectly marked as compliant in spite of that backstop dropping to 0.21 in 2011 and 0.18 in 2019. An SEAI spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issue you reference which relates to the backstop U-values. This affects the on-screen

display of information on the results tab but does not affect the Part L compliance report produced by the DEAP 4 software. Overall compliance with Part L for EPC [energy performance coefficient], CPC [carbon performance coefficient] and RER [renewable energy ratio] is not affected. A fix is planned as part of a scheduled DEAP software release in the coming weeks.” BER assessors contacted by Passive House Plus reported a number of other issues with the new software, including concerns relating to the accuracy of the calculations, and regarding the workload required to manually add information, including a seemingly poorly defined requirement to upload evidence ranging from letters of engagement to external photos of the building, to elements – with no guidance provided as to what constitutes sufficient evidence – such as ventilation, space heating, water heating, lighting and “building". One assessor reported a case where a reputable heat pump was ascribed an efficiency of 50% when DEAP 3 listed it at over 370% efficient, along with a case of an existing dwelling jumping from a D to B rating just by clicking a heating controls button. Meanwhile, based on analysis of data from SEAI’s National BER Research Tool, 92 BERs for new homes built to Part L 2019 have been completed at the time of writing – including 55 final BERs and 37 provisional. An SEAI source told Passive House Plus that this surprisingly high early total – given that the latest version of TGD L only kicked in from 1 November – likely

relates to developers wanting to build the early phases of new schemes to NZEB standards, to avoid disparity between different phases. While the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions yet about changes in build specifications, an apparent anomaly exists in the data regarding ventilation systems. While heat recovery ventilation and whole house extract ventilation dominate, with 36 and 33 dwellings respectively, the issue concerns the 23 homes where natural ventilation has been specified. Under changes introduced to TGD F to coincide with the new NZEB requirements in TGD L, the use of natural ventilation is only supported where a home has an airtightness q50 result of between 3 and 5m3/hr/m2 @ 50 Pa. Only three of the 23 BERs for naturally ventilated homes assessed to the new TGD L sit within this airtightness range. Eight homes inputted a q50 on the wrong side of the new TGD L backstop of 5m3/hr/m2, including seven at the 2011 backstop of 7m3/hr/m2, while six BERs contained a q50 of zero – indicating data entry errors – with a further seven posting a q50 score of below 3m3/hr/m2. An SEAI source pointed out that the data entry errors – as distinct from correctly inputted non-compliant values – may be picked up by SEAI’s audit process, but that the BERs would only be unpublished where the net score changes by 7.5% or more, gross score (taking account of errors that cause calculated energy demand to fall and rise respectively) changes by 15% or more, or where a BER rises or falls a grade as a consequence. •

AIB launches new ‘green mortgage’ for low energy homes

T

he market for ‘green mortgages’ continues to grow with the announcement by AIB that it is introducing lower interest financing for energy efficient properties. The bank will make a green mortgage with an interest rate of 2.5%, fixed for five years, available to new and existing customers whose homes achieve a building energy rating (BER) of between an A1 and B3. Customers who meet the qualifying criteria will be able to apply for the rate either as part of their new mortgage application, or via the mortgage rate amendment process for existing customers. For a mortgage of €300,000 paid over 25 years, the rate will offer repayments of €1,210.56 per month

16 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

compared to €1,258.47 per month for a standard five-year fixed rate, representing a saving of almost €600 per year. “Climate change is the most important challenge facing this generation,” said AIB chief executive Colin Hunt. “We recognise that supports are needed to help change societal behaviour, and we will not be found wanting in helping our customers adapt and transition. The green mortgage is the latest in a series of propositions in which AIB is backing climate action.” Meanwhile, the European Mortgage Federation is working with its 50 members — who include major banking and finance institutions from across the continent — to develop a standardised label for energy

efficiency mortgages, according to a recent report on www.responsible-investor.com. The label is set to be launched next year and will provide customers with a clear and recognisable label for such mortgages. Its launch is expected to kick start a range of new green mortgage products across the continent. It comes after Bank of Ireland launched new green loans and interest rates for homeowners earlier this year. These include a home improvement loan for energy efficient retrofits at a discounted interest rate of 6.5%, and a new green mortgage discount of 0.2% off any of the bank’s existing fixed interest rate mortgages, to finance the purchase, construction or renovation of A-rated dwellings. •


PA S S I V E H O U S E +

NEWS

Nine out of ten PH+ readers have made decisions based on articles Irish edition

READER SURVEY 2019

Passive House Plus is published to meet a very specific need: to provide detailed technical information on how to build quality, sustainable buildings, at a time when the whole construction industry is required by tightening building standards to do precisely that. We work hard to help designers and clients to specify the right materials and the right technologies, detailed in the right way, to deliver successful buildings – and to find the right product and service providers to make this happen. Our reader survey shows that our readers – the vast majority of whom are design professionals or self-builders – are responding to adverts and articles in Passive House Plus in exactly the way we would hope. The following survey results relate to our Irish edition.

N

ine out of ten readers of Passive House Plus have made decisions on building or upgrading projects in response to articles in the magazine, according to the results of a survey of readers of the magazine’s Irish edition. Only 3% of surveyed readers bin or recycle the magazine once they’re finished with a given issue – with 76% filed away for reference, 8% shared, and 13% left on display. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents read the magazine from cover-to-cover or read most articles and flick through the rest, while 22% read some articles and flick through the rest. Almost 100% of respondents - 99.6% to be precise – find the magazine’s content relevant in light of tightening building standards – a finding which may indicate a recognition among readers of the magazine’s increasing relevance in light of the nearly zero energy building standard becoming law. The survey also indicates that the majority of readers are engaging with the magazine’s highly targeted advertisers. Over 94.3% of respondents said the adverts in Passive House Plus are relevant to them, with over 81.1% having made decisions on projects because of adverts in the magazine. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents pay more attention to ads in Passive House Plus than other magazines. Eighty-two per cent of respondents think a brand looks more credible when it appears in Passive House Plus – while 83% think of the brands that appear regularly in Passive House

Plus as some of the main brands involved in sustainable building. Thirty-four per cent of readers are design professionals, 32% are self-builders, 9% are specialist consultants, 4% are main contractors, 5% subcontractors, and 3% are property developers or corporate/public sector clients. Eighty-five per cent of design professional readers have made decisions on projects in direct response to ads, as have 88% of self-builders. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents influence projects with a value of €100,000 to €1m, with 9% at €1-5m, 8% are €5-50m, 5% at over €50m – with 19% at under €100,000. Sixty-three per cent are involved in one-off house projects, 27% in multi-unit housing, 23% in commercial, 15% in public buildings, 13% in educational/healthcare buildings, 12% in industrial projects. Given that most respondents are industry professionals, the majority are working on several project types. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents read the magazine from cover to cover, 40% flick through and read most articles 22% flick through and read some articles, while 1% flick through the magazine but read no articles. Four-fifths of readers favour case studies as among the most interesting articles in the magazine, while 80% favour our guides to technologies, and 62% favour news on innovative products. The survey indicated there are 2.08 readers per copy of Passive House Plus. Forty-four of copies are read

by one person only – but this may be in part because of how closely they guard it – given that 85% of this cohort of respondents file the magazine away for reference after reading. The online survey was conducted from September to October 2019. The survey was promoted via an email newsletter and a separate email to subscribers. 516 responses have been collected by the time this analysis was completed, including 254 from Irelandbased readers. Note that not all readers answered all questions in the survey – 86.4% completed the entire survey. The survey also included similarly positive results from UK-based respondents – indicating that the UK edition is also making its mark on the construction practices in the UK. Commenting on the results, editor Jeff Colley said: “Passive House Plus is published to meet a very specific need: to provide detailed technical information on how to build quality, sustainable buildings, at a time when the whole construction industry is required by tightening building standards to do precisely that. “We work hard to help designers and clients to specify the right materials, the right technologies, detailed in the right way, to deliver successful buildings – and to find the right product and service providers to make this happen. Our reader survey shows that our readers – the vast majority of whom are design professionals or self-builders – are responding to adverts and articles in Passive House Plus in exactly the way we would hope.” •

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PA S S I V E H O U S E +

NEWS

Zero carbon standard launched for Irish homes

T

he Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has launched a zero carbon standard for new homes. The new standard – which was launched at the IGBC’s Better Homes conference in Dublin on 7 November – will enable Irish home builders to offer certified zero carbon homes to home buyers. Besides energy efficiency, the new zero carbon standard also considers the upfront carbon emissions associated with the construction of the homes. It also encourages home builders to actually measure how the homes perform after they are purchased and lived in. Under new building regulations all new homes must reach a minimum building energy rating of A2. While this means they must be highly energy efficient, it does not consider the emissions associated with the construction of a house. These emissions account for more than half of the whole lifetime carbon emissions from new homes, according to the IGBC. The zero carbon standard has been introduced within the new version of the Home Performance Index certification, Ireland’s first national certification system for quality and sustainable residential development. The certificate demonstrates that a home has been designed and constructed with care to ensure low running costs, enhance the health and wellbeing of the occupants and minimise environmental impacts. Irish Green Building Council CEO Pat Barry said: "I welcome the implementation of the nearly zero

18 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

Ireland’s emissions continue to exceed carbon budget — EPA

T

he Environmental Protection Agency's latest figures show that Ireland exceeded its carbon emissions budget in 2018 for the third year running, but with a marginal decrease of 0.2%, with total national emissions estimated at 60.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. However, the budget was still exceeded by over 5 million tonnes. “At a time of global urgency to address climate change this is a national trend that we must reverse,” said Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability. “Ireland must implement the ambitious commitments in the 2019 Climate Action Plan to play its role in averting the worst impacts of climate change.” Across key sectors, the latest figures show that:

energy building (NZEB) standard as a significant step in the right direction. To limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, going forward we need to ensure that all new homes are built not only to the zero carbon standard but are in walkable locations, enabling home buyers to live low carbon lifestyles." The Better Homes conference was closed by housing minister Eoghan Murphy, who stated: “We have set ambitious targets for the decarbonisation of our built environment – these form an integral part of our all of government action plan to tackle climate breakdown and we are driving a number of actions that will contribute to energy efficient housing. "One of the key functions of my department is creating the regulatory framework to achieve this, and I was very pleased to sign the regulations implementing NZEB for dwellings earlier this year. Early next year I will be implementing legislation to provide for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure. Lack of this infrastructure is a barrier to the take up of electric vehicles and these measures aim to encourage this take up.” • (above) Pictured (l-r) at the launch of the new zero carbon standard are Brian Dolan, board member, Irish Green Building Council; housing minister Eoghan Murphy; Marion Jammet, business development manager, Irish Green Building Council; and Kevin O'Rourke, chairperson, Irish Green Building Council.

Household emissions increased by 7.9%, which reflected a colder winter in 2018. This increased demand for home heating – with oil still the predominant heating fuel — reflects the scale of the challenge to increase the resilience of our housing stock to extreme weather events. Transport emissions increased by 1.7% in 2018. This is the fifth year out of the last six with increased emissions in transport. In road transport in 2018, petrol use continued to decrease by 9.2% while diesel use increased by 4.6% and biofuels use decreased by 4.0%. The EPA said that reversing this trend will require the widespread transition to electric vehicles, increased use of public transport and reducing the number of car journeys. Agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018. The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers (+2.7%) which reflects national plans to expand milk production. Dairy cow numbers have increased by 27% in the last five years while greenhouse gas emissions increased by 8% over that time. While agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period, the EPA said these gains will not be sufficient to deliver overall emission reductions. nergy industry emissions decreased by E 11.7% in 2018. The most significant change in fuel used was a decrease in coal (44%), largely driven by maintenance works at the Moneypoint generating station, and an increase in renewable energy. In 2018, electricity generated from wind increased by 14% with the proportion of electricity generation from renewables now at 32.6%. This has resulted in a reduction in emissions intensity of electricity generation from 437 g CO2/kWh in 2017 to 377 g CO2/kWh in 2018. •


PA S S I V E H O U S E +

NEWS

Minister: NZEB co-benefits go far beyond climate action

(inset) Conference organiser Tomas O’Leary of MosArt chairing the final plenary session as UNECE sustainable energy director Scott Foster looks on, where Kingspan Insulation’s prototype Kooltherm board integrating recycled plastic bottles was presented; (above) pictured at the conference are (l-r) Martin Murray (NZEB Ireland), Art McCormack (MosArt), John Morehead & Barry McCarron (NZEB Ireland), Scott Foster (UNECE), Shane Colclough (NZEB Ireland), housing minister Eoghan Murphy, Andrée Dargan (DLR), Jeff Colley (NZEB Ireland), DLR Cathaoirleach Shay Brennan, Paul McAlister, Tomas O’Leary & Garret Quinn (NZEB Ireland) & Patrick Durkan (D|RES Properties).

T

he health, comfort and monetary benefits of building to the nearly zero energy building (NZEB) standard offers an opportunity to help convince Irish people of the benefits of climate action, housing minister Eoghan Murphy has said. Giving the opening address at the World NZEB Forum in Killiney on 14 November, the minister focused on the co-benefits of efforts to reduce energy use in buildings. “It’s often the case when we talk about climate that we talk about the big picture – wouldn’t this be great in terms of eliminating our carbon footprint in the built environment?”, said Minister Murphy. “But when I meet families who’ve actually moved into NZEB homes, they talk about the fact that their home is much warmer, that they’ve always got hot water, about their energy bills being cheaper. They even talk about their health being better because of the better ventilation and air flow systems in these new homes. So, we talk a lot about climate change at the macro level – the big things we can do, but on the micro level – the day to day, in a thousand little ways it’s making really big improvements, and if we can get people to see that and understand that I think it’ll make it easier to change in the so many ways that we need to change.”

Addressing a sell-out audience of 330 delegates, Minister Murphy zoned in on the benefits of switching from fossil fuels in terms of air quality. “The World Health Organisation has talked about air pollution being the new tobacco. With our NZEB regs we want to effectively eliminate solid fuel and oil boilers as heating sources. That will have a big impact on air pollution. We won’t see it or feel it immediately, but that will have a big impact over time.” The two day event was organised for NZEB Ireland by MosArt, and supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, with sponsors including gold sponsor Kingspan Insulation, silver sponsors MosArt, Nilan Ireland, D|RES Properties, Saint-Gobain and Mitsubishi Electric, and bronze sponsors Siga, Partel, and Waterford & Wexford Educational Training Board. Pre-forum events on 13 November included visits to the council’s own NZEB social housing projects at George’s Place in Dún Laoghaire and the Rochestown House Enerphit scheme in Sallynoggin, followed by a workshop programme ranging from technical aspects of delivering NZEB to policy discussion on delivering deep retrofit at scale. The main forum morning plenary, chaired by NZEB Ireland co-chairs Dr Shane Colclough and Paul McAlister, included a presentation

on NZEB by Sean Armstrong, senior advisor in building standards at the Department of Housing, while Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county architect Andrée Dargan gave an overview of the council’s long list of exemplary low energy new build and retrofit projects. Breakout sessions with panels of Irish and international experts were followed by a closing plenary session, chaired by Tomas O’Leary of conference organiser MosArt, including presentations by Lois Arena, building services engineer on flagship projects such as the Cornell Tech passive house tower in Manhattan; Richard Yancey, executive director of New York City’s Building Energy Exchange spoke on New York’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050; with a closing address by Scott Foster, director of the sustainable energy division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, commending Ireland’s growing global leadership role in low energy building. Foster’s address included the presentation of a new prototype Kooltherm insulation board by Kingspan Insulation, manufactured from recycled plastic bottles – and an announcement that Kingspan plan to remove 500 million bottles from the oceans each year to 2023, to be recycled and integrated into the new product. •

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NEWS

PA S S I V E H O U S E +

THE EVOLUTION OF CONTROL NEW HEAT RECOVERY VENTILATION BY AERECO www.aereco.ie 20 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32


PA S S I V E H O U S E +

NEWS

SuperHomes Ireland seeks deep retrofit grant applicants

A SuperHomes engineer goes through the retrofit options with a couple in Co. Tipperary.

A

pplications are now open for 2020 for SuperHomes, the ‘one-stop shop’ scheme for home retrofit projects. The scheme – which has helped to steer the national conversation on deep retrofit towards approaches which deliver realworld energy savings and indoor air quality – was set up to establish and deliver the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for energy upgrading Irish homes. A whole house-based approach, SuperHomes requires mandatory measures including airtightness works, the installa-

tion of mechanical ventilation systems, and installation of renewable energy heating systems such as air-to-water heat pumps. The components are designed to work together successfully to deliver a healthy, efficient and low carbon home, carried out in one carefully planned installation. SuperHomes also announced that two of its projects recently received an A1 BER energy rating. One of the homes was originally built in 1850 and is one of only 34 existing dwellings - as opposed to new builds - to achieve a BER score of A1. To date, Super-

Homes has retrofitted over 200 houses, the majority to A3 BER, securing grant funding for 100% of these projects. Retrofit advisor David Flannery explains the approach SuperHomes are taking for the 2020 programme: “We’re currently preparing applications for SEAI funding under the Better Energy Communities scheme. We have worked successfully with this scheme for a number of years and have sourced significant funding for our customers. Thirty-five per cent of the cost of a deep retrofit will be eligible for grant support. As always places are very limited, so we are advising applicants to start planning for their retrofit now. You can apply today on www.superhomes.ie.” SuperHomes will start retrofitting homes in April 2020 and continue until September. “This will suit a lot of people who want to plan their retrofit well in advance, perhaps have time off in the summer or who can’t to disturb kids during the school year,” said Flannery. “It takes up to three months to design and tender for a retrofit, so this isn’t as far away as it sounds.” •

Developers commit to tackle upfront CO2 in construction

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group of leading developers and state bodies have committed to reduce carbon emissions associated with their construction projects. Property developers, Hammerson, Hines and IPUT, and state procurement bodies, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Dublin City Council, have committed to reducing the upfront embodied carbon associated with their projects. Upfront embodied carbon is the carbon emitted during the manufacture of products for construction. To mitigate the full carbon impact of the construction of their projects, the commitment signatories will now request Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). EPDs provide verified and transparent information on the environmental footprint of a construction product in a standardised way. To date, the Irish building regulations have focused on the carbon emissions from the operation of buildings. Under the new nearly zero energy building (NZEB) standard, all new buildings must be highly energy efficient. However, the standard does not consider the emissions associated with the construction of a property. Globally, the manufacture of construction materials and the construction process itself are responsible of 11% of carbon emissions. In Ireland, it is estimated

that at least half of the lifecycle carbon impact of NZEB dwellings will occur before they are even occupied. Pat Barry, CEO of the Irish Green Building Council stated: “Leading developers now expect transparent data on the impacts of construction materials they use. Today’s commitments send a clear signal to the market, that upfront embodied carbon associated with construction materials can no longer be ignored.” A growing number of Irish construction product manufacturers are publishing transparent environmental data on their products through the EPD Ireland programme, www.epdireland.org. These include Medite SmartPly, Munster Joinery, Quinn Building Products, Kilsaran, Kore and Ecocem. Many of these EPDs have been published by Irish/ Dutch EPD consultancy EcoReview, with Enterprise Ireland offering supports for its member companies to obtain EPDs. Louise Ellison, group head of sustainability at Hammerson added: ‘This is an important initiative that will improve understanding of the environmental impacts of products across the supply chain. We are delighted to be able to support such a positive step forward by the sector’. Commenting on the Cherrywood develop-

ment, Brian Moran, senior managing director, Hines Ireland said: “Hines is committed to driving transparency of environmental impacts on the Cherrywood development. We have requested the contractor to use construction products with EPDs where possible.” •

(above) Louise Ellison, group head of sustainability at Hammerson, who have committed to reducing upfront carbon emissions in their projects.

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PA S S I V E H O U S E +

NEWS

EPA calls for action on radon & air quality T he Environmental Protection Agency has warned homeowners that failure to carry out remediation work after homes test high for radon poses a serious risk to health. The agency said that while about 5,000 householders have had their homes tested for radon following awareness campaigns in their area, and one in six of these were subsequently found to have high radon levels, too many homeowners were “putting their health at risk by not carrying out vital remediation work”. For moderate levels of radon, improving indoor ventilation may reduce the level by up to half, the cost of which is low. For higher levels, a fan assisted ‘sump’ can be installed which can reduce radon levels by over 90 per cent. The sump can be installed in a day by a contractor with little disruption to the home. Radon is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer. It is a radioactive gas formed in the ground

from the radioactive decay of uranium, which is present in all rocks and soils. Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes to harmless levels but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can accumulate to unacceptably high levels Radon is invisible, colourless and odourless, and causes around 300 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year. The World Health Organisation has categorised radon as a Group 1 carcinogen, in the same group as asbestos and tobacco smoke. Stephanie Long, senior scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, said: “[Radon] is present in all Irish homes and it is estimated that up to 500,000 people are living in homes with radon levels above the acceptable level of 200 Bq/m3. Many Irish homes still need to carry out a radon test or they could be completely unaware of the potential problem in their own home. Testing your home to identify if you have a problem is the first step.

RADON GAS. HOW TO TEST YOUR HOME

300

REFERENCE LEVELS

25

2nd biggest cause of lung cancer in Ireland. Smoking is the biggest

people get radon related lung cancer in Ireland each year

TIMES

Smokers are 25 times more at risk than non-smokers

HOMES & SCHOOLS

WORKPLACES

200Bq/m 300Bq/m3 3

160,000

Irish homes are estimated to have radon levels higher than 200Bq/m3 IT EAS’S

HOW TO TEST YOUR HOME Outside radon is diluted to very low levels

1

ORDER YOUR RADON DETECTORS

2

Visit radon.ie to find a list of registered radon test providers

Two small detectors will be posted to your home with instructions

3

& IT Y CHEA’S P

+

AFTER THREE MONTH’S TESTING PERIOD

4

Post the detectors back

5

Place one IN YOUR BEDROOM

You will then receive a REPORT that explains your results

Place the other IN YOUR LIVING ROOM

YOUR

RADON REPORT

IF THE TEST SHOWS THAT RADON LEVELS IN YOUR HOME ARE HIGH there are simple and inexpensive solutions available to reduce these levels

For further information, visit www.radon.ie or call 1800 300 600

“Radon is present in all homes however, levels can vary. Just because your neighbour’s home has been deemed safe from radon does not mean you are safe. If you haven’t already done so, we would urge you to protect your family’s health by carrying out remediation work as soon as possible." The EPA has advised homeowners and other interested parties to visit www.epa.ie to find out about how to test for radon, and about potential remediation measures.

Ireland not meeting WHO air quality guidelines Meanwhile, the EPA has also launched its annual air quality report. The report shows that while air quality complied with the legal limits, the World Health Organization’s health-related guideline values were not met. There are an estimated 1,180 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to air pollution, and levels of particulate matter (fine particles) in our air are of particular concern. Levels of this pollutant are particularly high during the winter months when people’s use of solid fuels such as coal, peat and wood impacts negatively on-air quality, especially in small towns and villages. The EPA report notes that any movement along the spectrum of home heating choices and solid fuel choices towards cleaner modes will have a subsequent improvement on air quality. In urban areas, transport related emissions of nitrogen dioxide are increasing, and it looks probable that Ireland will exceed the EU annual legal limit value for nitrogen dioxide in the near future. “We all expect that the air we breathe is clean, but we cannot take this for granted. Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health, so it is now time to tackle the two key issues that impact negatively on air quality in Ireland – transport emissions in large urban areas and emissions from burning of solid fuels,” said Dr Micheál Lehane, director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring. "We need to decarbonise our public transport system and in general reduce our reliance on internal combustion vehicles. Moving to cleaner ways of heating our homes will also significantly improve air quality in our towns and cities.” Dr Ciara McMahon, the EPA’s air quality programme manager, said: “The EPA’s air quality monitoring has shown that, while Ireland’s air quality complied with the EU legal standards in 2018, the levels of fine particles in the air we breathe did not meet the World Health Organization’s guideline values. Our monitoring also showed that in urban areas, the impact of traffic-related nitrogen dioxide pollution is increasing. These pollutants have a negative impact on people’s health and that is why we are continuing to install more monitoring stations across the country under the national ambient air quality monitoring programme. This programme has now more than doubled the number of real-time monitoring stations providing air quality data across Ireland since 2017.” For more information see www.epa.ie.

July 2019

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NEWS

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ph+ | news | 23


MARC Ó RIAIN

COLUMN

ENVIRONMENTAL AWAKENINGS

Tracing the roots of today’s climate activism While the green wave visible at ballot boxes and street marches in 2019 reflects an apparent escalation in public consciousness on the need for urgent, decisive environmental action, the roots of today’s environmental consciousness stretch back over half a century, explains Dr Marc Ó Riain.

S

omebody recently asked me why should we be listening to Greta Thunberg and not basing government policy on sound scientific data. I responded that, historically speaking, government policy tends to respond more quickly to public opinion rather than sound scientific evidence. As the nearly zero energy building (NZEB) standard for new and renovated buildings becomes law, the origins of this policy can be mapped back to an emergent environmental consciousness in the 1960s and 1970s. As Monsanto encouraged the use of pesticides to increase crop yields in the 1960s, Rachel Carson’s seminal best-selling book Silent Spring (1962) highlighted how pesticides, like DDT, were decimating small bird and animal life. Carson’s unsettling description of the poisonous impact of DDT on the human body illustrated the consequences of unregulated industry. This book helped initiate a public environmental debate with rapid policy action by John F Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee first to restrict and eventually to ban the use of DDTs. Carson was perhaps the first to link the unchecked consequences of industry pollution on habitat and on our own health. As a result, the public started to become interested in the issue of environmental pollution. As early as 1965, the US President’s Science

silient planet. ‘Earthrise’, a photo taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell in 1968, captured the public consciousness in a way that books and science could not, making us “realise just what you have back there on Earth”, as Lovell remarked. NASA engineer James Lovelock’s work with chemical concentrations in the Martian atmosphere led him to develop the Gaia hypothesis and the electron capture detector to analyse the chemical state of the Earth’s atmosphere. Lovelock viewed a planet of organisms being completely interdependent and a self-regulated single living entity “capable of manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere to suit its overall needs”. Gaia theory illustrated that man could have a negative impact on the environment, but that the planet could counterbalance its environment making it uninhabitable for man. This theory builds on Carson’s argument that there were actual consequences to uncontrolled technological development, industry and the externalities of pollution. Lovelock’s work in Ireland and Britain would eventually lead to the discovery of CFCs and their impact on the ozone. All of this contributed to a rising public concern for the environment, eventually leading to the first UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972.

In 1965 the US President’s Science Advisory Panel projected that by the year 2000 there would be “about 25% more CO2 in the atmosphere” causing irreversible and uncontrollable climatic change. Advisory Panel had projected that by the year 2000 there would be “about 25% more CO2 in the atmosphere than at present…”, causing irreversible and uncontrollable climatic change, and in 1968 Elmer Robinson, a researcher at Stanford, warned that rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere “may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes”. In the 1960s,space exploration gave us both the technology and opportunity to reflect on the environmental consequences of unfettered industrial pollution on a once-considered-re-

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The conference lent further credibility to the views and claims of the rising environmental movement. Furthermore, it allowed the many grassroots activists who attended the conference direct access to influential political figures. This conference was the first step towards the Kyoto Protocol in 1992, whose target was to cut CO2 production by 5% from 1990 to 2012. In 1972 another seminal book by the Club of Rome, ‘The Limits to Growth’ (LtG), projected that exponential economic growth would expend finite oil reserves by 1992. The book sparked a lot of debate and criticism,

but eventually new oil finds, and fracking technology would, in time, undermine and discredit some of the scenarios put forward in ‘LtG’. Whether ‘LtG’ scenarios were accurate or not, broad public engagement with the publication created a global political and economic debate which would be echoed by global events in 1973 and subsequent legislation. That year EF Schumacher’s book ‘Small is Beautiful’ almost anticipated the immediate future, warning; “the oil crisis will come, not when all the world’s oil is exhausted, but when world oil supplies cease to expand”. From the 60s to the early 70s, the above writers and scientists influenced the public dialogue around the environment to such an extent that it would result in some political actions and governmental policy. However, it would not be the fledgling environmental lobby who would change political policy in the early 1970s. It would be a geo-political economic shock, which would spur many countries into policy action to promote energy conservation. The first oil crisis in the winter of 1973 would frame our current international policies on building energy conservation, which will be covered in the next article. n

Dr Marc Ó Riain is a lecturer at the Department of Architecture at Cork Institute of Technology, one of the founding editors of Iterations design research journal and practice review, a former president of the Institute of Designers in Ireland, and has completed a PhD in low energy building retrofit, realising Ireland’s first commercial NZEB retrofit in 2013.


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MIESIAN

CASE STUDY

MIES EN SCÉNE I CON I C DUBLIN OFFICE S GET D EEP G R E E N T RE AT M E NT

26 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32


CASE STUDY

MIESIAN

WANT TO KNOW MORE? The digital version of this magazine includes access to exclusive galleries of architectural drawings. The digital magazine is available to subscribers on www.passive.ie

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MIESIAN

CASE STUDY

BEFORE

AFTER

The deep and comprehensive refurbishment of the Miesian Plaza complex on Dublin’s Baggot Street provides a radical blueprint for how to transform mid-20th century city office buildings into comfortable, healthy and super low energy spaces that support sustainable transport and working patterns.

Words by John Cradden

W

hen New York City published a list of the energy performance scores of the city’s buildings in 2012, one essential piece of the city’s architectural heritage was shown in a particularly poor light: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s modernist classic Seagram building on Park Avenue scored just 3 out of 100. So, what on earth is a Seagram-inspired 1960s office building doing in the pages of a magazine on ultra-low energy buildings? What separates Dublin’s Miesian Plaza from its forebear in this regard, is a hugely impressive effort to renovate and upgrade the office complex from the bottom to the top of the scale. The developers have taken what would be described in industry parlance as a very ‘hard to treat’ commercial building and overseen its complete transformation into what is now one arguably of the greenest office spaces in the world. What made the project even trickier from this perspective was the complex’s status as a protected structure. Nonetheless, it’s the first and only development in Ireland to date to be awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy

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and Environmental Design) Platinum status – LEED’s highest possible rating for environmental performance and sustainability. It joins an exclusive club of 180 other buildings worldwide that have achieved the same certification. But it is also ground-breaking because it demonstrates the degree to which developers of commercial buildings are responding to increasingly strident client demands for vastly better energy performance, sustainability and comfort. Miesian Plaza is a complex of three office buildings first designed and built in the 1960s and 1970s as the headquarters for the Bank of Ireland. It’s well known for being one of the first modernist office buildings in the country, with its iconic fronted glazed facade and bronze cladding. It was also one of the first US-style ‘central core’ style buildings to be developed here, sitting on podiums above an underground car park. In 2006, at the height of Ireland’s property boom, Bank of Ireland sold the centre for €212m to a consortium of investors led by Derek Quinlan and Paddy Shovlin, but

In brief Building: Deep retrofit of 21,800 m2 office building Completed: December 2016 Location: Baggot Street, Dublin Budget: €100m Standard: LEED Platinum V4

It was a very deep retrofit of the building and we had to dismantle it, really, and put it back together.


CASE STUDY

their plans for the centre were disrupted by a combination of Dublin City Council’s decision to designate it as a protected structure and the property crash (according to the Irish Times). Receivers took control and sold it to businessman Larry Goodman in 2012 for just over €40 million. Goodman’s Remley Developments then assembled an international design team led by Miesian Plaza’s original architects, Scott Tallon Walker, to devise a €100 million plan to bring the 1960s and 1970s offices up to the highest standards, which included an extension to the rear of the largest block to create an overall floor space of almost 220,000 ft2 of lettable space. Block one is now out on long-term lease to three government departments —Finance, Health, and Children & Youth Affairs — while blocks two and three are occupied by Asian pharmaceutical giant Takeda. Passive House Plus was given an exclusive tour of the facility by David Torpey, development director of Remley Developments. Standing in the slightly revised public space outside the buildings alongside the distinctive sculptures and water features, it’s clear that things are different, but the plaza’s essential character, particularly the bronze facade and curtain wall cladding, is still very much evident. You might say it was fitting that Scott Tallon Walker were very happy to step in again on this project, given that its celebrated co-founder, Ronnie Tallon, was Miesian Plaza’s original architect. Indeed, it turns out Ronnie Tallon himself took a close interest in the project when the plans were being drawn up before he sadly passed away in 2014. It would be easy to be intimidated at the prospect of upgrading such a hard-to-heat building, built during an era when energy was cheap, but according to Paul Hadfield, one of the lead architects on the redevelopment, the building’s good floor-to-ceiling height, its relatively modernity, and the quality of the materials used in the original construction lent itself well to being adapted and extended. “From the outset originally, it was conceived as something that could be maintained over time,” he says. “Now, obviously, it was a very deep retrofit of the building and we had to dismantle it, really, and put it back together in its entirety and demolish cores and rebuild them and re-introduce structure to get it to work. But the bones of the building, if you look at the building before it was renovated and then look at it again, it’s the same.” Certainly, a hallmark of the original design was its symmetry, and the effort that the team made to preserve this is a striking measure of the attention to detail that went into the project. As an example, Torpey points out how the ceiling grid from Senior Architectural Systems and the location of the ceiling lights were set out to be gridded off against the facade so that there were no awkward juxtapositions that could be spotted by the naked eye, inside or out. This was a tricky

enough challenge because the 1960s-era building was designed on an imperial structural grid. “They were all great fans of symmetry,” says Torpey. “Mr Ronnie Tallon, a great fan of symmetry. Mr Larry Goodman loves things to be symmetrical. All these things, they didn’t happen by accident. There was a huge amount of effort put into the ceiling coordination and getting all of these set out in accordance with the primary grid.” The inside layout was subjected to extensive remodelling, including removing all the non-structural screed, which enabled the team to put in raised access floors – a pretty much standard requirement for modern offices to ensure easy access to data cabling and other services. Heating is provided by gas-fired fan coil systems, with additional Kampmann trench heaters along the perimeter of each floor – adding up to 2,000 metres worth - mainly to improve comfort levels for those sitting near the glazing. “All that’s there to do, is on

Photography: Iain White / Fennell Photography & Donal Murphy Photography

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extremely cold winter days, is to make sure that there’s no chill factor at the interface point there where the floor meets the wall,” says Torpey. The complex is beautifully finished throughout, with no hint of drafts or stuffiness, and was eerily quiet despite every floor being almost fully occupied. The same attention to detail is to be found in every part of the buildings, including the toilets, which are more akin to what you would find in a very posh hotel, with large, full-height cubicles, flattering lighting and super-efficient ventilation providing 20 air changes per hour. All toilet cisterns and urinals are fed by a rainwater harvesting system as well. So, while the buildings have been significantly upgraded inside and out, how important was sustainability for potential clients? “It was huge”, says Torpey. “You could say it was very much client-driven; the direction given from day one was to make this the most energy-efficient building it could be because that was seen by the owner

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CASE STUDY

Central Bank, Dublin

Proven experts in delivering commercial NZEB

Miesian Plaza, Dublin

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as being an ever-increasing demand of tenants. And it’s not going to go away. That was recognised.” Certainly, what becomes clear early on is that Remley’s decision to aim for LEED Platinum (version four) status from the outset had a huge influence on the scope of the building’s sustainability credentials. LEED is a rating system devised by the US Green Building Council, and it rates projects across six key categories: site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and regional priority (the latter covering any strategies not included in the other categories, or any particular concern in the building’s locality). According to Torpey and others involved in this project, LEED has more global recognition than BREEAM, (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology), which has a greater foothold in the UK and Europe. Experts say there are pros and cons to both approaches, but LEED has more international recognition and certainly appears to be gathering more steam and challenging BREEAM in Europe. So, this, in tandem with

the degree of US investment in Ireland, made the decision to go for LEED over BREEAM perhaps more of a marketing decision than anything else. Mark Deverall, design co-ordinator at contractor John Paul Construction, says that setting LEED Platinum status as a target right from the beginning “was immensely beneficial and allowed us to plan accordingly to ensure the building would meet the determined targets”. “Our early involvement also meant we were able to explore the attributes of the various building materials to suit the targets and address any potential waste management issues.” Stringent energy performance targets are harder to achieve with a retrofit than with a newbuild, of course, but retrofitting an existing building can be beneficial in LEED. “It can take more than 80 years to make up for the environmental impact of demolishing an old building and constructing a new one, even if the resulting building is extremely energy efficient,” says US Green Building Council senior vice president Brendan Owens, who attended the certification presentation for the project.

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“This is why LEED prioritises re-use of existing buildings as they are a critical part of making cities and communities healthier and more sustainable for residents… The work Miesian Plaza did to achieve LEED Platinum is a model for policy makers, design teams and developers to study and emulate.” On the other hand, the fact that all three of the buildings are protected structures presented a conundrum of tricky challenges in order to meet demanding energy use targets while still preserving their essential appearance and character. According to Hadfield, the biggest challenge from the outset was the facade; given its protected status, there were restrictions

It’s the first and only development in Ireland to be awarded LEED Platinum.

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Sc

M me ulti nZ s n Un EB ow it RE on AD Sit he

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Insulated Concrete Forms - A Rated Structures

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PASSIVE HOUSE PERFORMANCE - TRADITIONAL BUILD COSTS 32 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32


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on what could be done to it. Nonetheless, airtightness tests undertaken before works started showed that the facade leaked very badly, so there was considerable scope for improvement. The curtain wall cladding, and doubleglazed windows all had to be stripped and refurbished and fitted with new deeper CareyGlass glazed units. The new unit comprises an outer layer of bronze body tinted glass laminated to a pane of solar reflective glass, while the inner layer comprises two panes of extra clear glass so as not to alter the bronze hue (making four panes in total). The double lamination also provides redundancy should any of the panes break. One of the best indications of quality of workmanship comes with the scrutiny of a blower door test. The three buildings posted impressive q50 results of 2.07, 4.53 and 4.62 m3/hr/m2 @ 50 Pa. According to David Torpey, these results – and the attention to detail evident throughout the project – owe a lot to the approach the team took to meeting the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR), working hand-in-hand with leading independent assigned certification firm i3PT, who use a range of measures to track and record quality and compliance of construction projects. “Every piece of the façade, every piece of the EDPM that were put in was inspected and photographed.” i3PT’s environmental manager Archie O’Donnell says the project’s success didn’t happen by accident. “The culture on a project happens top down from the owners, the project manager, the contractor. That permeates through the project to the guys on the tools. David Torpey set a very clear objective that everyone could roll in behind.” Meanwhile the corners of the south, east and west elevations of the buildings are fitted with a second, inner double-glazed skin, with a 600 mm ventilated cavity between this and the outer glazing. Ventilation slots at the base and head of the outer glazing are designed to allow for passive ventilation of the cavity, to help prevent thermal build up, while there are also motorised solar reflective blinds governed by roof-mounted weather stations.

As well as giving excellent heat and sound insulation, Torpey says these twin walls will also give clients greater flexibility with regards to remodelling without needing expensive alterations to the base infrastructure at a later stage. “So, the decision was made, and it cost a lot of money both in terms of putting it in and losing some floor area, but we made that decision. We were either going to say that these buildings were of a particular standard or they weren’t.” The upgraded façade was crucial in reducing heating and cooling requirements and was a significant boost to the energy efficiency, accounting for almost half of the 77% reduction in energy demand. To put this further into perspective, the overall energy demand today of 144 kWh/m2/yr – simulated in the IES Virtual Environment software – is a far cry from the 457 kWh/m2/yr the pre-retrofit building was scoring in LEED. As well as the bronze in the facade, there was also bronze in the inside of the building, but it was in a much worse state than on the facade, so the decision was taken to replace it with new aluminium capping but anodized in bronze. Working with Dublin City Council, Scott Tallon Walker produced no less than nine different sample panels to find the best match of tinted glass to the original bronze tinting. The original bronze blinds were replaced with white blinds which have a bronze coating at the bottom to preserve some of the original aesthetic and which are, unusually, concave rather than convex. Given that this was a five-year project that started in 2013 in earnest, it’s worth noting that Remley went out of their way to source materials with EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) at a time when practically nobody else in the country was looking for them – a full three years before the Irish Green Building Council launched the EPD Ireland register of audited construction products. Complying with LEED also requires proper documentary evidence. “We had to show them, in terms of the disposal strategy that 95%, both by volume and weight, did not go to landfill, it was recycled,” says Torpey. “So,

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for instance, all of the original carpets that we had here, they all went for recycling.” The development is heated by a combination of modulating condensing gas boilers, along with a gas-fired CHP in block one, which collectively provide low temperature hot water to fan coil units and trench heaters in the offices. Meanwhile the energy load for cooling is significantly reduced by a thermal energy store from Crystal Air PCM, using phase change materials (PCM) which change from liquid to solid state using Pluss OM11, an organic PCM with a melting point of 9.5C, to operate with standard chilled water flow and return temperatures (6/12C) and enable the next day’s cooling load to be generated efficiently and economically at off peak electricity rates – and stored till required. The operation of all the heating and cooling kit for the buildings is watched over like a hawk by building manager Sarah Burns – the tour for Passive House Plus included a building management nerve centre with a multitude of live and logged data available on the building’s performance. Another impressive feature at the ground floor basement level is the separate bicycle hall with its own dedicated entrance and space for 225 bikes –full of bicycles on the day Passive House Plus visited – plus a super-ventilated, underfloor-heated drying

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Adare Manor Miesian Plaza Redevelopment

Clancy Quay Phase III Residential Development 1-6 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay (1SJRQ)

Lidl Regional Distribution Centre

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room (for wet and sweaty gear) and even a couple of fully equipped service stations for fixing bicycles, and a rainfall radar display to keep staff ahead of the weather. There’s also a well-equipped gym and showers. The underground car park spaces are a bit wider than standard and include six charging stations for electric vehicles. The provision of these facilities goes well above and beyond what was required by the LEED certifiers, but Torpey says the certifiers were “gobsmacked” when they saw them. “But what they were most gobsmacked about was the use [of the cycling facilities] ...you can see the use and how popular it is. I would say that if you do give the correct level of infrastructure, people will use it.” The heating system has been also been broken up into multiple zones for greater flexibility, which means being able to localise usage at quieter times, such as at the weekends. But from the perspective of working with tenants to ensure that the building’s energy performance is optimised, securing leases of 20-25 years is key. “The benefit of that is, is that we cannot quite dictate, but most certainly direct and encourage tenant compliance with our preferences with regards to that environment,” says Torpey. Whereas other landlords might “cut the ribbon and walk away”, Remley believes it can assist tenants to get the most out of the building. “It doesn’t come from a single meeting. It doesn’t come from a statement. It comes from working together, analysing the core data.” As a finished product, Hadfield says the project has revitalized not just the buildings but the space around it. “It feels like part of the city again; before it felt like it was slightly being pulled away from the city because it hadn’t been used as much in the last, say, 10, 15 years.”

“But I think the biggest takeaway, really, is that you can achieve so much with an existing structure providing the quality is there in the first place.” According to Archie O’Donnell of i3PT, it shouldn’t be surprising that a rigorous approach to meeting BCAR – in this case with an independent, scrupulous assigned certifier implementing a systematic approach to compliance, and maintaining an evidence trail – should help to achieve a high-performance building. “BCAR interfaces with energy efficiency and passive house because the objectives are the same – the BCAR process is synonymous with quality. If you hadn’t a regime you should still be delivering those quality objectives. Where construction quality and passive house overlap is in that outcome-focused approach – where designs are reviewed and co-ordinated, materials and methodologies are checked, installation works are inspected and supervised and performance at completion is verified with detailed records collated as evidence of the good work done.” But will such a strong focus on quality and sustainability become a more common feature in commercial building designs? David Torpey sees a strong demand for sustainability among his client base, including the kinds of multinational corporations looking for high-end European office accommodation. “The market expectation in Washington at the moment is that if it’s not LEED Platinum, then it’s not for us,” he says. “There should be no fear within the sustainability community that there isn’t an understanding and an acceptance from the commercial side. We accept that this is absolutely a base requirement from our tenants. Not just for sustainability but in terms of occupancy costs, staff comfort, and their staff enjoying working in the building.”

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SELECTED PROJECT DETAILS Client: Remley Developments Architect: Scott Tallon Walker Architects Main contractor: John Paul Construction Assigned certifier: i3PT Civil & structural/M&E engineer/ environmental consultant: Arup LEED consultant: JAE Engineering LEED assessment: Longfields Quantity surveyor: Kerrigan Sheanon Newman Fire consultant: Michael Slattery Associates Planning consultant: Stephen Ward Town Planning & Development Airtightness testers: Building Envelope Technologies MEP installation: Designer Group/Winthrop Glazing & cladding contractor: Architectural Aluminium Ltd Glazing system: CareyGlass Air handling units: FläktGroup Fan coil units & trench heaters: Keane Environmental Condensing boilers: Hevac CHP: Temp Technology Building management system: Ashdown Controls Facade management system: Crossflow Thermal energy store: Crystal Air PCM Rainwater system: Capcon Internal paints: Keim/Dulux Render system: Sto Wool insulations: Rockwool/Isover/Knauf Gypsum boards: Gyproc Flooring: Interface/Forbo

Read more about this project in detail

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CASE STUDY

PCM Thermal Energy Storage Benefits Reduce • • • • • • •

Reduce Chiller size by 30 to 70% Cooling towers / Dry coolers by 40 to 80% Electrical supply & distribution (transformer size) Chiller short cycling Running cost by up to 40% Noise level Electricity charges: demand (kW) and energy cost (kWh)

Enhancement • • • • • •

Cooling capacity from existing plant Electrical and plant utilisation Equipment life Efficiency and reliability System control Free cooling

Miesian Plaza Thermal energy store: a 1000kW thermal store The contained in 5 insulated vertical tanks filled with Crystal Air’s phase change material (PCM) encapsulated in hermetically sealed HDPE crystal spheres for the storage and transfer of the buildings’ thermal requirements – with ice generated at night making use of off-peak grid electricity.

Thermal Energy Storage

Heating & Cooling your Building

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFICIENCY AND INNOVATIVE DESIGN We supply a range of products that provide the most energy-efficient heating and cooling systems to the business, helping buildings in Ireland, such as Miesian plaza, reduce their carbon impact and contribute significantly to their nZEB and LEED Platinum status. • Diffusion Fancoils - EC/DC motors gives them the lowest Specific Fan Power (SFP) in the market

• Kampmann Trench Heaters - Heating and cooling units include highly efficient EC motors, first to comply to the European Standard BS EN 16430 • Damvent Air Handling Units - These hybrid units have a fully integrated heat pump, for ultimate energy saving control

• Terrendis Pre-Insulated Hyper Flexible Pipe - Essential for transporting hot/cold water generated by renewable energy sources such as heat pumps • ArgoClima Heat Pumps - Our heat pumps offer significant energy savings for domestic households (01) 6205040 sales@keaneenvironmental.ie www.keaneenvironmental.ie Follow us on:

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MIESIAN

IN DETAIL

BER: Not required (listed property)

curtain walling system, incorporating floor-toceiling bronze body tinted double glazed units, and bronze clad spandrel panels between the first-floor level and roof. • N on-thermally broken stick bronze curtain walling system, incorporating an upper and lower row of double glazed units between the ground floor level and the soffit of the first-floor level.

Environmental assessment method: LEED Platinum Version 4 certified

U-value (centre pane glass only): 2.9 W/m2K U-value (glass + spandrel + framing): 3.8 W/m2K

LEED Energy Model for proposed building: 144 KWh/m2/yr (net delivered energy, including regulated (space heating, hot water, ventilation, cooling, lighting and unregulated loads (plug loads, lifts, etc). Based on standardised occupancy profile.

CURTAIN WALLING (after) Cladding upgrade works comprised the following: • a sbestos removal from the existing spandrel panels • i nsulated backing panel to the existing spandrel panels • fl oor edge thermal insulation infill • n ew fire break detail • n ew CareyGlass double glazed units, comprising four panes of glass (outer laminated bronze tinted/solar reflective panes, argon filled cavity, inner laminated extra clear/extra clear panes) • n ew thermally broken and insulated inner bronze anodized aluminium capping and framing • n ew outer weather seals • n ew inner seals and membranes to provide second line of defence from a weathering prospective • n ew weep holes to the existing carrier frame to allow for drainage, pressure equalisation and ventilation of the double glazed units

Building: 21,800 m2 office building (Grade A) Location: Miesian Plaza, Baggot Street, Dublin 2 Completed: November/December 2016 (tenant fit-out followed this)

LEED Energy Model for original building: 457 KWh/m2/yr (used for comparison to determine LEED energy cost savings) Calculated primary energy demand: (iSBEM, primary energy, regulated loads) Before: 400 kWh/m2/yr After: 100 kWh/m2/yr Energy bills: Not available AIRTIGHTNESS Before: Not available though it was known the façade leaked badly After (at 50 Pascals): Block 1 q50: 4.62 m3/hr/m2; n50: 0.89 ACH Block 2 q50: 4.53 m3/hr/m2; n50: 1.27 ACH Block 3 q50: 2.07 m3/hr/m2; n50: 0.61 ACH (Note q50 results are as per airtightness test, n50 results were calculated by Greenbuild for Passive House Plus based on q50 results and gross building volumes and are estimates only). Ground floor: Upgraded to U-value: 0.20 W/m2K Roof: New extensive green roof with tapered rigid insulation board with minimum U-value of 0.20 W/m2K CURTAIN WALLING (before) • Non-thermally broken semi-unitized bronze

U-value (centre pane glass only): 1.0 W/m2K U-value (glass + spandrel + farming): 1.65 W/m2K

C630-1300 ECO); 2 x boilers in Block 2 (De Dietrich C330-280 ECO) and 2 in Block 3 (2 x De Dietrich C330-430 ECO). Low temperature hot water is pumped to each floor of the three buildings and valved and capped on each floor shafts and provided with heat meters for use in above ceiling fan coil units (developer standard fit-out) which provides heating to the floor plates. Perimeter Kampmann trench heaters are provided throughout all three blocks. All connections are metered. Ventilation: Series of FläktGroup air handling units (AHUs) to each block. All AHUs treat and distribute fresh air at a rate of 14 l/s/ person (one person per 8 m2 net floor area), to all office areas (to two separate locations on each floor, in all three blocks). Vertical ducts carry fresh air to and extract air from all floors. The AHUs are fitted with chilled water and hot water coils to temper the incoming, filtered, outside air. AHUs incorporate thermal flywheels for heat transfer. Thermal energy store: A 1,000 kW thermal store contained in 5 insulated vertical tanks filled with savE phase change material (PCM), manufactured for Crystal Air by Pluss Advanced Technologies, encapsulated in hermetically sealed HDPE crystal spheres for the storage and transfer of the buildings’ thermal requirements – with cooling generated at night making use of off-peak grid electricity, for both fan coil units and air handling units. Electricity: Block 1 features a gas-fired 75 kW ENER-G combined heat & power (CHP) plant.

Note: An extension to block one was constructed using a structural steel frame and the same facade system as outlined above.

Water: Rainwater collection tanks are located at basement level of each block. Booster pumps distribute filtered rainwater for WC flushing.

HEATING SYSTEM (after): The buildings are provided with a four-pipe fan coil system for heating throughout (developer standard fit-out). Natural gas fired boiler plant is used to generate low temperature hot water (LTHW). Gas plant comprised of 3 x De Dietrich boilers in Block 1 (1 x C330-650 ECO; 2 x

Green materials: A broad range of products with EPDs were specified from brands including Besam, Dorma, Dulux, Forbo, Gerberit, Gyproc, Hilti, Interface, Isover, Kiem, Knauf, Mosa, Norament, Promat, Rockwool, Senior Architectural Systems, Sto, Uzin, Ventec, Wavin, etc.

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

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HALLWAY TV ROOM KITCHEN/ DINING MASTER BED BEDROOM UTILITY BEDROOM OFFICE PLANT STUDY

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Flat-pack furniture has become a fixture of modern living, but what happens when the same concept is applied to housing – and when the client is an architect seeking to build to passive house and nearly zero energy building levels?

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€110 per month (including all energy use)

Building: 186 m2 offsite-built detached house Location: Carrickmines, Dublin Completion date: February 2019 Budget: €450,000 Standard: Near-passive/ NZEB

I knew it was very high spec in terms of insulation and airtightness.

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f this newbuild in south Dublin proves anything, it is that a new timber-based build system which defies categorisation is suited to meet the passive house and nearly zero energy building standards, while bringing advantages in terms of speed of construction and quality. Designed as a four-bed house but with one of the rooms converted into an multi-purpose entertainment centre, this sleek-looking, detached, single-storey dwelling in Carrickmines, Dublin, has achieved an A2 BER along with NZEB compliance, and comes within a hair’s width of meeting the passive house standard. It also shows just how far prefabrication technology has come. Indeed, if you’ve done any research recently on the new build market, you might have noticed that off-site, factory-built systems have been gaining some considerable traction in a construction marketplace still dominated by on-site, masonry methods. Even conventional timber frame construction itself is still relatively niche in a country overly disposed to blocks and mortar, but the fast-moving evolution of off-site, rapid-build technology enabled it to grow market share here to up to 35% during the Celtic Tiger years — though as with all construction at the time, the quality was mixed, to say the least. There’s also the relatively negative association many Irish people attach to the word

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‘prefab’, thanks to memories of being taught in cold, draughty temporary buildings at school. Of course, the lifespans of those buildings were measured in years rather than decades, but even ostensibly temporary systems erected for new schools today seem a world away from those soulless grey boxes, both in terms of their outward appearance, how they feel inside and their longevity. The two big advantages of off-site systems these days are speed and the potential to achieve high quality. With most of the work done in a factory, it reduces the amount of time needed on site to finish off. The factory environment that makes the greater economies of scale possible also enables greater quality control, particularly in relation to insulation, airtightness and fittings. This home’s client, Lisa Wynne, is an architect herself, specialising in commercial buildings. She had wanted to build a top quality, energy efficient home from the outset. “I wanted to do it as well as possible, and I don’t see the point in cutting corners.” She had already intended to specify elements like triple glazed windows, but when they looked at doing things to passive house standard, “it seemed like it wasn’t that much of a stretch,” she says. Basing their newbuild on structural timber construction was very much a priority, and they had looked at various systems, but the

WANT TO KNOW MORE? The digital version of this magazine includes access to exclusive galleries of architectural drawings. The digital magazine is available to subscribers on www.passive.ie

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CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS

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1 The ground floor features a Kore EPS insulated formwork foundation system; 2 laying pipes for the underfloor heating system (in white) and ducts for the ventilation system (in blue); 3 erection begins of the Glavloc G Loc Zero external wall system; 4 the rapid-build system features 90 mm EPS70 wall insulation between the two OSB3 racking boards; 5 closing and insulating the window reveals; 6 the build system also features 125 mm KORE platinum EPS70 external insulation; 7 & 8 a further 150 mm grey EPS70 is installed over OSB sheeting on the roof; 9 further external insulation being installed; 10 & 11 construction of the Glavloc system well under way, with large openings left for the glazing; 12 pro clima Intello membrane to wall and ceiling, with airtightness taping.

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tricky access to their site generated a few issues for potential suppliers. The site was once the enormous back garden of a cottage owned by the parents of Lisa’s partner Keith. His parents recently sold the cottage and were also looking to build a new house on the site. But the difficulty in getting timber frame system suppliers interested in either job was compounded by the risks for the family of the long lead-in times for hiring cranes. “With the lead-in times, you might miss the slot and if it’s a windy day, you’re still paying for the crane,” says Lisa. “You could be paying for a crane for a week and not get the job done.” Working with Paul Doran of leading passive house builders Pat Doran Construction, the idea of using a system by Cork-based firm Glavloc came up. “Because the site was tight [to] access, I thought this was a good choice as you don’t need a crane,” says Doran. “You can stick all the materials into a transit van, and you could walk them onto the site. Also, I knew it was very high spec in terms of insulation and airtightness.” A timber system that goes up like Lego The Glavloc system doesn’t need big cranes to erect because the structural components are designed to be put together a bit like Lego. According to Glavloc founder and managing director Paul Glavin, the company has broken down its timber structure to roughly 12 standardised components that are all cut out of engineered timber and clipped together to form whatever structure is required. “So in our factory we manufacture runs of 8,000-10,000 of these components at a go and then we stack them in a warehouse and as buildings come in, we then work out how many of each component is needed, they’re flat-packed, taken to the site and put together onsite into wall panels.” Lisa was initially sceptical, but open-minded about using Glavloc. The couple travelled to the company’s base in Cork to check out some Glavloc buildings; one that was under construction and another that was fully finished. “When I saw it onsite I was quite impressed with it, because it’s a lot more kind of solid than you’d expect,” she says. The speed of construction was another plus point, with the promise of completion in a matter of weeks rather than months. “It was kind of hard to believe. I’m a commercial architect so I know how long things generally take to happen, and then I was also impressed with the fact that they’re an Irish company.” Keith’s parents opted to go with the Glavloc system too, and they got their smaller 130 m2 three-bedroom house completed first (also designed by Lisa and built by Pat Doran Construction) before Lisa and Keith embarked on their project. The two houses look quite similar on the outside but are very different on the inside, not least in terms of size. “They wanted an open plan living area which I wouldn’t be keen on myself, but they use their house a lot differently than us,” Lisa says. Keith’s parents also only spend six months

Photography: Tomas Juszczak / Imageworks

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The structural components are designed to be put together a bit like Lego.

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This is the amount of waste generated when you choose Bonded Bead Cavity Wall Insulation.

That's right. None. Working together on Climate Action

42 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

Contact us www.kore-system.com +353 49 433 6998 info@koresystem.com


CASE STUDY

of the year in Ireland, and while their building did not aim for the passive house standard, what the two houses do have in common is that their living rooms are both south-facing. One disadvantage of prefabricated systems though is that they are difficult to modify once the frame is finished and onsite, something that Lisa was well aware of. “Ideally you’d want to pick the system first and then design the house; that would be the best way to go. But when I looked at the constraints of the system on the module side, we were able to adapt it quite easily without really changing the design intent at all.” She adds that Paul Doran was very accommodating about their desire to have sloped ceilings, a tricky job. Doran says: “On that house we got the walls up in one week, then the roof in the second week but that was a very complicated house; in a more standard house you’d do it all in one week.” The fact that the house was designed before the decision came to aim for the passive house standard meant its building form was not optimised, making it trickier to meet the required benchmarks. However, with a heat load of 11 W/m2 in PHPP (the passive house design software), the house comes within a whisper of the 10 W/m2 required for certification. In terms of its performance, Glavin says the Glavloc system was originally designed to exceed passive house requirements, with U-values starting at 0.14 down to 0.12 W/m2K, while it is also one of the few companies that are certified to add external insulation in the factory, with EPS in between the studs as well as on the outside. “So not only are the U-values very good, but the cold-bridging factor is also extremely low on the actual building in all.” (The house’s

SELECTED PROJECT DETAILS Client/architect: Lisa Wynne Passive house consultant: Wain Morehead Architects Assigned certifier: Ryan & Lamb Architects Main contractor: Pat Doran Construction Building system supplier: Glavloc Build Systems Civil & structural engineer: Tanner Structural Designs BER assessor: Accent Energy Insulation: KORE Windows & doors: Munster Joinery Space heating & ventilation: Nilan Powder coated aluminium roof: Alupress Slates: Tegral Breather membranes: Dupont Tyvek OSB: Medite SmartPly Airtightness tapes & membranes: Ecological Building Systems/ Isover Larch cladding: Machined Timber Specialists External insulation system: Tradecraft Heating & ventilation: Nilan Ireland

final airtightness result was also a superb, passive-beating 0.34 air changes per hour). Glavloc is also set to shortly gain NSAI Agrément certification to confirm that buildings made with the system can expect to have a lifespan of over 60 years. Leading passive house designer John Morehead of Wain Morehead Architects was brought in to advise on the passive house requirements. While Lisa’s house uses a higher grade of EPS, there is not much difference in the basic kit, according to Glavin. The extra work required centred more around the requirements of airtightness and detailing. “It’s similar to any other detailing of a timber frame building; you just have to put the time into it and get the actual results raised,” says Glavin. “From our point of view, it was more validation of what we were doing rather than maybe learning a huge amount from the actual process.” The promise of an exceptionally speedy construction time from July 2018 to last Christmas didn’t quite materialise thanks to delays on the supplier side. But since moving in some six weeks into 2019 (and still well within the throes of winter), the family are delighted. “It’s always about 23, 24 degrees in here, so it’s just very comfortable,” says Lisa. “Like you get up in the morning you don’t know what the temperature is outside because you don’t really feel it; it’s a shock to the system in the winter.” This, together with the high ceilings and lots of glazing, have proven a huge contrast to their old “cave” of an ex-council house in Sallynoggin, with its small windows that you couldn’t see out of properly, and indoor temperatures that were often colder than the outside. Despite being close to Carrickmines now, “we’re sort of in the countryside which is lovely...it feels a little bit further out of town.” And even though her mother-in-law’s house is built using a Glavloc system albeit with some crucial differences, the contrast between the two new neighbouring homes is significant. “It’s completely different. It’s a totally different feel about it. The space here is a lot different.” The only negative from a running cost point of view has been with building insurance, which is a problem for some timber-framed

F L AT PA C K

homeowners (particularly those with no block or brick outer leaf). “It’s more difficult to insure,” says Lisa, “since you have to go through a broker because it’s considered ‘non-standard construction’, because there are no concrete blocks used in the building. They can’t get their heads around a building that has no concrete.” But if the quality of this house is any indication, it can’t be long before we’ll see more folks get their heads around the idea of living in homes built using highly engineered, factorybuilt systems.

Read more about this project in detail

ph+ | flat pack case study | 43


F L AT PA C K

CASE STUDY

NEARLY ZERO ENERGY BUILDING

We believe it is possible to build to a standard where the energy demand in terms of heating and hot water is so low as to be near zero. This is the Passive House standard. Pat Doran Construction Ltd. builds and renovates houses that fulfil all the potential promised in the design process. We also enhance the lives of our clients through the delivery of a sustainable home that is built to last with low energy costs.

www.patdoran.ie info@patdoran.ie

Tel: 085 252 1205 / 085 252 1266

Tipperkevin, Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare

THE VALUES OF INSULATION Design

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www.niai.ie 44 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

henry.niai@gmail.com +353 87 2569810


CASE STUDY

F L AT PA C K

13A, the first of the two houses built on site, and (right) an angle showing the proximity of the two houses

IN DETAIL Building type: Single-storey detached 186 m2 offsite-built near-passive house (13B). Second 130 m2 low energy/NZEB house built on same site using same build system (13A). All details below relate to 13B unless otherwise stated. Location: Carrickmines, Dublin 18 Completion date: February 2019 Budget: â‚Ź450,000 (13B)

Airtightness: 13B: 0.34 ACH @ 50 Pa 13A: 1.04 m3/hr/m2 Thermal bridging: 0.08 W/mK (default value in DEAP) Energy bills (13B): Lisa Wynne told us her electricity bill averages about â‚Ź110 per month, which covers space heating, hot water & all electricity.

Heat load (PHPP): 11.21 W/m2

Ground floor (13B): Power floated finish to concrete floor slab, followed underneath by reinforced concrete slab, combined DPM/ radon barrier, radon sump, EPS200 & EPS100 insulated formwork, 50 mm binding, 200 mm to 300 mm of well-compacted hardcore. U-value: 0.09 W/m2K

Primary energy demand (PHPP): 90.03 kWh/m2/yr

Ground floor (13A): Raft foundation 150 mm EPS 100. U-Value: 0.120 W/m2K

Heat loss form factor (PHPP): 3.11

Walls (13B): Glavloc G Loc Zero external wall system, comprised of (variously) larch cladding on ventilated cavity or Parex Lanko render system; on 125 mm KORE platinum EPS70 external insulation; on Glavloc breather membrane, 18 mm OSB3 Glavloc racking board; 90 mm EPS70 wall insulation; 90 mm OSB3 Glavloc compression stud; 18 mm OSB3 Glavloc racking board; airtightness layer, 24 mm services cavity; 12.5 mm plasterboard. U-value: 0.14 W/m2K

Passive house certification: Pre-submission Space heating demand (PHPP): 23.06 kWh/m2/yr

Overheating (state calculation tool, e.g. PHPP): 1% (of hours above 25C) Energy performance coefficient (EPC) 13B (passive house): 0.281 13A (non-passive house): 0.25 Carbon performance coefficient (CPC): 13B: 0.264 13A: 0.235 BER: 13B: A2 (47.25 kWh/m2/yr) 13A: A2 (47.27 kWh/m2/yr) Environmental assessment method: N/A

Walls (13A): Same as above except featuring 150 mm white EPS. U-value: 0.14 W/m2K Roof (13B): Gusclad box profile sheeting on 100 mm x 22 mm batters, on Tyvek supro breather membrane, on 18 mm OSB

sheeting, on 150 mm grey EPS 70, on 18 mm OSB sheeting, on 225 mm x 44 mm rafters at 400 mm, fully filled with 220 mm Isover Metac insulation, on Vario airtight membrane, on 50 x 44 mm timber batten service cavity, on 15 mm board and skim. U-value: 0.11 W/m2K Sloped roof (13A): Tegral Thrutone slates on battens, on counter battens, on breather membrane, on 50 mm Xtratherm Thin R insulation, on 225 mm x 44 mm rafters with 220 mm Isover Metac between the rafter, on Vario airtight membrane, 50 x 44 mm batten for services, on plasterboard and skim. U-value: 0.12 W/m2K Flat roof (13A): Fibreglass on OSB deck on tapered 150 mm EPS. on OSB Deck, on 225 mm x 44 mm joists with 220 mm Isover Metac insulation between, on airtight membrane, on battening for services, plasterboard and skim. U-value: 0.12 W/m2K Windows (13B): Munster Joinery Passiv timber-aluclad triple glazed windows. U Value: 0.7 W/m2K. Ultra Tech tripled glazed doors. U Value: 1.4 W/m2K Heating & ventilation system (13B): Nilan Compact P combined air heating & cooling and heat recovery ventilation system, also producing domestic hot water from exhaust air. Passive House Institute certified. Also featuring Nilan Air9 air-to-water heat pump providing weather-compensated hot water to zoned underfloor heating circuits & capable of pre-heating domestic hot water when there is high demand. Integrated system designed to maximise the return from exhaust & only use the Air9 as a backup.

ph+ | flat pack case study | 45


GOLDSMITH STREET

CASE STUDY

FROM

£31

TO £74 PER YEAR

for space heating only (PHPP estimate) Building: Social housing scheme of 45 houses & 60 flats. Timber frame. Completed: 2019 Location: Goldsmith Street, Norwich Budget: £14.5m Standard: Passive house certified

STIRLING WO R K 46 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

The passive social housing scheme that won British architecture’s top award


CASE STUDY

GOLDSMITH STREET

WANT TO KNOW MORE? The digital version of this magazine includes access to exclusive galleries of architectural drawings. The digital magazine is available to subscribers on www.passive.ie

Early in October, Norwich City Council’s Goldsmith Street development become both the first passive house and the first social housing project to win the Stirling Prize, British architecture’s most coveted award, with the judges calling it “high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form”. Leading building energy expert Dr Peter Rickaby visited the scheme for Passive House Plus to see this ground-breaking project for himself.

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GOLDSMITH STREET

CASE STUDY

L

‘An urban feel, and sense of community’ The blocks are spaced 14 m apart between fronts, and 14 m between backs (rather than the more conventional 22 m spacing) to increase the density (which is 82 dwellings per hectare) and promote an urban feel, and a sense of community. The terraces are terminated at each end by three-storey blocks of three flats each. The details of the layout demonstrate the architects’ skill in defining private, semi-private, shared and public external spaces between the buildings. Every south-facing house has some protected

48 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

EC

Greyhound Opening

Haslips Close

Goldsmith Street

ocal authority housing is at last being revived in the UK. For nearly four decades new developments in the social housing sector have been dominated by housing associations or ‘registered providers’ – ever larger, ever more corporate organisations, ever more exclusively focussed on unimaginative regulatory compliance, ever more wedded to procurement by design-and-build, despite its endless legacy of defects and poor performance. Against this backdrop, new local authority housing is blowing a breath of fresh air through the sector. Nowhere is this more evident than in Norwich, where the city council has an extensive programme of new homes, is committed to quality and sustainability via the passive house standard (with over a thousand passive homes in its development programme) and is willing to innovate, experiment and challenge convention. The combination of Norwich City Council’s sustainable community development policy and architects Mikhail Riches’ professional and technical skills has resulted in an outstanding new housing scheme that is not only passive house certified but has won British architecture’s top accolade – the Stirling Prize. It is fitting that, as we move towards net zero-carbon new housing, the Stirling Prize has been awarded to a social housing scheme for the first time. The housing development at Goldsmith Street originated from a RIBA competition, for which Mikhail Riches submitted a passive solar design laid out in parallel east-west terraces arranged to admit low-angle winter sun to the homes, in order to benefit from solar heat gains, and to exclude the high-angle summer sun. Norwich City Council’s subsequent request to apply the passive house standard informed and focused the energy strategy for the resulting design. The passive solar approach was retained. Terraces of two-storey houses have been spaced to preserve solar access to the south-facing ground-floor spaces in every house, but a cleverly placed and oriented expanded metal brise-soleil over every south-facing window shades out the high-angle summer sun to reduce overheating.

land

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front garden space on the street side. Every north-facing house and flat has a small sheltered external porch, and every flat has its own entrance door at street level – there are no internal ‘common parts’. Every house also has a private rear garden and every flat has a substantial balcony with a pierced brick balustrade for privacy. Between the terraces are shared, sinuous, linear spaces (‘ginnels’), securely gated at each end, where neighbours meet, families gather, and children play in safety. There is also a play area for small children, a wildflower meadow and a central landscaped space. Parking is provided on the street, and the streets connect (there are no cul-de-sacs or parking courts) but the design deters speed and fosters community. Throughout, the hard and soft landscaping is impressive – surfaces for driving, parking, walking and playing are defined by high-quality materials differentiated by texture and colour. Front boundaries are simple metal and wire fences submerged by growing vines and shrubs. Rear gates and fences are boarded timber – just high enough to provide privacy but not so high as to intimidate or block daylight. Cheap

New local authority housing is blowing a breath of fresh air through the sector.


CASE STUDY

GOLDSMITH STREET

but neatly detailed anodised expanded metal panels are used to screen bin stores and meter boxes. Internally, two-bedroom, four-person houses are 90 m2; four-bedroom, six-person houses are 121 m2; and one-bedroom, two-person flats vary from 52 m2 to 64 m2 according to floor level. House layouts vary according to whether they are entered from the north or the south. In the houses, all rooms are daylit except for ground floor WCs; in the flats, the bathrooms are the only internal spaces without windows. The houses have living areas and generous kitchens including dining spaces. The flats have smaller kitchens, with combined living and dining spaces. All homes are bright and spacious, with high quality finishes and tall windows. Windows that are close to the street, or south facing, have internal timber shutters, and most residents have fitted blinds for privacy and to control glare. Passive-grade timber frame The buildings are timber-framed, using panels manufactured off-site by passive house veterans Cygnum. Walls incorporate Warmcel recycled cellulose insulation within the panels and rigid insulation boards on the outsides. The front elevations of the houses, and the blocks of flats, are clad with light-coloured clay bricks; the rear elevations of the houses are simply rendered (a value engineering casualty), and the render is coloured to match the brickwork. To achieve passive house insulation standards, the brick-clad walls are approximately 600 mm thick, including the cladding, and the rendered walls are approximately 500 mm thick, so windows have deep, insulated reveals, sills and soffits. Window openings, which are larger than the windows themselves, expose the rendered insulation layer externally as window surrounds, and have pre-cast concrete sills. The windows themselves are triple glazed Idealcombi Futura+ composite units with powder-coated external sills. The roofs are mostly shallow pitched (~30 degrees), facing north or south, with some steep pitched (~80 degrees) roofs on the larger houses and blocks of flats. All roofs are covered with shiny black glazed pantiles, with minimal eaves overhangs and clipped verges. The average tested airtightness of the building envelope for the development is 0.57 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals (see ‘In detail’ for more). All homes have central heating systems consisting of gas-fired condensing boilers supplying heat to radiators, and hot water. Ventilation is provided by Paul passive house certified MVHR systems. Internal air quality is excellent, and residents report minimal use of the heating. For architectural reasons all flues and ventilation terminals are located on the rear elevations. There is scope for solar photovoltaic (PV)

Photography: Jim Stephenson & Tim Crocker

ph+ | goldsmith street case study | 49


GOLDSMITH STREET

CASE STUDY

Section

House Type D - 2b 4p North Entered Terrace

Section

House Type A - 2b 4p South Entered Terrace A

GF

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House Type A - 2b 4p South Entered Terrace

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GROUND FLOOR PLAN 1:1000

House Type A

panels to be added to the south-facing pitches, in the future, to bring the energy performance of the homes close to ‘net zero carbon’. ‘Elegant, beautifully detailed’ Architecturally, the quality of Goldsmith Section Street derives from three features. First, House Type D -built 2b 4p form of parallel straight the simple North Entered Terrace terraces of two-storey houses ‘book ended’ by the blocks of flats. The terraces are a local built form that integrates the development into the area. The flats not only increase the scale, presence and urban feel of the buildings but also define the individual terraces and subtly mark the entrances to the development, without in any way separating residents from their neighbours living in the houses. The second feature is the traditional, almost Georgian, proportions of the elevations. Often when the form of a Section building is simple and repetitive it is the House Typethat C - 4b 6p windows provide the opportunities for South Entered Terrace architectural expression, for rhythm and proportion. Mikhail Riches have exploited this opportunity with architectural skill that is rarely seen in modern housing. The visual enlargement of the window openings by exposing the insulated wall behind the brick cladding as window surrounds (especially below the windows) is inspired. The subtle ‘ghost window’ treatment of the panels of brickwork and render where there are no windows, in order to retain the rhythm, is clever and displays an architectural sense of humour. The third feature is simply attention to detail. I have often remarked that the energy ‘performance gap’ in modern buildings is an attention to detail deficit, and that the passive house standard not only requires attention to detail but also identifies which details are important. At Goldsmith Street attention to detail has been applied not just to the performance of the buildings but to their construction, appearance and style. The thoroughness and consistency of the detailing helps to turn buildings of simple form into architecture. It is to Norwich City Council’s credit that the Goldsmith Street development was procured traditionally, not by design-andbuild. The architects’ commission extended through the construction phase, enabling

50 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

them to inspect progress and quality on site, uphold the importance of architectural features and attention to detail, and help the contractor RG Carter to cope GF FF with the demands of the passive house standard. It is often said that great architecture requires not only a skilled architect but also a committed client who shares the Section architect’s vision of what their project could be like and House Type C - 4b 6pholds them to that vision. South Entered Terrace It is a credit to both Norwich City Council and Mikhail Riches that their strong, positive relationship has delivered this elegant, beautifully detailed, high-performance housing development that sets a standard for local authority housing in the GF FF future. Goldsmith Street is a demonstration that energy performance can be combined with superb place-making, and that architectural quality and the passive house standard can go hand-in-hand, through rigorous, consistent attention to detail. Residents of Goldsmith Street declare themselves delighted with their new homes. During my visit one couple, residents of a flat, stated that their friends who have struggled to buy their own homes elsewhere are envious of the quality and comfort of the accommodation they have. It is difficult to think of a better recommendation than that.

A MODEST MASTERPIECE The judging panel for the 2019 Stirling Prize, which was chaired by leading architect Julia Barfield, said of the project: “Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece. It is high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form. Behind restrained creamy façades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale. This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing.”

Flats

House Type D House Type C

GF

MASTERPLAN 1:2500

FF

SF

All homes are bright and spacious, with high quality finishes and tall windows.

N

Plan / Section 1:200

S


CASE STUDY

GOLDSMITH STREET

PASSIVE HOUSE FOR YOUR WATER SYSTEM By Toby Cambray, Greengauge The space heating and hot water at Goldsmith Street are delivered by combi boilers, with a small number of radiators, and carefully optimised hot water distribution. “We designed the hot water layouts using the principles in the AECB water standards, which are completely brilliant and really under-rated,” says Sally Godber of passive house consultants WARM. “They are like passive house for your water system. The key is to calculate everything and keep dead-legs to a minimum in both length and diameter, which reduces distribution losses. These losses impact both energy consumption and overheating, so it’s a massive win.”

dependable. This was coordinated in 3D with specialist technical support from the Green Building Store, who supplied the Paul systems. “The design manages to conceal all services in a pretty tight design, so the very accurate model proved very useful on site,” says Adam Lane of Greengauge.

“For future projects there are some things we might change; primarily we need to consider less carbon intense options for hot water heating.”

One of the least obvious but most challenging aspects of a project like this is the coordination of the utilities. “The architects challenged us to avoid having meter boxes scattered everywhere,” says Hannah Jones of Greengauge. “This is much easier said than done, because the normal approach has developed from a combination of safety features and ease of installation and meter reading. It was hard work to do something different, but the result is no white boxes cluttering the façade.”

Ventilation is via a Paul MVHR unit in each dwelling. The design was carefully developed so most homes have a very simple, repetitive layout which means the quality of installation (particularly key for insulating ductwork) is

WARM and Greengauge worked together on the building services design; WARM led the mechanical design whilst Greengauge undertook the electrical design, BIM modelling and design of the utilities.

ph+ | goldsmith street case study | 51


GOLDSMITH STREET

CASE STUDY

above Drone shots of the site on the west side of Norwich city, showing progress from the beginning of works to the completion of the build.

MAKING 105 BUILDING ENVELOPES AIRTIGHT As with any passive house project, airtightness was one of the major challenges at Goldsmith Street, where there were 105 different building envelopes to be air-sealed and tested. Leading Irish manufacturer Cygnum Building Offsite supplied the timber frame for the job. And while the firm has extensive experience working on large passive house buildings in the UK, the company’s managing director John Desmond told Passive House Pus that a project like Goldsmith Street, where building fabric detailing is multiplied over 105 units, presented a different type of challenge. “While it doesn’t bring the major structural challenges, it does bring its own operational challenges,” he says. “This project was built to a pretty ambitious and challenging build programme. We started works on site on 17 June and completed all the blocks, bar one, by that Christmas. At any one time we had three to four crews on site with different tasks.” “The first crew erected the structural framework of the building — the internal leaf of the external walls, the mid

52 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

floor, and the roof structure. That was followed on by a team erecting the external timber frame leaf, then a third team finishing off the airtightness detailing. Finally, we had a crew fitting the Warmcel insulation. We sent about four articulated lorry loads of timber frame to site every week.” Cygnum were responsible for ensuring the airtightness of the timber frame up until the installation of the windows and building services. Three air tests were carried out on each dwelling: the first when Cygnum completed their installation, the second after building services and windows were fitted, and the third on practical completion. All the houses were tested individually: the best final result was 0.39 air changes per hour, the worst was 0.63 (the backstop for passive houses being 0.649). The development was passive house certified terraceby-terrace, with an average overall score for the whole development of 0.57. Desmond says that a collaborative spirit was key to the success of the project. “Everyone needed to be moving in the one direction, and that was very much an overriding characteristic of this job.”


CASE STUDY

GOLDSMITH STREET

SELECTED PROJECT DETAILS Developer: Norwich City Council Architect: Mikhail Riches Contractor: RG Carter Timber frame: Cygnum Building Offsite Landscape architects: BBUK Landscape Architecture Clerk of Works: Enhabit Passive house consultant: WARM Building services design: Greengauge & WARM Passive house certification: Etude Structural engineer: Rossi Long Quantity surveyor: Hamson Barron Smith Windows & doors: Idealcombi External insulation: Permarock Cellulose insulation: Warmcel, via PYC Group PIR: Celotex Floor insulation system: Forterra Thermal blocks: Foamglas/Thermalite Perimeter subfloor insulation: Jablite Airtightness products: Ecological Building Systems, via Green Building Store OSB: Medite SmartPly MVHR: Paul, via Green Building Store Gas boilers: Vaillant Radiators: Stelrad

CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS

1

2

3

4

5

6

1 Grey EPS around the foot of the buildings to prevent thermal bridging here; 2 bringing the Cygnum timber frame panels to site; 3 the panels, which feature a two-stud system, stacked on site prior to installation and insulation; 4 the timber frame structure going up for one of the terraces, with pro clima Intello airtightness membranes installed; 5 pump-filling the walls with Warmcel recycled cellulose insulation; 6 pro clima Solitex Plus breather membrane installed on the roof with battens externally, prior to installation of the clay pan tiles.

Construction images: Mikhail Riches, RG Carter & Will South, Etude.

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GOLDSMITH STREET

CASE STUDY

Just think... If the timber industry were to build 27,000 brand new homes in a year, this would lead to...

30%

improvement in build times

300,000

tonnes of C02 stored and absorbed per year

90%

reduction in off-site construction waste

...tree planting and forest management ...a boost for local economic development ...modernising the construction industry ...developing a low carbon economy

Reliable, sustainable & professional. Cygnum have long been the timber frame partner of choice for some of the most sustainable buildings ever constructed in the UK and Ireland - from social housing to schools, from university buildings to humble self-builds. Cygnum operates from a purpose built, state of the art production facility using the latest CNC equipment. This enables us to achieve superior levels of efďŹ ciency, productivity and accuracy. Figures: Based on Help Solve the Housing Crisis - Report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries

Cygnum Building Offsite Macroom Co Cork P12 P623

54 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

Building Offsite


GOLDSMITH STREET

SHA DIN G

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CASE STUDY

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above Graphic showing how the shading design of the terraces is configured to allow in low angle winter sun, but to block out the high angle summer sun that is associated with overheating; 14 metre spacing between rows (as opposed to the conventional 22 metres) helps to create an urban feel. 10m MIKHAIL RICHES - Goldsmith Street Site Section

Read more about this project in detail

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GOLDSMITH STREET

CASE STUDY

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CASE STUDY

GOLDSMITH STREET

IN DETAIL Building type: Social housing scheme of 45 houses & 60 flats, all timber frame. Floor area from 51 m2 to 121 m2.

Overheating (PHPP): 4.8% of year above 25C

Net density: 82 dwellings/ha

Airtightness (at 50 Pascals): 0.57 air changes per hour. This is the average for all blocks. The airtightness test was carried out home-by-home and then an area weighted average used. Each home passed the air test individually as well. The worst score was 0.63 ACH, the best 0.39 ACH.

Completion date: 2019 (all residents had moved in by June)

Energy performance certificate (EPC): Generally, in the range of B82 to B87.

Budget: £14.5m / £1,875 per m2 (the latter figure excludes professional fees)

Measured energy consumption: Not yet available.

Passive house certification: Certified (passive house classic)

Energy bills (measured or estimated): We estimate annual space heating only bills of approximately €31, €55 and €74 respectively for the three sizes of dwellings based on PHPP space heating demand, gas price of 4.3p per kWh (confusedaboutenergy.co.uk, includes VAT) & boiler efficiency of 90%.

Location: Goldsmith Street, Norwich Site size: 1.2809 ha

(PHPP information below is for one terrace of 11 dwellings. The development was certified terrace by terrace) Space heating demand (PHPP): 13 kWh/m2/yr Heat load (PHPP): 10 W/m2 Primary energy demand (PHPP): 115 kWh/m2/yr Heat loss form factor (PHPP): Terrace form factor ranges from 2.66 to 2.85

Ground floor: 75 mm screed followed beneath by 225 mm PIR and then 150 mm Jetfloor EPS. U-value: 0.081 W/m2K Walls: Cygnum timber frame featuring Protect TF200 membrane externally, followed inside by 9 mm OSB and then twin-stud system featuring 38x67 mm external ‘fin’ wall & 38x89 mm internal structural stud, comprising

total insulation depth of 380 mm, which was filled with Warmcel. Followed inside by 9 mm OSB, pro clima Intello membrane services zone & plasterboard internally. Walls finished externally with brickwork & ventilated cavity (U-value: 0.110 W/ m2K) or 140 mm Permarock external insulation (U-value: 0.083 W/m2K) Roof: Gloss black clay pan tiles externally, followed inside by 44 x 50 mm ventilation battens, pro clima Solitex breather membrane, 12 mm Medite sheathing, 400 mm I-joist fully filled with Warmcel, 9 mm OSB sheathing, pro clima Intello Plus membrane, services zone of 44 x 46 mm battens, plasterboard internally. U-value: 0.097 W/m2K Windows & external doors: Idealcombi Future+ triple glazed timber frame alu-clad windows with overall reference unit U-value of 0.74 W/m2K Heating: Vaillant EcoTEC Plus 825 combi gas boilers to each house, providing space heating & hot water. Space heating distributed via low temperature radiator system with TRVs, linked back to one central thermostat. Ventilation: Paul Novus 300 MVHR systems to houses and some ground floor flats, Paul Novus 200 MVHR to other flats with Paul electric heating batter to intake. Passive house certified heat recovery efficiency of 93-94% & 91% respectively.

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PA S S I V E O F F I C E S

CASE STUDY

WANT TO KNOW MORE? The digital version of this magazine includes access to exclusive galleries of architectural drawings. The digital magazine is available to subscribers on www.passive.ie

OFFICE ROMANCE PAS S I V E H O US E S UP P LI ER WALK S THE WALK W ITH NEW OFFICE & FACTORY

When Welsh sustainable building specialists PYC decided to start making their own timber frames, they got down to work designing and building their own factory. Once that was finished, it was time to test their system on their first order: to build their own passive house certified offices right next door – and to be bold enough to decide not to install central heating.

Words by John Cradden

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elsh firm PYC are a bit of a sustainable building juggernaut, with separate divisions specialising in insulation, airtightness, and the design of low energy, timber frame buildings. “We started thinking about building new premises several years ago because we’d outgrown the previous office space,” says the company’s managing director, Jasper Meade. “We also had no manufacturing capability to build our own timber frames and we were struggling to outsource the new specifications we’d introduced.” In 2014, the company found a greenfield site on an industrial estate in Welshpool, just a few miles from their old offices. As well as the fast transport links, staff could continue to live locally. Meade made preliminary sketches for the entire site on a

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train journey to London one day. The most important elements, he felt, were a factory containing a small office and observation room, a larger separate office building, car park, outside storage, meeting room, kitchen and toilets. As a company with long-term growth plans, PYC also needed space to breathe, he felt. “The hardest challenge was futureproofing the building. We had to make sure there was room for expansion in both the factory and the offices.” But it turned out to be much trickier than Meade anticipated to get the project off the ground. PYC applied for planning permission for the whole site in 2014, but it wasn’t achieved until 2016, when the company finally bought the land and started building the factory. “It was surprisingly hard to get all the finance and planning approvals,

including environmental and noise assessments and all the financial forecasts so we could be sure the plans would work,” Meade says. Surprisingly, the greatest stumbling block proved to be the Welsh government’s uncertainty about whether passive house was an acceptable standard to build to (specifically, PYC were asked whether passive house is as good a standard as BREEAM – and given that the former focuses on operational energy use and indoor air quality, while the latter is a more general green building certification, the question isn’t really comparing like with like). But Meade has always been a passionate believer in changing minds through educating people about sustainable buildings. The PYC team, he says, did a


CASE STUDY

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HBF Job Client: Ref:PYC Drawing Title: Elevations

PYC

per month (estimated space heating cost – but the real figure is likely far lower) Building: 220 m2 office building Location: Welshpool, Powys Build method: Timber frame Budget: £350,0000 Standard: Passive house certified

We felt building the offices to passive house standards would exemplify the work we do.

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good job in “demonstrating to the government that the energy performance of this standard superseded all others”, with some help from leading passive house design firm Architype, and the Welsh government ultimately gave the green light. Work began to put up the factory in 2016. PYC hired a nearby yard, where they built the frames for the factory. Nine months later, the factory was up and ready to start producing its own timber frames. So the PYC team turned their attention to their new office building. “After we’d made the panels in the factory, it took just a couple of weeks to put them up, but then the internal works took months, including electrics, plumbing and external finishes. We mostly used the PYC team for construction, which slowed us down because they could only be on site when not working on other projects.” Meade says that PYC’s decision to build the office to the passive house standard was a “natural progression” given the company’s tradition of sustainable building. In 2016, PYC ran a passive house designer training course which two of the company’s employees attended. Afterwards, Meade gave them the task of designing the new office building. “We felt building the offices to passive house standards would exemplify the work we do,” he says. “But there were other major benefits, too, such as being cheap to run, comfortable and healthy for workers. After all, we all tend to spend more working hours in the office these days.” For many years, PYC used twin frame and Larson truss systems, but they chose to

PYC JobClient: Ref: HBF

Drawing Title: Elevations Drawing Title: Elevations

Penylan Hall, Meifod, Powys, SY22 6DA Penylan Hall, Meifod, Powys, SY22 6DA Tel: 01938 500797 / 07974703202 www.pycconstruction.co.uk Tel: 01938 500797 / 07974703202 www.pycconstruction.co.uk

£47

PYC No: C004 Client:Drawing

Job Ref: HBF

Drawing Title: Elevations

Penylan Hall, Meifod, Powys, SY22 6DA Penylan Hall, Meifod, Powys, SY22 6DA Tel: 01938 500797 / 07974703202 www.pycconstruction.co.uk Tel: 01938 500797 / 07974703202 www.pycconstruction.co.uk

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experiment with a new approach, building both the factory and the office with an I-beam system. “I-beams are a highly engineered component with multiple size options available, giving us the option of the variables we need to cover for the design space, as well as U-value options,” Meade says. “This offers us a single stud frame system which is economical in timber use yet maintains the high performances that we required.” After several design and engineering revisions, I-beam has now become PYC’s standard construction method. “Looking back today after three years of using the I-beam system in the factory, our experience has been that it creates a comfortable working environment and real benefits in energy performance,” says Meade. The company’s love of timber also influenced the office designs, and there are many wooden features in the internal spaces, the vast majority of it in Welsh timber. For example, PYC installed wooden supporting posts and beams for the floor, and Welsh spruce glulam walls. They chose poplar internal lining boarding and birch end-grain flooring. Meanwhile, the external walls were clad with more than 7 km of Douglas fir weather boarding. None of the PYC staff had experienced living or working in a passive house environment before, and both performance and comfort exceeded everyone’s expectations. “We consider our office very much a living space, making the comfort, health and wellbeing of all who work here important,” says Meade. “The materials

ph+ | passive offices case study | 59

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CASE STUDY

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1 A crane lifts a wall panel into place; 2 the build used Douglas fir “Ty Unnos” box beams; 3 OSB taped at all joints with pro clima Tescon Vana; 4 Gyproc plasterboard fitted to interior walls; 5 applying the Soundcel (sprayed recycled newspaper) acoustic insulation to the ceiling of the first floor office; 6 external walls feature 25 mm Isoplaat woodfibre board and 20 mm Welsh Douglas fir horizontal cladding.

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CASE STUDY

EMBODIED CO 2 - PYC OFFICES Timber 60

Wood fibre

Photography: PYC

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After we’d made the panels in the factory, it took just a couple of weeks to put them up.

Cellulose

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we used are the key to making this work. Specifically, the Warmcel [cellulose insulation] in the walls and roof offers stable temperatures, providing thermal comfort in summer and winter.” PYC’s employees moved into the office shortly before the exceptionally hot 2018 summer, which saw regular ambient temperatures of 28C, and higher peaks. It took a while to get to grips with the MVHR system, but the team spent many summer days working with windows open. “This felt right for us and it dispelled the common misconception about never opening windows in a passive house,” Meade said. “With over 31C outside we never got above 26C inside.” The winter of 2018 was comfortable in the office too, Meade says. The team logged daily temperatures for several locations on the premises, and readings showed consistent average internal temperatures of 21.5C. On the rare occasions when the office temperature dropped to around 15C following a weekend of sub-zero weather, a small electric heater soon fixed the problem on Monday morning. The heater was barely required again for the rest of the week. In keeping with the true spirit of the passive house standard, the team had decided not to install any conventional central heating system. “This was always the plan,” Meade says. “Typically, our customers fit a ‘just in case’ system such as underfloor heating or even a small log stove. We knew from experience that this would be unnecessary, now we can prove it!” The final airtightness test result on the office building was 0.5 air changes per hour. PYC carried out airtightness tests before and after the installation of the Warmcel, and noted a 24% improvement in the result. “This wasn’t surprising news to us as we already knew it was full-fill, knit fibre and high-density. Warmcel shouldn’t be relied on to provide airtightness, but it certainly helps,” Meade says. PYC also spent a lot of time testing the application of Soundcel sprayed-cellulose acoustic insulation on the ceiling of

PA S S I V E O F F I C E S

Foundations No timber storage

With timber storage

The above graph shows the embodied carbon for the PYC offices, broken down by component materials. The graph on the left does not include the carbon stored in the timber; the graph on the right does. The one on the right shows that the carbon storage for the building materials is similar in scale to the emissions of manufacture, however an official calculation (by RICS guidelines) would also need to include the end of life stage, which may involve re-release of CO2 via burning and/or decay, or continued storage if the timber can be reused or recycled. There is still debate about how and when carbon storage in timber products should be counted, for various reasons. For example, some natural carbon stores (such as peat soils) may have been disturbed during afforestation, and of course there is uncertainty over how soon the carbon will be returned to the atmosphere at the end of the material/building’s life. Graph calculated by Tim Martel using the PHribbon plugin for PHPP.

ph+ | passive offices case study | 61


PA S S I V E O F F I C E S

CASE STUDY

Phonotherm® 200 Addressing thermal bridging at critical junctions such as window, doors & foundation junctions; PHONOTHERM 200 offers homeowners, builders and specifiers a robust, practical and effective thermal solution.

• Optimum insulating properties: Effectively reduce thermal bridging at critical junctions • 100% water resistant: No swelling, no decay, constant material thickness and stability • Easy to machine with conventional carbide tools: drilling, sawing, milling, grooving, grinding, screws • Superior stability and lightweight • Excellent base material for tiles and plaster • Formaldehyde-free • Diffusion open • 100% up-cycled and 100% recyclable

Please contact our office for more details.

E. info@ecologicalbuildingsystems.com www.ecologicalbuildingsystems.com

NORDAN WINDOWS & DOORS

High Performance, High Security Norwegian Timber Windows & Doors

When Durability, the Environment and Security matter to You www.nordan.ie

Tel - 01 4601 111

62 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

• Stock sizes: -1.35m x 250mm x 25mm -1.35m x 500mm x 25mm -1.35m x 500mm x 50mm -1.5m x 200mm x 25mm - Custom sizes available


CASE STUDY

PA S S I V E O F F I C E S

the first-floor office. Getting the mix and texture right called on all their experience, but the results were worth it in the end. “Such an open space has a risk of echo, but the textured finish of the Soundcel on such a large area reduces any sound resonance,” says Meade. “A simple mix of Soundcel and PVA glue sprayed to a depth of 15 to 20 mm also gave the office a different feel to a conventional plasterboard finish.” Final Passive house certification was not achieved until April 2019, but the entire process provided invaluable lessons. “We learned a lot during the construction of the offices as it allowed us to develop, trial and review all our processes and systems. For example, we learned important lessons about design detailing, on-site construction and erecting I-beams,” Meade says. Working out of their Welshpool office allows PYC to show off the advantages of passive house construction and low-energy timber frames. Meade says the company likes to invite prospective clients into the space, including self-builders, architects, local authorities, as well as local businesses and schools. “We’re also keen to share what we’ve learned about passive house and energy efficient building. We’re already working with the Welsh government and we’re helping to train the next generation of architects and designers, as well as making links with local colleges.”

SELECTED PROJECT DETAILS Client: PYC Group Architect: PYC Design Main contractor/timber frame/M&E engineer: PYC Construction Structural engineer: Bob Johnson Structural Engineers Mechanical contractor: Steve Smith Plumbing & Heating Electrical contractor: Maden and Powys Electrical Airtightness testing: PYC Systems Wall insulation: Warmcel, via PYC Insulation Additional wall insulation: Isoplaat woodfibre board Thermal breaks: Compacfoam, via Green Building Store Floor insulation: Boys & Boden Airtightness products: pro clima, via PYC Systems Windows & doors: Green Building Store MVHR: Systemair Furniture: Kenton Jones Ltd

Read more about this project in detail

ph+ | passive offices case study | 63


PA S S I V E O F F I C E S

CASE STUDY

Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery Systems Choose Self-Balanced Ventilation for Greater Efficiency and Effectiveness For ease of installation and to maximise energy conservation, our range of Brink MVHR units is self-balanced as standard. By eliminating the imbalance caused by differing pressures within the supply and extract duct, the risk of exporting heat on cold, winter evenings and importing it on warm, summer nights is avoided. So, you can expect are a more comfortable living environment, with fewer drafts, together with enhanced levels of energy efficiency all year long. Surprising as it may seem, not all MVHR systems feature inbuilt self-balancing as standard. Self-balancing technology is just one of many features which differentiates Brink. When installed alongside our clever, click-together Air Distribution System, Brink MVHR units combine unsurpassed ease of installation, with remarkable levels of efficiency and incredible levels of airtightness.

Learn more at www.BrinkHRV.com Brink and Ubbink are distributed throughout Ireland by Kernohan Distribution: Fir Trees, Greenway Industrial Estate, Conlig, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, BT23 7SU Crank House, Banagher, Co. Offaly, Ireland, R42 DE61 E: info@iakonline.com | W: www.iakonline.com or www.brinkhrv.com

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Take care of the important things in life, we’ll take care of the rest Climate Control Renewables Ltd , Tuam, Galway

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www.climatecontrol.ie info@climatecontrol.ie


CASE STUDY

PA S S I V E O F F I C E S

IN DETAIL Building type: 220 m2 timber frame office Location: Welshpool, Powys Completion date: May 2018 Budget: £350,000 Passive house certification: Passive house certified (classic standard) Space heating demand (PHPP): 14 kWh/m2/yr Heat load (PHPP): 10 W/m2 Primary energy demand (PHPP): 134 kWh/m2/yr Heat loss form factor (PHPP): 3.2 Number of occupants: Around 10 employees Overheating (PHPP): 3% Airtightness (at 50 Pascals): 0.5 ACH (n50) or 0.62m3/m2/hr (q50) Measured energy consumption & bills: The office & factory are on the same electricity meter, so it is difficult to separate heating energy consumption from manufacturing etc. All space heating and hot water is met via mains electric. This is with the intention of introducing a large array of PV panels which will provide all the power required to make the offices off-grid in future. As per PHPP calculations for the office building only, total space heating demand is 3,024 kWh/a. Hot water demand is 2,584 kWh/a and is met via an instantaneous electric water heater and shower. Non-residential electric demand of 3,233

kWh/a. Total energy demand: 8,841 kWh/a. Currently with an electric tariff of 18.8p per kWh this would provide an estimated annual electric bill of £1,662 of which £568 would be for space heating (not including standing charges). However, as in practice all space heating is met via a small 1kW portable electric heater, the actual amount is likely to be far less.

battens. This makeup created, drainage, ventilated cavity and overhang, pro clima Solitex Plus laid over 25 mm Isoplaat woodfibre board, 400 mm I-beam rafters @ 600 mm c/c, fully filled with Warmcel cellulose insulation, 15 mm OSB taped at joints with pro clima Tescon Vana, Soundcel (sprayed recycled newspaper) acoustic insulation. U-value: 0.092 W/m2K

Thermal bridging: PYC Design undertook detailed design to ensure cold bridge-free design.

Flat roof: Baileys Atlantic single ply membrane laid over 18 mm WBP plywood decking, fixed to 50x50 mm treated battens, followed inside by pro clima Solitex Plus laid over 25 mm Isoplaat woodfibre board, 400 mm I-beam rafters @ 600 mm c/c, fully filled with Warmcel cellulose insulation, 15 mm OSB taped at joints with pro clima Tescon Vana, Soundcel (sprayed recycled newspaper) acoustic insulation. U-value: 0.092 W/m2K

Ground floor: 20 mm engineered oak flooring (entrance lobby) / 10 mm Welsh birch end grain cobbles (GF dining room), VOC-free carpet (Offices). Timber finished with OSMO oils. 200 mm reinforced concrete slab on DPM, on 300 mm of EPS insulation under slab and 200 mm EPS perimeter insulation, on 50 mm sand blind, on Type 1 compacted hardcore. U-value: 0.116 W/m2K Walls: 20 mm Welsh Douglas fir horizontal cladding externally, fixed to 25x50 mm treated horizontal battens on 25x50 mm treated vertical counter battens providing ventilated cavity, followed inside by pro clima Fronta WA breather membrane taped at joints with pro clima Tescon Vana, 25 mm Isoplaat woodfibre board, 400 mm Masonite I-beam studs @ 600 mm c/c, fully filled with Warmcel cellulose fibre insulation, 15 mm OSB taped at all joints with pro clima Tescon Vana, 50x50 mm service batten, 12.5 mm Gyproc plasterboard, skim and low VOC white emulsion or Welsh poplar timber cladding. U-value: 0.10 W/m2K Mono pitched roof: Powder coated box profile steel roofing sheets externally, fixed to 75x50 mm treated battens, followed inside by 25x50 mm treated CLS counter

Windows & external doors: Green Building Store Ultra triple glazed timber framed windows. Passive House Institute certified. Sealed with pro clima tapes. Overall U-value: 0.79 W/m2K Heating system: No primary heating. Small 1kw moveable heater. Direct electric heating for domestic hot water. Ventilation: PHI certified Systemair VTC 700 MVHR system. Efficiency 77% (PHI). Shading: Large roof overhang. Green materials: Use of locally sourced Welsh timbers, including external Douglas fir cladding, internal Poplar cladding to walls, Birch endgrain flooring, bespoke made Welsh spruce CLT internal walls and Douglas fir “Ty Unnos” box beams. Recycled newspaper cellulose fibre insulation (Warmcel). Low VOC finishes, paints and oils.

ph+ | passive offices case study | 65


H E A LT H & R E T R O F I T

INSIGHT

DOCTOR’S ORDERS TH E COMPLE X RELAT IO NSHIP BET W EEN EN ER GY R ET R OFITS & H U M A N H EA LTH There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence that home energy retrofits, done well, can improve the health of those who receive them — and equally there are horror stories about shoddy upgrades causing damp, mould and illness. But what does the evidence say about how energy upgrades effect occupant health, and what lessons can be learned for the future of how we renovate our homes? Kate de Selincourt reports.

I

n July, the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee released a report which was highly critical of the current lack of progress in building energy efficiency work, particularly in England. The report urged a seven-fold increase in the installation rate. “A major upgrade of the energy performance of the UK’s entire building stock will be a fundamental pillar of any credible strategy to reach net zero emissions, to address fuel

66 | passivehouseplus.ie | issue 32

poverty and cut energy bills,” the committee told the government.” This report followed close on the heels of the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations for new and existing homes which, unsurprisingly, also urged the government to increase the uptake of energy efficiency measures. Whether or not the UK government chooses to act on this advice is anyone’s guess. However, if it does, there are expected

to be numerous benefits besides emissions reduction. One of the obvious benefits would be improved public health. A calculation by BRE that poor housing in the UK costs the NHS £2.5bn per year is often cited. The assumption is that fixing the housing will avert this expenditure – a reasonable assumption, given the strong association between poor health, and excess winter deaths, with poor quality housing. However, this is only an assumption. Anecdotally, there is evidence that home energy improvements can indeed improve health. For example, when social landlord Gentoo began to replace boilers and insulate tenants’ homes, they were struck by how often customers said their health improved. “Families reported being happier and their wellbeing had increased. Not just in one or two homes, but in home after home, street after street. We were being inundated with huge amounts of anecdotal evidence to suggest the biggest difference we had made


INSIGHT

since retrofitting the home was to the health of our customers.” Gentoo attempted to put numbers on these effects. They studied the impact of their energy efficiency installations more systematically – and found that across 200 hundred households where boilers and windows had been upgraded, tenants on average said they felt healthier and used the NHS less (equivalent to around a 15% reduction in spending per household compared to before the improvements). This is far from the only study to recorded positive health outcomes from home energy interventions. Researchers asked tenants of Nottingham City Homes about their health and satisfaction before and after the external wall insulation was fitted. They too said their health had improved, with statistically significant improvements in mental well-being, including reduced anxiety, and reduced use of NHS services. Meanwhile, charity National Energy Action (NEA) co-ordinated a range of heating and insulation measures for several thousand fuel poor households living in inefficient dwell-

ings, and over 700 were asked about their experiences before and after the measures were installed. Over a third said their physical health had improved, with just a few (6%) saying their health had worsened, and the rest reporting no change – in other words, a trend towards better health after energy retrofit. There are many studies like these, and a fair number of them do report health improvement, though not all. But there have been criticisms of the research methodologies: not all have a control group for comparison, so unconnected factors, such as one winter being milder or harsher than the next, cannot always be ruled out as the cause of any changes in health. Also, unlike with placebo-controlled trials in medical research, people always know if they have had their boiler replaced or their walls insulated, so their expectations may be affecting their health, or their perception of it — especially if they are being specifically asked about it. There are also studies that have shown little or no measurable impact. And even though researchers generally advance a plausible

H E A LT H & R E T R O F I T

explanation for why this might be — numbers too small, follow-up period too short, etc — the suspicion has to remain that some improvements simply do not make much difference to occupants’ health. Biggest study to-date Probably the most convincing positive results to date are a set of studies that looked at different aspects of the health of a group of 30,000 tenants of a single social landlord and studied some for up to ten years. This group of studies is valuable because it involved so many people, which increases the statistical power of the findings, and the follow-up period was far longer than is usually possible in research of this kind, again making it likelier that any health effects seen were not just a temporary boost based on expectations. Perhaps most powerful was the fact that, uniquely for a recent study in the UK, the researchers had direct access to people’s (anonymised) medical records, so were able to compare the health service use of all 30,000 occupants (it would have been impossible to interview so many people).

RETROFITTING FOR AIR QUALITY Replacing open fireplaces, stoves or ranges burning solid fuel with a central heating system that brings comfort at the flick of the switch has been demonstrated in some of these studies (for example, the work from Northern Ireland) to bring benefits to householder health. None of the studies referred to in the main article recorded indoor pollutants other than moisture, and they did not measure indoor air quality in the study homes. But it is interesting to consider whether eliminating a source of smoke and pollution form people’s homes may have played a part in improving

their health. Solid fuel burning is a source of many toxic and irritant pollutants, and Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency has recently published monitoring data showing that levels of carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PACs) derived from solid fuel combustion (coal, wood and turf/peat) exceeded EU reference levels at several test locations last year. Solid fuel combustion, notably in wood stoves, is also a significant (and growing) contributor to particulate pollution in the UK, accounting for as much as 30% of locally produced particulates in some cities.

Domestic solid fuel burning introduces harmful air pollution into dwellings both directly, and also when ventilation air from outside is contaminated with chimney smoke – which it generally will be, to a greater or lesser extent. It is therefore plausible that some of the health benefits enjoyed by the recipients of new central heating systems came via reductions in pollutants such as particulate matter, NO2 and SO2. While there is no evidence on this either way, it is also worth noting replacing solid fuel heating with something cleaner benefits not only the recipient, but the whole neighbourhood.

Heating your home and its impact on air quality and health

Worst choice for air quality and health

Best choice for air quality and health

Burning waste in an open fire AL ILLEG

Burning very smoky solid fuel in an open fire

Burning less smoky solid fuel in an open fire

Bituminous Green/Wet Wood Coal

Very Smoky

Burning very smoky solid fuel in a stove

Burning less smoky solid fuel in a stove

Peat Dry/Seasoned Briquettes Wood

<

Burning less smoky solid fuel in an eco stove

Kerosene oil boiler

Gasboiler

Electrified heating supplied by power station

Solar, wind and heat pump technology

‘Low Smoke’ Coal

Less Smoky

ph+ | health & retrofit insight | 67


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H E A LT H & R E T R O F I T

Elderly occupants of homes with upgraded ventilation, CO monitors & fire alarms were admitted to hospital 39% less often – with a 57% drop in emergency admissions for respiratory illness. The landlord, Carmarthenshire County Council in Wales, carried out a wholesale home improvements programme to bring all its homes up to the Welsh National Housing Standard. The measures installed varied dwelling-by-dwelling, based on what each needed. Improvements included insulation, heating upgrades, new doors and windows, and because falls at home are a major cause of injury and hospitalisation, improvements to paths and steps. The researchers were therefore able to look directly at impacts on NHS spending. It was also possible to compare different subsets of tenants according to which changes had been made to their homes. The main part of the study looked at emergency admissions to hospital for respiratory and cardiovascular problems, plus falls and burns — for all residents, but with a focus on those over 60. Residents over 60 living in homes where improvements were made went to hospital significantly less compared with those living in homes that were not upgraded. Admissions to hospital fell by between one quarter and one third across the improved homes, depending on the measures that had been installed. Strikingly, the biggest improvement of all was seen in homes where the electrical system had been upgraded – an upgrade that included carbon monoxide monitors and fire alarms, but also ventilation. In these homes, occupants over 60 were admitted to hospital 39% less often after the measures were installed, and there was a 57% drop in emergency admissions for respiratory illness in particular. Indoor air quality Anyone working with people in fuel poverty knows that cold homes are often damp as well, yet moisture and indoor air quality have not been a prominent concern in the mainstream UK energy efficiency programmes to date. Damp is known to harm health, independently of cold. In some analyses, damp seems to be more closely related to harm than cold does.

WHO IS MOST VULNERABLE TO COLD? It is well-established that the risk of cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases such as asthma, are more common for people living in housing that is hard to heat. Illness and death rates from these conditions increase in winter – and increase most for people in the worst housing and in the worst poverty (all too often the same people). Less well-recognised is the fact that dementia sufferers are equally vulnerable to cold – in fact excess winter deaths from dementia in some years outnumber excess winter deaths from heart disease. While dementia may or may not be made more likely by cold housing (there has been remarkably little research on this) dementia sufferers in cold homes are particularly vulnerable to just getting too cold, with the harm that then ensures. Dementia sufferers may be both less likely to notice they are cold, and less able to work out what to do about it. Sufferers often forget to eat, too. Falls in cold conditions, when the person is alone and lies undiscovered for many hours on a cold floor, are particularly dangerous and can lead to a severe deterioration in health, or even death. Living in a home that you can’t afford to heat also makes a whole range of other health problems likelier in the first place, and it makes many existing conditions worse. Living with a physical health problem or disability can also make it harder to cope with the cold: if you have mobility problems or a reduced appetite you

Photography by Passive House Institute, Mark Tirimani, Shane Colclough, Tomas O’Leary

are likely to feel the cold a lot more (but ironically, are quite likely to be stuck in that cold house more of the time). And if your home is cold and your income is low, the practicalities of dealing with illness and disability – for example, doing more laundry – will become harder too. Problems that have been highlighted as making cold especially tough include spinal injury, arthritis and rheumatism, sickle cell disease, skin problems, cancer treatment and recovery – but it is hard to imagine any condition that is going to be improved by living in fuel poverty. And yet, cruelly, having a long-term illness or disability makes you a lot likelier to be in fuel poverty – not least because your income is very likely to be constrained. Fuel poverty rates for disabled people in the private rented sector are particularly high: 35% of UK households with a disabled occupant are in fuel poverty. There is also a particularly close link between poor housing and poor mental health. Data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 , a survey of 7,400 people in England, showed that being unable to heat your home in winter, having a combination of fuel debt and other debt, having mould, and restricting energy use were all predictors of mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. Research by the World Health Organization found that extensive dampness and mould at home increased the chance of depression by 60%.

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So, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that ventilation, alongside energy efficiency measures, has a beneficial impact on health. This has been seen in other studies – smaller ones, often targeted specifically at people with respiratory conditions (often children). In these cases, the installation of ventilation, sometimes alongside heating, has been associated with reductions in symptoms and in fewer days missed from school. Warming a house can help with dampness to an extent, especially with dampness exacerbated by cold (it won’t repair a leaking gutter). When a home is warmer, people are more likely to ventilate, and surfaces may be warmer and attract less condensation. In studies where very old, cold homes have central heating installed, damp has often been reported to reduce. In one study in rural Northern Ireland, three quarters of unimproved homes reported condensation, damp or mould — but in half of these the problems were alleviated after the installation of new heating systems. Other intervention studies have also found that homes became drier after new heating or other energy retrofit measures were installed. But this is not always the case. For example, in a survey of people who had had their homes improved under the NEA charity’s health and innovation programme, participants consistently reported that their homes were warmer or at worst, the same as before. But the responses relating to damp and condensation were more equivocal. Although more people agreed there was less damp and condensation after the retrofit, the difference was not overwhelming, and quite a few disagreed with the proposition — suggesting that while energy efficiency measures may tend on balance to reduce dampness, they are not always enough on their own. Many retrofit measures reduce air leakage – sometimes this is the main objective – so if existing ventilation is already inadequate, as it so often is in British housing, new problems may arise. A small study of indoor conditions after retrofit by researchers at Cardiff University illustrates this. When new mechanical ventilation was installed, internal humidity did not rise even when homes received measures that may be likely to reduce air infiltration, such as external wall insulation. However, in a subset of the dwellings where ventilation was not installed, but other measures such as new windows were, there was a small rise (around 5%) in relative humidity. This is concerning, especially when seen alongside results from another group of occupants, a subset of the tenants in the Carmarthenshire study mentioned above. This subset comprised around 2,000 people who were interviewed directly about their health. This group was divided according to measures received and included a group whose homes had received external solid wall insulation plus ventilation, and others whose homes had received cavity wall insulation but no ventilation. Those who received external wall insulation, which was always accompanied by

extractor fans, reported improved health — in fact external wall insulation plus ventilation was associated with the largest improvements of all the measures analysed in this subset, in terms of both respiratory and general health. However, researchers found a worsening of reported health outcomes for occupants in homes which had been fitted with cavity insulation – which again, was not automatically accompanied by ventilation. As the authors wrote: “The installation of the majority of individual housing measures (new windows and doors; boilers; kitchens; bathrooms; electrics; loft insulation; and insulation) were associated with improvements in several social and health outcomes... There were however a few exceptions. Most notably...in contrast to the expectations, the installation of cavity wall insulation was associated with poorer [i.e. worsened] mental and general health, and an increase in reported respiratory symptoms.” It is not known how the internal environment changed in these dwellings, though it might be reasonable to assume that, by analogy with the study described above, indoor humidity may have risen – and with it, possibly an increase in mould or dust mites. Other research in Wales also suggests issues with cavity wall insulation. BRE Wales investigated instances of both cavity and solid wall installations where problems had arisen. Issues reported included damp and mould inside dwellings and sometimes damage to the building fabric. The BRE analysed the probable causes of the issues. They found that in many of the problematic cases, no assessment of the ventilation system had been made prior to the installation, that in some cases narrow cavities had been insulated, some houses were in high exposure areas. In some cases, cavity insulation had been installed in homes where the wall was in poor condition. This can allow the insulation to become waterlogged and cause damp issues inside. Thus, there are two potential issues here – insulation installed in walls that are wet or at risk of becoming so, and lack of ventilation. Both increase the risk of damp and mould as well as other forms of indoor air pollution. Both however, come back to quality control in retrofit. Designed ventilation Proper ventilation is needed in any dwelling. It is required in order to remove the moisture created by day to day life — and to remove numerous other pollutants from indoor air. The Royal College of Physicians warned in 2016 that indoor air pollutants cause, at a minimum, thousands of deaths per year, and are associated with healthcare costs in the order of ‘tens of millions of pounds’. The ventilation in homes in the UK is seldom as good as it could be , and substandard ventilation compromises occupant health. If retrofit of a house with inadequate or no ventilation reduces infiltration through the fabric – i.e. draughts – occupants will probably be warmer but alas, their air quality will be even worse, unless the ventilation is

H E A LT H & R E T R O F I T

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above Maps showing geographical exposure to wind-driven rain for Ireland & the UK. Some experts believe that areas with high levels of wind-driven rain may be unsuitable for cavity wall insulation. Irish map: Joseph Little, adapted from BS 5262 coloured as per BR 262 UK map: BR 262

sorted out. Ventilation should be part of every preliminary assessment of a home being considered for retrofit and remedying inadequate ventilation an absolute precondition for almost any additional intervention. With retrofit, as with new build, the default ventilation option is still all too often intermittent extract fans in wet areas only. While the studies quoted show that this approach is better than nothing, there is too much evidence that it does not work adequately for it to be recommended, even in a relatively

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INSIGHT

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THE UK’S NEW RETROFIT STANDARD With the support of the government, the British Standards Institute has recently issued a new PAS (publicly accessible standard), PAS 2035, for domestic retrofit. This includes requirements on providing adequate ventilation when houses are being retrofitted for energy efficiency. The new standard was developed in response to instances of retrofit failure, where installations were faulty and in some cases buildings were damaged, and householders failed to get proper redress. The new scheme sets out the qualifications and responsibilities of indi-

viduals involved in designing and delivering energy retrofit, and formal processes for managing risk. The standard is expected to become a requirement in all UK government-mandated energy retrofit programmes (such as ECO) within a few years and may also be adopted as a requirement by other funding bodies such as banks. Retrofit must meet the PAS standard if it is to be covered by the newly introduced “Quality Mark” guarantee, which offers consumer redress; the Quality Mark is also a government-backed scheme.

Figure 4.4: Monitoring failure rates over time.

MONITORING FAILURE RATES OVER TIME 14% 12% 10%

% Failure Rate

leaky building. Installing ‘system one’ ventilation like this is also a massive missed opportunity – both to benefit occupant health, and to cut fuel bills and reduce emissions. System one ventilation does not leave any dwelling ‘2050 (or even 2030) ready’. The climate emergency means we need to insulate pretty much every dwelling and make them all a great deal more airtight, in order to meet our carbon goals. With an effective ventilation system installed from the start, it will be safe to improve the performance of the building fabric at any time. Installation of continuous, centralised mechanical ventilation is the only way to prepare a dwelling for zero-carbon-compatible retrofit. This is implicitly recognised in the new PAS 2035 (see ‘The UK’s new retrofit standard’ boxout), which requires that a continuous ventilation system with demand control is installed if an energy retrofit reduces the air leakiness of the dwelling below 5 air changes per hour (at 50 Pascals of pressure) — or if it can’t be proved that it won’t do this. A correctly designed and installed centralised mechanical extract (cMEV) or mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system will provide effective ventilation however airtight the dwelling – it does not rely on random leakage through the building to make up the air flow (which in practice, doesn’t always work anyway). Instead, the ventilation system supplies all the air needed.

H E A LT H & R E T R O F I T

8% 6% 4%

2%

Problems beyond ventilation 0% Failing to check and remedy ventilation is May-Jul Aug-Oct Nov-Jan Feb-Apr May-Jul Aug-Oct Nov-Jan Feb-Apr May-Jul Aug-Oct Nov-Jan Feb-Apr May-Jul Aug-Oct 2015 2015 2016 2016 2016 2016 2017 2017 2017 2017 2018 2018 2018 2018 an established failing of the retrofit industry, but it isn’t the only one. Ventilation cannot Monitoring Quarter remedy the issues caused by faulty wall Score Monitoring Fail Rate Technical Monitoring Fail Rate Total Fail Rate insulation that lead to water penetration, and in turn to damp, mould and harm to occupant health. External wall insulation above Monitoring failure rates for ECO-funded retrofits in the UK between 2015 and 2018 4.32. If a measure failed monitoring based on the standard of installation, energy (EWI) has also been subject to water failures companies were required to remediate (i.e. correct) the measure. Once this (see article on Preston insulation failures, in remediation had taken place, a further inspection had to be passed to ensure any withFurthermore, the measure 19% had been properly Of the 7440 measures that andremediated. retrofit is needed. Regulations around high”. of the Passive House Plus issue 24) but cavity wall notably fault failed(of technical monitoring based on the ventilation standard of must installation (94.54%) evolve7426 to keep pace were with all kinds, including cavity insulation (CWI) deserves at least as much installations remediated and passed re-inspection. wall), which were supposed to have a improvements in the energy efficiency of attention in this regard. 4.33. If a proved measureon failed monitoring not because an inaccuracy a scoring input,for theaenergy and in there is a need more investigation to ofbuildings, Many areas in Wales, the west of England guarantee, companies were required to review and provide a revised, for the coordinated approachaccurate to the score requirements guarantee in place. and Scotland, and much of Ireland in partic- have a valid measure. Of the total 5133 scoring fails, 4985 (97.12%) were rescored. ular have climates that may not be suitable for Clearly, insufficient action has been taken for energy and ventilation in buildings. companies were resolvethan an issue identified through technical retrofitting CWI (see map). Additionally, CWI 4.34. piecemeal incremental change, so far to Where addressenergy installation quality. Theunable new toRather monitoring (e.g. they were unable to gain access to a property or could not accurately should never be added where the outer leaf BSI quality long-term investments that treat homes as a standard for retrofit, PAS 2035 (see re-score the measure) and did not meet our requirements, we did not attribute of a wall appears to be in bad condition (with below) issavings are needed.” a fresh to attempt to address this issue,thatsystem the measure. This meant the measure could not be attributed towards cracked pointing or render, for example). The evidence shows that this position is though itan is energy not expected to impact more than company’s obligation. Ofgem monitoring of homes retrofitted 4.35. and when carried out appropriately a handful of retrofits fornot a couple of years at toright, Where we did attribute savings a measure, we still expected the energy under ECO (energy company obligation — least. company to seek to remedy any failureswithout neglecting ventilation, for the benefit of the consumer.retrofit can the scheme requiring energy providers to indeed improve occupant health. Pathways to compliance upgrade homes) has repeatedly shown that The health & retrofit agenda Done well, an energy retrofit can be Where an may installer didbe not inspectitsthe minimum required of measures, or CWI, along with other retrofit measures such 4.36. transformative. As number one grateful recipient Occupant health finally making breached set failure rateIntolerances for score monitoring and 10%was for technical as EWI, is installed inappropriately in a signif- way onto explained: “The new heating installed the retrofit agenda. its advice(20% monitoring in ECO2, 10% for score and technical monitoring in ECO2t) it was placed icant percentage of cases – for CWI this has to the government on upgrading the energy when my brother had bowel cancer. It got to a on a “Pathway to Compliance”. This meant that an installer’s measures, notified by a been between 5 and 10% of sampled installa- performance point where theatslightest woulduntil be a of dwellings, the within Committee particular supplier and a set quarter, were even placed risk of chill rejection tions in recent years. In fact, overall technical on Climate detriment him. It gave us more Change, insists to satisfy appropriate actioncrucially, was undertaken us to that the installer couldcontrol meet and the the not first instance meantIt helped performing failure rates rose over the duration of the that therelevant was morethis efficient. keep additional him from health requirements. of occupants Inmust inspectionsby to energy either meet the –required monitoring ratetrying or totoconfirm or refute the second phase of ECO (see graph showing be compromised when keep warm, it helped retrofit but shivering original reported failure rate. failure rates for all measures combined). rather, should be enhanced. “Upgrades or him recover. It couldn’t have come at a better Where the failureinclude rate remained abovetime theintolerance, Yet Ofgem only refused energy company 4.37. his life.” suppliers were required to repairs to homes should increasing submit additional assurances (including actions such as root cause analyses and claims for carbon savings under ECO when the uptake of: passive cooling measures There is no reason why anyone who could an installer’s technical fail rate was over (shading and ventilation); measures to benefit from a warmer, healthier home 10%. Ofgem commented that: “The average reduce indoor moisture [and] improved air should be suffering in cold, damp unhealthy 44 failure rates for CWI measures (5%) and quality,” it says. accommodation. We know how to make it non-high rise EWI measures (11%) were “An integrated approach to design, build better.

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SUPER STREAMED GR OWING S UP E R H OM E S S C HE ME MA KIN G DE E P RE T RO FIT E ASY Home retrofit can be a messy process – an attempt to pull together a disparate bunch of suppliers and tradespeople, often without a clear understanding of how the upgraded building will perform, and of any potential unintended consequences. The streamlined, customer focused SuperHomes scheme is simplifying and de-risking the process for hundreds of homeowners all over Ireland.

Words by Jason Walsh

E

veryone understands how a low energy house can be built—in theory at least: a design conscious of thermal energy, high levels of uninterrupted insulation and an airtight building envelope with suitable ventilation, topped-off with the use of renewable energy. What can be more difficult to understand is how existing homes can be upgraded. Questions facing homeowners include how much can be achieved, what are the right measures to take, how extensive will the work be, and how to find contractors and suppliers who can be relied on.In addition, the thorny issue of how to navigate the often-complex grant aid programme is no small thing. Tipperary Energy Agency thinks that it has

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the solution, and it is working nationwide to prove it: SuperHomes. Frequent readers of Passive House Plus will be familiar with SuperHomes as a deep energy upgrade programme that goes far beyond the traditional ‘shallow retrofit’ approaches of insulating cavities, attics and boiler replacements – an approach evident in the impressive results posted from a monitoring study of heat pumps installed under the scheme. Central to the programme is to look at houses as systems rather than an assemblage of unrelated elements, something that many people understand when it comes to new builds, but is something of a new frontier when it comes to retrofit – where the risks may be higher, depending on how well the

building was originally built, how it’s been subsequently maintained and what kinds of upgrade works have previously been attempted. Dave Flannery, specialist in retrofit coordination, customer communications and home assessment for Tipperary Energy Agency says that ‘SuperHomes’ was a way of branding its efforts to make both the national and residential nature of the work clearer. “We were doing deep retrofit before [but] we wanted to distinguish the residential side of our operations. This was a way of communicating throughout the country that was dedicated to residential retrofit,” he says. The government’s climate action plan announced in July calls for a minimum of


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SUPERHOMES

Opposite Ali Sheridan’s family outside their SuperHomes retrofit; this page, clockwise from top left Typical measures installed under the SuperHomes scheme include new air source heat pumps, solar PV panels, low temperature radiators and new heating controls; p77 SuperHomes’s Dave Flannery on site during a retrofit.

500,000 houses to be retrofitted to be more energy efficient by 2030, and SuperHomes has the potential to help define the process. Houses as systems Flannery says that looking at homes in a holistic sense is central to a serious deep retrofit —failure to do so often results in poorer than expected performance and, worse, serious problems. “Retrofit has always happened, people have always done that: bought a home and gutted it, increased the insulation, changed the boiler. But a house has [typically] never been seen as a complete system, so carefully planned retrofits haven’t happened,” he says. “When you approach, say, windows, people will get advice that the windows need upgrading. When they do so they find that the [only] ventilation was provided through their leaky windows. Suddenly, they’re getting black mould around the windows. That’s really clear evidence of a house as a system.” For Flannery, one of the key advantages of SuperHomes is that it is not a piecemeal approach. “We say what is required to improve the house in one go. That’s our starting point.” “If we look at redbrick or mass concrete, there is a certain thickness, a certain U-value, that you want to achieve, [but] it’s not about stuffing in as much insulation as possible. Whether we like it or not, all of the elements of a house interact with one-another and predicting what will happen is a big part of the process,” he says.

In this regard, SuperHomes has already been a success as it communicates this message to homeowners who might otherwise be tempted to slowly work on their house, one element at a time, often starting with a new boiler or insulation. “When you put it in those practical terms people understand it,” says Flannery. From D to A When sustainability consultant Ali Sheridan and her husband decided to move home, both comfort and wider environmental issues were at the forefront of their minds. “From myself and my husband’s point-ofview, we were quite concerned about climate change and we wanted to build a home that reflected that,” she told Passive House Plus. The cost of buying a new home – where virtually all are A2 or A3 rated, thanks to changes to Part L in 2011 – proved prohibitive, providing the impetus to look at renovation and energy upgrading. “We had the choice of trying to find an A-rated house, but we had budget limitations, or finding a doer-upper,” she says. The house that Sheridan and her husband finally settled on, a semi-detached unit in north Kildare within commuting distance of Dublin, met most of the couple’s criteria. Except one: it was an energy sink, with a D3 energy rating. “It was losing heat everywhere and it’s not hugely old so that just shows how far the regulations have come in recent years,” says

Sheridan. The work – by specialist retrofit contractor Sola Energy Solutions – included upgraded insulation in the floor, attic and walls, along with triple glazed windows, airtightness work and the installation of an Aereco demand controlled mechanical extract ventilation system. Heating is provided by a Mitsubishi Ecodan air source heat pump, with the house powered in part by a solar PV array. The upgrade process was more extensive than the couple had expected, but the results were also better. “When we started, we didn’t understand the full possibilities of what could be achieved,” says Sheridan. “The level of work you need on a semi-detached house was quite surprising—the whole build took around nine to ten months, including some aesthetic work that we wanted to do.” The result, an A2 rating, has transformed the building—and caused a stir locally. “We already see the benefit of it in terms of the quality and comfort,” she says. Sheridan’s previous house was also a relatively similar semi-detached home, so the transformation is easy to notice. “It was very cold [and] trying to manage the heat was an issue: you’d come home to a cold house, have to blast the heat then, within an hour, you’d be too warm. It was hitting us in the pocket.” The improvement in terms of energy bills is welcome, but quality of life has also improved in the newly renovated house. “You do feel it [the change]. People notice the air quality. The odour of cooking dissipates so quickly. You’d

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hope it’s something everyone else could get to experience.” In a sense, the building has become a model for neighbours concerned about endlessly rising energy bills and, often driven by their children, tending to see climate change and energy use not as long-term questions but immediate issues. Given this, the success of the project, and relative simplicity of the funding process, is particularly notable for them. “There’s a constant flow of neighbours coming in to see what it’s like. People are interested in the cost savings and energy savings but are probably a bit nervous of the technology.” Nervousness about the complexity of applying for multiple grants is something that SuperHomes helps to deal with, by supporting homeowners throughout the process. “There’s a lot to take in, in terms of the paperwork. Tipperary Energy Agency held our hand on a lot of that and gave us very clear guidelines. They were always on the end of the phone and always talking to our architect.” For Sheridan, the scheme could represent a major contribution to meeting climate change-driven energy use targets: after all, as a typical Irish home it provides a model that can be replicated. “We hoped to get the house to an A3 but, in the end, achieved an A2. If you think about houses of this scale and all of those in north Kildare and the greater Dublin area, similar upgrades would do a lot for the climate,” she says. Some aspects do raise questions for the uninitiated, both homeowners and contractors, and chief among them is the heat pump, which despite its use in many one-off low energy homes – and its emergence over the last year to outstrip gas boilers as the main heating appliance in new homes – remains a relatively uncommon technology in existing homes. “A lot of contractors were not comfortable with the heat pump, but if you’re going to do this level of work, for me, to go to gas just makes no sense,” says Sheridan. “It’s about having those wider, longer term conversations.” As far as she is concerned, though, the

conversation is happening. “The benefits are proven. It’s just about getting people to understand it and make it a bit easier to achieve — and think about how many similar homes are out there [that could be upgraded] — maybe a million.” Measuring progress Despite its importance for the industry and homeowners alike, SuperHomes does not chase energy rating figures. Instead, it looks to improve the building as a system, ensuring that it does not leak heat. “The key thing is the Heat Loss Indicator (HLI),” says Flannery. Calculated using SEAI’s Deap software, the HLI is the total amount of heat loss per square metre of a given home’s floor area. “The challenge for us is not to get to, say, B2, but to reach the HLI [target] in a way that’s affordable and doesn’t require huge intervention and disruption for the homeowner. “The BER will follow that,” he says. Flannery says that the scheme, and deep retrofits in general, poses an interesting challenge for the construction sector because much of the work will be bespoke. It also provides an opportunity for lasting growth, though. “This is an entirely different industry to what [the] construction sector has been used to. Every home is different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Even if you take an estate that was built in, say, 1977, if you go in with a one-size-fits-all system it won’t work as, over the years, people will have made changes to their homes. “Even within that archetype you will need bespoke solutions,” he says. As a result, SuperHomes take care to ensure that the right retrofit approach is designed for each and every house – with a SuperHomes engineer visiting to survey the house, and correctly size the heating system, etc. The organisation also maintains a list of approved contractors that are skilled and experienced in retrofits. This is essential because quality control has a dramatic impact on results. “We’ve an approval system for contractors that is based on experience and reputation. Where you have a contractor that is approved,

SUPERHOMES

we can work with them more efficiently, and, in terms of pricing, they know what they’re doing. “We spec out the works and the contractor is primarily responsible for the day-to-day works. We do take on new contractors, and we’re keen to take on ones who see the value of retrofits,” he says. Contractors that see the value in retrofits will, ultimately, reap the benefit of security. “It [deep retrofitting] will endure a long time past any construction boom,” says Flannery. Given Ireland’s recent history of boom and bust, the likelihood of the current housing shortage being met with a building boom that once again topples is something that will certainly be at the fore of many builders’ minds, and retrofit is one way the industry can put itself on more solid ground. Naturally, government targets and support from the likes of SEAI’s Better Energy Homes grant scheme will play a role in this, and SuperHomes has a sterling record: Tipperary Energy Agency has a 100% success rate when it comes to grant aid for SuperHomes projects – and over 200 homes completed. It also uses its knowledge of the funding landscape to ensure that the minimum standards are not only met at both the design and build stages, but often exceeded. “We would source the best grants for the homeowner and make applications on behalf of them, spec-out the work with that with the grant standard as a minimum, and [then] carry out inspections,” says Flannery. “It could be understood that we project manage the whole thing.” As a social enterprise, Tipperary Energy Agency isn’t simply in it for the money, Flannery says. Instead, it sees leading the energy transition in Ireland as its true mission. The reverberations can be felt well outside the Tipperary county boundaries, then. “That’s the core purpose of the agency, but we are run along commercial principles.” In 2019 alone, SuperHomes projects have been carried out not just in Ireland’s urban centres, but in counties as far apart as Kerry and Donegal. “We’re in every corner of Ireland. The SuperHomes brand is a way of demonstrating that we work nationwide.”

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ECOFIX

INSIGHT

FIXER UPPER O N E HOU S E B U IL D E R’S P IO NE ERIN G JOURN EY IN TO SUSTA IN A B IL ITY

In 2009, as the mother of all recessions took hold in Ireland, prominent housebuilder Durkan Residential came up with a creative response to unspeakably bad market conditions – setting up a specialist retrofit contractor, Ecofix. Ten years on, and having delivered new build and retrofit schemes up to the passive house standard and beyond, what lessons did the early adopters learn?

Words by John Hearne

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hen house builder Durkan Residential completed the first phase of the Silken Park development in City West, Dublin back in 2007, the future looked bright. Durkan brothers Barry and Patrick were second-generation housebuilder/developers specialising – at the

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time – in quality homes for first time buyers. In total, they secured planning permission for 149 units; phase one consisted of 22 apartments and 33 houses. Back then, it was all about the finishes: interior design, gleaming kitchens, quartz worktops and so on. Then the crash came, and everything

stopped. Phases two and three went into mothballs, the planning permission expired, and nothing happened onsite for seven years. But while work may have halted in Silken Park, what the Durkans did during those lost years had a huge bearing on their approach to house building when the market eventually revived. Silken Park phase one was built to 2002 regulations and featured partial fill cavity walls and permanent wall vents, with no provision for airtightness. Phase two, completed in 2016, included 26 houses and three apartments. Each boasted high performance external wall insulation, single leaf walls, near passive standard airtightness and demand-controlled ventilation. And phase three, completed last year, comprised 59 certified passive houses – still the largest passive house development in the country. How did this transformation happen? And does it offer a template for an industry which


INSIGHT

ECOFIX

facing page Silken Park in Citywest, Dublin, Ireland’s largest residential passive house scheme; above the Enerphit-certified upgrade to social housing at St Bricin’s Park in Dublin (left) and the passive-certified extension at the Glenashling nursing home in Co Kildare (right).

has to navigate a variety of challenges if it is to deliver to the standards that consumer and the planet require? We talked to Barry Durkan – managing director of Durkan Residential – and Jay Stuart, technical director of sister company Ecofix, about the journey they have taken over the last ten years. John Hearne: When did you first become aware of sustainable building? Barry Durkan: It began in the early 2000s. Back then, low energy houses tended to be large one-off houses. What we wanted to know is if it could be done at scale. Could you do it with a standard three-bed semi-d in the suburbs of Dublin? This was the idea that would eventually capture our imagination. Back then, we were involved in a number of joint ventures, one of which brought us into contact with the architect Norman Foster. He opened our eyes to the idea that housing wasn’t just housing. You had to design for people’s needs – you had to think about things like transport, sustainability and adaptability. JH: So, where did Ecofix come into the equation? BD: Then the crash came, and we had to rethink our plans. We decided to turn our attention to the retrofit market. We had consulted with Jay Stuart during one of our projects. He was – still is – one of the leading sustainable architects in Ireland. We invited Jay to come in with us and in 2009, we incorporated Ecofix. At the time, the Green Party was in government and they’d just announced a series of retrofit grants, so we decided that we’d become a one-stop shop for the industry, we’d upgrade boilers and windows, and crucially, we’d look at building fabric. At the time, the government planned to roll out refurbishment grants at scale, but that didn’t happen. At the same time, we began to concentrate on four areas: external wall insulation (EWI), windows, airtightness and ventila-

tion. Jay Stuart: And the interesting thing about that process is there is no better way to learn how houses work. The people who live in these houses can tell you better than anyone else where the house is failing. They know that their living room is cold and drafty in February. Typically, we’d do EWI on the whole house. If you do that plus the attic you have a really significant impact. But you can’t do that without looking carefully at airtightness and ventilation. So, we educated a lot of people about ventilation. BD: While there were government grants at the time, the problem was that policies changed from budget to budget. It was hard to see a long-term future in domestic retrofit. So, we refocused onto the commercial side and retrofitted a lot of schools and nursing homes. We developed a good reputation and won the contract to install the Rockwool EWI on the controversial Priory Hall buildings. JH: So, when did new build come back into the picture? JS: It was 2015 before we could return to Silken Park. Of course, the building regulations had changed substantially, so once again we decided to change direction and refocus Ecofix. It now became a specialist contractor for high performance building envelopes. We took all we had learned in the intervening years and set out to bring it to bear on new build. BD: Phase two of Silken Park finally gave us the opportunity to answer that key question. Could we do a passive standard building envelope at scale? Could we build two to three houses a week to that standard, without compromising on affordability? We found that we were averaging 0.8 to 0.9 ACH [airtightness] per house, but we knew that if we made a few small tweaks, we could easily hit the passive standard in the next phase. Plus, we were able to achieve these results with single

We built those passive houses at no extra cost to what the industry is building a standard A3 for. What’s more, the airtightness was achieved by people who hadn’t done it before.

Jay Stuart

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INSIGHT

leaf construction, which meant savings on the walls and savings in the foundation, not to mention a faster and more efficient build. JH: What about skills? A lot of experienced builders left the industry in the downturn, and you were talking about building to a much higher standard than the industry was used to. How did you source your people? JS: Much of the know-how is retained in the company by the directors, but yes, it is hard to retain the same crews, especially when much of the retrofitting work was seasonal. So, we did a lot of training onsite, plus trusted partners like Ecological Building Systems would come out and give presentations to sub-contractors, but you do have to invest in training. BD: We changed our management structure from the top down. From the quantity surveyor specifying airtightness in the tender down to the contractor implementing it onsite. Everyone knew what we wanted, what we expected from them. JH: And technology played a big role in phase three in particular, when you were aiming for passive certified? BD: Exactly. What we learned in retrofit was workmanship was important, compliance

1

was important, detailing was important. We had started a software company, VRM Tech, to develop a platform for retrofitting with an innovative ‘evidence-of-use’ app. This platform makes us a lot more efficient. It takes contractors step-by-step through all of the processes – fitting EWI, airtightness, floor insulation – whatever it is. The app is on the worker’s phone and they use it to photograph each stage, allowing us to verify that what needs to be done is being done. JH: So then, results. You built 59 passive houses in phase three. Did you hit the airtightness target? JS: We came in at an average of 0.2 ACH, three times tighter than the passive standard. We set a target, then it’s down to materials, tools and training. I specified the materials and all of that earlier experience allowed me to create airtightness details that were as simple as they could be. The end result is that we built those passive houses at no extra cost to what the industry is building a standard A3 for. What’s more, the airtightness was achieved by people who hadn’t done it before. We gave them the toolbox talks, we provided the training and said you need to achieve 0.6 ACH. They were well trained, well supported and incentivized to hit that target.

2

ECOFIX

JH: So, you were able to build passive at scale with no premium. Do you think that motivates buyers? Do you think sustainability, or even low energy living is on a first-time buyers’ radar? BD: I think it will always come down to location. That will always drive our industry and even with Silken Park phase three, the majority of buyers couldn’t care less about whether the house is passive or not. Now our buyers love it, and they love that they’re saving the equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment per year on energy bills. I do think however that the market is changing and that there will be a premium for sustainability in the very near future. JH: The industry is facing a lot of ambitious house building targets in the coming years – not least the climate action plan’s half a million energy efficiency retrofits by 2030. Do you think we can hit that target? BD: I think we are in a position to scale up for this. We have the technology, we have the abilities, the people, the scalability to hit these numbers. The targets are aggressive, but we’re in a good place. We’re positioning ourselves now that if retrofit is rolled out at scale, which it needs to be, we will be in the right place to deliver.

3

above Durkan Residential have placed an emphasis on combining good design and detailing with traditional build methods for meeting the passive house standard. This includes 1 insulated foundation systems; 2 blockwork with wet plaster and airtightness taping and; 3 external insulation to hollow block single leaf walls; top a rendering of Durkan Residential’s latest passive house scheme in Killiney, Dublin.

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MARKETPLACE

PA S S I V E H O U S E +

Marketplace News Moisture monitoring key as energy standards rise

Xtratherm launch new Part L NZEB briefing note

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ramex, the Irish manufacturer of moisture meters for the building design and construction industries, has emphasised the critical importance of testing and monitoring moisture conditions within buildings as airtightness and insulation standards continue to increase. Improvements to Part L of the building regulations in recent years mean that Irish homes and offices are becoming more and more airtight, and while mechanical ventilation is being increasingly specified as the best way to remove humidity, natural ventilation is still popular. Because natural ventilation is not generally as effective at removing humidity as mechanical ventilation, it is these homes that may be at most risk of dampness and mould, both surface-level and interstitial condensation within the building fabric. And while moisture issues are always a concern in retrofit, ambitious new build standards mean they are now an increasingly an issue on new projects too. Combine that with the damp Irish climate and the amount of moisture typically contained in building fabric during construction, and Passive House Plus has heard reports of mould appearing on some new build projects even when still on site. Wicklow-based Tramex have been manufacturing their moisture meters to their core market in the US for many years, but are now seeing increased potential for their use in the UK and Ireland as buildings standards rise. The company supplies a range of data loggers, moisture meters and probes. These range from simple sensors that log internal humidity, to tools for ‘moisture mapping’ of building assemblies which can produce the moisture equivalent of thermal images, and

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small non-destructive probes which can be inserted into walls that be used to test moisture conditions. The company’s data loggers are bluetooth enabled and provide five-minute interval readings of a range of moisture, humidity and temperature indicators. It can also provide interstitial data when connected to probes. Speaking to Passive House Plus, Andrew Rynhart of Tramex also stressed that solutions are available for building assemblies found to contain excessive levels of moisture. “We aren’t just here to diagnose problems but can advise on solutions as well. For example, there are now injection tools available for injecting dry air into walls to dry them out.” John Morehead of Wain Morehead Architects – a firm known for their technical expertise in building performance – recently discovered Tramex via Passive House Plus and purchased equipment including the ME5 non-destructive moisture meter for instant moisture measurement and evaluation. “With the Tramex ME5,” said Morehead, “we finally have an instrument available that measures moisture in a non-invasive manner at variable depths that enables the operator with the app to instantly visualise and record and understand what may be happening.” Morehead described the meter as “indispensable for conservation or building defect/expert witness work with industry standard calibration - and all manufactured and developed in Ireland!” • (above) Tramex’s moisture mapping app, used in conjunction here with a non-destructive Tramex moisture meter.

tratherm has launched a new technical briefing note designed to clearly explain how to comply with the latest version of Part L of the building regulations for dwellings. Part L of the Irish building regulations was updated this year in order to bring Ireland in line with EU requirements that all new dwellings be nearly zero energy buildings (NZEBs). As part of Xtratherm’s Xi Academy, the new briefing note gives the construction industry clear, comprehensive guidance on the new regulation requirements to “assist in the delivery of actual energy performance on site”. The briefing note offers a clear, detailed explanation of what these new standards mean and how they are met in DEAP. It outlines the changed minimum ‘backstop’ U-values for building elements, and explains the necessity to improve upon these worst case values, in line with the Department of Housing’s own compliance examples. Compliant specification will also necessitate improvements in thermal bridging requirements, and the note also offers guidance on airtightness and overheating. Detailed explanation is also given on space and water heating system requirements, along with associated pipes and ducts, as well as on the new rules as they pertain to the upgrade of existing dwellings. The briefing note also includes an example of a typical house type with detailed specifications showing how it might pass or fail the new regulations. The Xi Briefing note on Part L is part of a suite of white papers that also includes guidance on Part F / Technical Guidance Document F, which pertains to ventilation. •


PA S S I V E H O U S E +

Passive Sills get BBA cert

MARKETPLACE

Heat pump upgrade warms Donegal B&B

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assive Sills, the Cork-based manufacturer of insulated windowsills, has announced that it has achieved British Board of Agrément (BBA) certification. The new certification covers both the company’s standard sill product for new build as well as its over-sill system, for the insulation of existing concrete sills in retrofit projects. As traditional windowsills are made from concrete, they can form a major thermal bridge that cuts through the insulation layer of a building, losing substantial amounts of heat. Passive Sills’ products are made from polystyrene and are designed to eliminate thermal bridging, as well as being significantly lighter in weight. They are already certified by the Passive House Institute. Speaking to Passive House Plus, Patrick Beausang of Passive Sills said that the company’s new BBA certificate covers the use of the product in all standard forms of construction including timber frame, cavity wall and ICF. “We’re delighted to have achieved BBA certification and it demonstrates that our product complies with all relevant regulations in the UK,” he said. He added that another significant advantage of the product is its safety for manual handling on building sites, as the company’s sills can weigh up to ten times less than a traditional concrete sill. Beausang also said that the company’s sill is currently in the process of being evaluated for an Environmental Production Declaration (EPD), which, he said, shows that its product has approximately half the embodied carbon of a traditional concrete sill. • (above) Patrick Beausang (right) of Passive Sills receiving his BBA Certificate.

(above) Ollie Hughes of NRG Panel next to the outdoor unit of the Daikin air-to-water heat pump at Park View B&B in Glenties, where other upgrade measures included a 4.2 kW PV array.

A

family Bed & Breakfast in Glenties, Co Donegal built during the last boom has lowered its energy bills and improved comfort thanks to a suite of upgrade measures that included a new Daikin air source heat pump. Speaking to Passive House Plus, Tara Cunningham, whose mother owns the Park View B&B in the village, which can sleep up to ten guests, said that in the year prior to the upgrade the B&B was consuming a vast amount of oil. “It was getting pretty bad the year beforehand,” she said. “The oil bills were getting astronomical, we just seemed to be filling the oil tank all the time. You’re talking about €600 or €700, five or six times a year, even up to as much as eight times a year.” To make matters worse, the heating set up was not designed to store significant quantities of hot water, so guests were sometimes left without hot water. Monaghan-based renewable energy installer NRG Panel were called in to advise on the best way forward. Luckily the house, which was finished in the early 2000s, had been built to a good standard and even had underfloor heating installed.

“From the start I said you can really do something good here because you’ve already got underfloor heating,” Ollie Hughes of NRG Panel told Passive House Plus. “We had a heat loss assessment done and decided to insulate the cavity walls. I redesigned everything and gave them a lot more hot water storage. We put in a 16kW Daikin air-to-water heat pump along with 500 litres of hot water storage.” The heat pump chosen was a Daikin 16kW wall hung unit. NRG Panel also installed a 4.2kW solar PV array on the roof, comprising 16 panels. In total the upgrade brought the house’s energy rating from a B3 up to an A3, with the assessment carried out by First Rate Energy Services in Galway. Ollie Hughes has been monitoring the house’s energy bills and the energy consumption of the heat pump and says the Cunningham’s have spent about €1,800 on space heating and hot water in the first year since the upgrade. “It works, she has hot water all the time, so if guests come there is hot water all the time,” Tara Cunningham said. “There is such a comfort in the house, there always was comfort but it came at the cost of having to constantly fill the oil tank.” •

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PA S S I V E H O U S E +

We all have a role to play in ensuring that we have a clean, healthy environment for present and future generations. Visit www.epa.ie to nd information on the many ways you can get involved and play your part in protecting Ireland’s Environment. E Check out the EPA's See-it Say-it App for i-Phone or Android phones. Learn more about EPA licensing and enforcement and check out our Live Green portal which provides advice, awareness and education on sustainability at home and in your communi community.

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MARKETPLACE

SOLA OPEN NEW NZEB SHOWROOM

KORE (above) Sola’s deep retrofitted NZEB showrooms in Templemore showcase some of the low energy measures the company offers.

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eading Tipperary-based low energy retrofit contract Sola Energy Solutions have opened a new NZEB showroom designed to showcase the full suite of low energy retrofit & new build options offered by the company. The company purchased the G-rated commercial building, on the outskirts of Templemore, with the intention of undertaking a deep retrofit of the premises. Sola are one of the leading contractors working on deep retrofit in Ireland, including the likes of the SuperHomes retrofit scheme, and are regarded for their expertise in delivering whole-house, fabric first retrofit and new build projects, as well as being a supplier and installer of renewable energy systems. The upgrade to the premises involved a suite of measures including: removing the existing asbestos roof and installing a new insulated Kingspan roof system;

pump-filling the cavity walls as well as installing 82 mm insulated board to the inside of the walls, digging up the floors, installing QuinnTherm insulation and a new Joule underfloor heating system. The building was then retrofitted with new Munster Joinery triple glazed windows and doors. The team also installed a Mitsubishi Ecodan air source heat pump and a Mitsubishi Lossnay mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system. The offices upstairs benefit from air-based heating and cooling, while the showroom downstairs features both air-based heating and cooling in addition to the underfloor heating system. A new large 8.5 kW solar PV array was installed on the roof to further reduce the building’s primary energy demand. The new showroom also showcases the array of products offered by the company to potential customers, including Aereco

demand-controlled ventilation systems, Mitsubishi Ecodan heat pumps, solar PV panels and electric stoves. While final testing and certification has yet to be completed, Paul O’Brien of Sola Energy Solutions said that he is confident the airtightness has been brought down to about 2 m3/hr/m2, and that he expects the final BER assessment to confirm that the renovated building achieves both an A rating and meets the new non-domestic new-build standard for nearly zero energy buildings (NZEBs). “We moved into the new premises in August. The air quality is absolutely fantastic,” O’Brien said. “It’s great to be able to showcase exactly what we are able to offer in terms of retrofit right from our own showroom. Anybody who comes in, they can see that if we’re able to get a commercial building up to this standard, they know then their home is going to be like that as well.” •

Don’t lose sight of ‘fabric first’ approach — NIAI

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he National Insulation Association of Ireland has called on anyone undertaking new home builds or energy upgrades not to forget the importance of a ‘fabric-first’ approach to their project, in order to maximise their energy savings as well as the efficiency of any renewable energy systems installed. “It’s important not to forget the value of insulation,” Henry Sheahan of the National Insulation Association of Ireland told Passive House Plus. “You can tick a lot of your compliance boxes with heat pumps and solar panels now, but it’s crucial not to forget about the importance of a properly insulated and airtight building envelope as your primary strategy for delivering comfort and energy efficiency. The new building regulations that came in on 1 November are designed not just to deliver more energy with renewables, but to reduce the amount of energy required in the home.”

The National Insulation Association of Ireland (NIAI) represents the insulation industry in Ireland and its members include manufacturers, installers and other stakeholders. “Once insulation is installed properly, there are no moving parts, no on/ off switch and it’s generally working for the lifetime of your building,” Sheahan said. Recent changes to the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP), used to calculate compliance with Part L of the building regulations and BERs, now mean that installing technologies like heat pumps and solar PV can get you closer to compliance with the required energy performance coefficient (EPC) and carbon performance coefficient (CPC) in DEAP than before. But Sheahan stressed that all heating technologies work more efficiently the better a building’s basic fabric is. “You’ve got to have the fabric insulated correctly first.

Heat pumps use electricity of course, and if you haven’t got your insulation, they will be losing efficiency.” A properly insulated, airtight building fabric — free of thermal bridges — also helps to ensure the long-term durability of building fabric, and along with properly designed and installed mechanical ventilation can help to ensure good indoor air quality for building occupants. “The NIAI prides itself on its commitment to improving standards within the industry, and we work towards achieving safe and sustainable use of insulation in both residential and commercial markets,” Sheahan said. “In the current climate where energy efficiency is of growing importance, with global warming and EU-mandated targets for carbon emissions reduction, it’s vital to ensure that energy is conserved in the most efficient manner.” •

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MARKETPLACE

Think of NZEB like an Irish stew — Aerhaus

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nderstanding how to build a house to nearly zero energy building (NZEB) standards is a bit like making an Irish stew — no single ingredient is responsible for how it turns out, but a rather a combination of all of them, and the way they’re cooked together. That’s according to Stephen Walsh of mechanical ventilation specialists Aerhaus. “When asked how ventilation systems fit into building energy ratings [BERs] we get questions like ‘if I install heat recovery ventilation will I have an NZEB house?’… You may or may not. It’s not a straightforward answer and depends on the sum of all of the components that go into your house,” he said. “I often compare the compilation of BERs to an old Irish stew. The process involves selecting the right ingredients, putting them all together in a big old cast iron pot, leaving it sit for a while for the flavours infuse, tasting as you go. Putting in too much of one thing and

too little of another rarely achieves the desired result. Instead a balanced approach usually works better. Most recipes will need some seasoning so if required a little salt and pepper will help get the taste just right. “A BER rating is similar. The Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP) software is, in this case, the proverbial cooking pot. Instead of meat, vegetables, stock and a few other kitchen secrets, a BER assessor’s ingredients come in the form of structure, heating & ventilation systems, windows, insulation, airtightness etc.” It is this combination of all of these elements, and how they are designed to interact, that ultimately determine how energy efficient and comfortable a dwelling is, how resistant it is to condensation and mould, and how good its indoor air quality is. “If, at the first sampling the desired result is not achieved, you season it,” Walsh said. “The salt and pepper in this case may come in the

form of an extra 100 mm of insulation in the attic, an upgrade to a higher performing heat pump or ventilation system, an extra pane of glass in the windows. BER professionals will be able to tweak things here and there to get the recipe just right. The result will be an energy efficient, well-ventilated and comfortable near zero energy building.”•

A Rated NZEB recipe Ingredients: A Carpaccio of insulation Hand glazed heat pumps nestling in a demand controlled ventilation puree organic insulated foundations snuggled up with a swirl of triple glazed windows Method: Preheat home to 21c all year round, dish up and enjoy for years to come! p.14

Bangor apartments get wastewater heat recovery A

new housing scheme in Northern Ireland for the over 55’s is meeting its energy efficiency obligations with help from wastewater heat recovery technology. The Banks development overlooking Ballyholme Bay in Bangor, Co Down, consists of five separate villas, each with six apartments, that will be available for rental to the over 55’s on a long-term lease basis. Each apartment is 1,100 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the scheme is specifically targeted at those looking to downsize. A further 11 homes on the site will also be available for sale. The Showersave QB1-21C has been specified and installed in the apartments to assist with Part F compliance (the equivalent of the Republic of Ireland’s Part L). The units have been installed in the common service ducts on the floor below each apartment. “The decision to install Showersave in these apartments was a simple one,” said Jim Hodgen, project manager with contractor O’Prey Developments. “Not only did they help with compliance at a very reasonable cost; they were simple to install and above all they add to the comfort and maintenance free goals of this exclusive development. We will not hesitate in considering Showersave for future developments.”

Meanwhile, consulting engineer Ian Douglas of Cogan & Shackleton said: “The use of the Showersave QB1-21C on this development gave us exactly what we needed to comply. It was straightforward to use in SAP and its undoubted credibility gave us the confidence to recommend it to our clients.” Wastewater heat recovery is recognised as a renewable energy system for the purpose of complying with UK building regulations, but is also now listed in DEAP 4, meaning it can help with Part L compliance in the Republic of Ireland too. •

(above) Showersave wastewater heat recovery systems were installed at The Banks development in Bangor.

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MARKETPLACE

Passivate launch new website & energy services

Barn retrofit achieves 0.18 ACH with bi-fold doors

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deep retrofit project in Lancaster has achieved possibly the best ever airtightness result in the UK for a retrofit project. Designed by leading passive house architect Mark Siddall, Shepherd’s Barn is a super insulated, low energy barn conversion which incorporates high standards of airtightness and an MVHR system. Due to the wide span of this particular barn, a cellulose insulated timber frame structure has been inserted inside its original walls. To address moisture risks, cavities are well ventilated and microporous additives have been added to the lime-based mortar where walls have been re-pointed or replaced. The clients were keen to install sliding folding doors, and so Lacuna bi-fold doors were specified on the project, supplied and installed by Green Building Store. Bi-fold doors are often regarded as a difficult element of the building element to make airtight, but the Shepherd’s Barn retrofit still went on to achieve a superb airtightness result of 0.18 air changes per hour, well inside even the new build passive house standard of 0.6 air changes per hour, and the best airtightness result for a UK retrofit project this magazine has heard of to date. Speaking to Passive House Plus, Morten Wendt of Lacuna UK & Ireland, explained that its doors have a triple-seal between the door elements, and a double seal around the edges. They can reach an overall U-value as low as 0.85 W/m2K, and they achieve class four airtightness (EN 12207). “At Lacuna we focus exclusively on bi-fold doors in order to make them perfect. That means all research goes into this single product,” Wendt said. “The aim of our Danish design is that the door should be looked upon as a piece of furniture: narrow frames, painted in complete smooth high or low gloss, complemented with marine-grade handles and hinges. We supply a durable, dimensionally stable door with unrivalled U-values and airtightness. It is very easy to install and doesn’t require continuous adjustment visits.” Lacuna’s frames are constructed from heat-treated timber, which the company says gives them a durability equal to teak. They should not require repainting for between 25 and 50 years in normal conditions, and they offer the slimmest profile available of any timber folding door, according to the company. All ironmongery is in Danish designed marine grade materials. For more information on Lacuna bi-fold doors see www. lacuna-bifold.co.uk. • (above) Lacuna bi-fold doors at the Shepherd’s Barn retrofit.

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eading energy consultancy Passivate has launched a new website at www.passivate.ie along with an expanded range of energy analysis and certification services. The company’s new website will feature all of their existing service offerings, including certified passive house design, passive house certification management, and thermal bridging analysis, as well as training for aspiring passive house designers and thermal bridge modellers. “We are also launching a new thermal bridging rapid results service which will allow clients to upload drawings and specifications via our website and have their results back in 48 hours guaranteed for one junction, subject to receipt of the correct information,” Andrew Lundberg of Passivate told Passive House Plus. The website will also feature guidance on Part L compliance, the requirements for thermal bridging analysis, and explainers on what thermal bridging actually is. “We think this will be of huge benefit to the industry at a time when there is an identified need to upskill and things are getting more and more technical,” Lundberg said. He added that Passivate is now also able to produce certified thermal data for window frame U-values and spacer psi values, both to ISO 10077, as well as curtain walling calculations to ISO 12631 including fixings, and general certified overall window and curtain wall U-values. ”SEAI have confirmed that they will accept the certs we produce when uploaded as part of BER documentation,” Lundberg added. “This will be a big help to the many window suppliers, as well as architects and joiners, who currently don’t have sufficient certification and suffer from the use of default values in their projects, as well as not actually knowing any potential condensation risk that exists in their systems, which we can also evaluate.” Lundberg has also just completed Home Performance Index (HPI) assessor training, meaning Passivate will now be offering consultancy on this new holistic dwelling sustainability standard, which was launched by the Irish Green Building Council, as well as its related zero carbon homes certification. For more see www.passivate.ie. •

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T O BY C A M B R AY

COLUMN

In praise of impermanence We hear a lot about the importance of designing our buildings to have a long lifespan, but might there come a time when it actually makes to more sense to design buildings to have relatively short lives — and to be easily taken apart and re-purposed in response to a changing climate and society? Toby Cambray ponders the idea of impermanence in construction.

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t’s usually tacitly accepted that we should make our buildings last as long as possible. This makes some sense from an economic perspective; the longer an asset can be useful, the more value can be extracted from the investment. As time goes on, buildings inevitably become less fit for purpose, and they are continually adapted to cater for the needs and preferences of new occupants. If the Victorians tried to predict our early 21st century needs and preferences when they were building, they were not successful, at least when it comes to comfort and energy. Is it hubris or arrogance that makes us think that we can design for socio-political, economic,

Homeowners are more likely to invest in changing the latter than the former. What we’re really talking about here is locking in bad decisions or at least, contemporaneous ones. So, perhaps we should be designing buildings for a shorter life span, rather than a longer one, simply to avoid locking decisions in; even those we consider to be good or correct now may prove misguided in 50 years. It should also be acknowledged that ‘designing’ for a particular lifespan is a misnomer, like ‘designing’ for a finite airtightness, unless you’re particularly cynical. Another very important aspect, particularly given the UN’s 12 years (make that

Perhaps we should be designing buildings for a shorter life span. environmental constraints as they will be 100 years from now? Our more developed science certainly gives us a better idea of what the future climate will be like than our forebears had, but the variation in possible outcomes is considerable. Deep energy retrofit is hard, especially, I would argue, in less old buildings. There are good reasons to persevere with our old stock – heritage value, the larger carbon burp of re-build, economics. But I am not alone in arguing that it will be even harder to retrofit the type of houses being built to current UK regulations and standard practices in their thousands across the country today. Their moisture-blocking design principles often introduce tricky factors, and their arguably low quality and moderate levels of insulation undermine the economic case. In the UK and Ireland, we can expect the climate to get warmer (particularly the summer) and wetter (particularly the winter) over the next 100 years but designing with this in mind is not as common as one might hope. A less technical example is the change in fashion from separated cooking, living and eating spaces typical of buildings more than about 50 years old, to the 21st century trend for more open plan houses.

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11 and counting) to stay within 1.5C of warming, is embodied carbon, and building lifespan is an essential factor in calculating embodied carbon. I am emphatically not suggesting that it’s a good idea to send to landfill or incinerate everything built to date. What I would say is that embodied carbon is rising rapidly up the agenda, as is design for disassembly, and if we as an industry can get good at these, design for impermanence may, or may not emerge as a useful concept. There are precedents for this approach, most notably in Japan where house values (as distinct from land values) depreciate such that they are worthless after about 30 years. A specific set of cultural values and economic conditions drive this; land is expensive, but the buildings on them are less valued, in part because, in the architect Alastair Townsend’s words, “Japan fetishizes newness”i. Ben Law’s famous Woodland house is an example closer to home. The planning authority hedged against this house setting a precedent for building in a sensitive area of greenbelt by applying a condition that the house cannot be sold and must be removed if Ben ceases to manage the woodland. This

means the house will only last as long as Ben’s need for this specific home. Happily, the fabric of the building treads very lightly on the earth, being a hyper-local timber frame and straw bale construction. This reversal of attitude to longevity would mean that the way we build can be continually adapted in a changing climate, social and economic conditions, and bad ideas need not have their repercussions resonate for centuries. As I write this in 2019, design for impermanence is not a good idea, at least not for mainstream deployment. In the absence of widespread effective approaches to minimise embodied carbon and to recover materials and components at the end of life, the carbon and resource depletion implications of this idea are completely unsustainable. But if these pre-conditions are fulfilled, it could become a useful concept in creating, and continually re-creating, a sustainable built environment. n

i w ww.archdaily.com/450212/why-japan-iscrazy-about-housing

Toby Cambray is a founding director at Greengauge and leads the building physics team. He is an engineer intrigued by how buildings work and how they fail, and uses a variety of methods to understand these processes.


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