Passive House Plus (Sustainable building) issue 45 IRL

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insulated passive scheme lands in Killiney
United ambitions UN pushes for radical sustainable building action Seal of office Ireland’s first passive certified office building
From small screen to deep green Charlie Luxton’s visionary new sustainable office

Aereco’s range of demand controlled ventilation products have been securing the quality of indoor air for nearly 40 years. Easy to install and maintain, they provide an ideal solution for homes new and old.


Editor Jeff Colley

Reporter John Hearne

Reporter Kate de Selincourt

Reporter John Cradden

Reader Response / IT Dudley Colley

Accounts Oisin Hart

Art Director Lauren Colley

What is there to say? As I write these words the news has been confirmed that July was the world’s hottest month on record. And there is a palpable sense of change all around us. While much of southern Europe was burning, in Ireland it doesn’t really feel like we’ve had a summer. While the fires were raging in Italy and Greece, in Ireland it was a washout – July was the wettest month on record.

While of course we shouldn’t conflate climate with weather – a favourite trope of the morally bankrupt, immorally wealthy fossil fuel schills that have corrupted the discourse on climate over the years – this kind of disconnect may be a harbinger of what is to come. The question that occurs: does a warming world necessarily mean a warmer UK and Ireland?

The answer may well be yes, but there is uncertainty here. The reason? The Gulf Stream system – or more accurately, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc) – may be on the verge of collapse, due to impacts such as the increasing melt of Greenland’s glaciers into the Atlantic. In a worst case scenario this may potentially occur by as early as 2025. If that were to come to pass, what would the consequences be in this corner of the world?

stress-test their building designs.

While I say all of this, it’s important not to lose sight of our – at least for now – relatively privileged position in the kinds of disruption we face. I was consoling a Washington DC-based friend earlier, while he dealt with a flooded basement and storm-downed trees, and he gave some useful perspective. “I, like everyone who isn’t poor in the developed world live a charmed life,” he said, “so little to really complain about over a few hours mopping.”

Nevertheless, while we mustn’t ignore the issue of climate justice, we must build or retrofit now without due consideration for the climate and extreme weather variables our buildings may face – be it cold snaps, heat waves, oscillation between droughts and torrential rain pour, or just the insidious impact of increased horizontal rain and the impact of storms.


Aoife O’Hara |


Lenny Antonelli journalist

Toby Cambray Greengauge Building

Energy Consultants

Ciaran Cuffe MEP

Talina Edwards Envirotecture

Lis O’Brien Technological University of the Shannon

Marc Ó Riain doctor of architecture

Kevin O’Rourke Healthy Homes Ireland

Jason Walsh journalist

Print GPS Colour Graphics | +44 (0) 28 9070 2020

Publisher’s circulation statement: 7,000 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.

Here the science isn’t settled, but the options on offer range from more rainfall and stronger storms, to much colder winters and much hotter summers. Ireland and the UK have the same latitude as Labrador in Canada – which Benjamin Franklin, who first charted the Gulf Stream, described as the “Land of the Eskimauxs.” Do we have to therefore consider the possibility of a markedly different climate, including potentially prolonged deep freezes and hot summers? One architect friend mused to me about using Newfoundland weather files to

If I stop to reflect on the UN Environment Programme’s Buildings Breakthrough target, which says that “near zero-emission and resilient buildings are the new normal by 2030” I find them profoundly useful: they encapsulate the two heads of the monster that we must slay. We must mitigate, by cutting emissions to as close to zero as possible. But we must also adapt, and make our buildings – even our entire built environment, our ways of life – as resilient as possible in the face of such menacing uncertainty.

I must apologize for such a downbeat opening to this issue, which, as it turns out, is filled with stories to inspire hope: real buildings and initiatives that are the kind of medicine an increasingly climate-sick world needs. As luck would have it, that medicine tastes good.

Official partner magazine of: The Irish Green Building Council

The Passive House Association of Ireland

The International Passive House Association

ph+ | editor’s letter | 3 PASSIVE HOUSE+ EDITOR’S LETTER
ISSUE 45 Publishers Temple Media Ltd PO Box 9688, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland t +353 (0)1 210 7513 | t +353 (0)1 210 7512 e
Regards, The editor editor’s letter



Healthy Homes Ireland launches indoor environmental quality report.


Talina Edwards of Envirotecture describes an extraordinary off-grid passive house which uses straw and a range of low embodied carbon building materials to blitz regulatory requirements on fire, while delivering year-round comfort levels that the neighbours can scarcely believe.


EU project aims to accelerate market for green homes; IGBC launches biodiversity building professionals network; UN pushes for radical sustainable building action; and Construct Innovate welcomes thirty-five companies as first members.



It’s fair to say that green building wasn’t a thing in early 90s Ireland, which makes one extraordinary Dublin project from 1994 all the more remarkable, as Dr. Marc O Riain writes.

Licence to skill

New accreditations available for sustainable building and retrofit

The ever-tightening ambitions to integrate sustainability throughout Ireland’s new and existing buildings won’t be realised unless we can find smart, flexible ways to upskill the i ndustry. Lis O’Brien of Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) explains how Digital Academy for Sustainable Built Environment (DASBE) has it cracked.


Hope springs external

High end passive house scheme lands in Killiney

What happens when one of Ireland’s most seasoned passive house builders and a renowned design-led architecture practice collaborate? They create a head turning, high density passive house scheme that showcases the aesthetic possibilities of external insulation.

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Seal of office

Ireland’s first passive certified office building

While the passive house standard has had a lasting impact on the design and construction of new homes in Ireland, progress has been slower in commercial property. With the business world under increasing pressure to take meaningful climate action while providing better working conditions for staff, one new office building in the southeast may be a sign of things to come – and a beacon for a UNaffiliated project.

From small screen to deep green

Charlie Luxton’s visionary new sustainable office

The new Oxfordshire studio of Charlie Luxton Design, the practice of the well-known TV presenter and architectural designer, is deeply impressive for its exhaustive attention to sustainability across every facet of the project, from energy use and embodied carbon to the reuse of materials and the ecological restoration of the three-and-a-half-acre site. It’s a gorgeous building, too.

Bonny in Clyde

Scottish housing association cracks the safe on decarbonising social housing

How do you solve a problem like decarbonising social housing, and do so rapidly, en masse, in a manner that lifts vulnerable people out of fuel poverty while delivering warm, healthy homes? River Clyde Homes may be about to pull off the seemingly impossible.


Banking on sustainability

Why a pillar bank is financing verified green homes

Last year Irish banking behemoth AIB launched discounted development finance for homes certified to the Irish Green Building Council’s rating system, the Home Performance Index. But what was behind the move, how is it being received and does this indicate the finance industry is getting serious about green homes?


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

Flash floods and porous materials

While the most dramatic impacts of climateinduced flash flooding abounding on social media this year are all too obvious, other more insidious effects also pose risk to everything from agriculture to porous materials, as Toby Cambray explains.

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Healthy Homes Ireland launches indoor environmental quality report

Healthy Homes Ireland (HHI) has published a series of recommendations for the improvement of indoor environmental quality (IEQ), including the creation of a cross-disciplinary national leadership body that will advocate for change and set goals.

The recommendations, set out in 'Our Place: Towards Healthier, Greener Homes', are the culmination of work undertaken by the HHI initiative, a high-level group of industry practitioners and academics that was established in 2021 to address health problems caused by low-quality homes. HHI is supported by Velux and the Irish Green Building Council.

The report also calls for a strengthening of building regulations and their enforcement, more grant funding and action to bridge the skills gap in the building industry, plus greater empowerment of building occupants.

The government target to retrofit 500,000 homes by the end of the decade represents a major opportunity to improve IEQ in existing homes. We therefore took the opportunity to present our report and its recommendations to Kieran O’Donnell, the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, plus several cross-party representatives and key stakeholders on 1 June.

HHI commissioned real estate services and investment firm CBRE Ireland to gather evidence from academics, specialists in public health medicine, consultants, local authorities, developers, builders, approved housing bodies and industry groups. Their findings form the basis of the policy recommendations at the heart of the report.

In many cases the recommendations support or propose reinforcing existing government policies, such as increasing energy efficiency through retrofitting, addressing energy poverty and upskilling the construction industry. We prioritised actions that are likely to have the highest impact and to be easiest to implement, starting with the creation of a national cross-disciplinary body to provide leadership and promote action for healthier housing in Ireland.

We think the body should include representatives from the Department of Health, Health Service Executive, Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Department of Social Protection, De-

partment of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, The Housing Agency, Health & Safety Authority, local authorities, approved housing bodies, building trade and professional bodies, training bodies, occupant and consumer representatives, building owner representatives and leading research centres in universities.

Education and upskilling are also priorities. It is recommended that education on best practice IEQ is delivered as part of the government’s targets for upskilling in the housing industry. More specifically, it is envisaged that IEQ skills should be embedded in apprenticeships and third-level education and that building professionals and construction trades are incentivised to acquire IEQ skills. Those that have been trained in energy upgrades and best practice IEQ will qualify for inclusion on a national register.

Empowering occupants

Occupant empowerment is another key issue. We recommend that the government provides additional funding and support to improve tenant representation, develops a process for swift interventions for occupants when unhealthy housing poses an immediate and serious health risk and establishes an ombudsperson for local authority and approved housing bodies (AHB) tenant redress. We also think there is a need for a public awareness campaign on the impact of housing on health and how to run an energy efficient and healthy home.

HHI also highlights the need for tenant safeguards to be updated and better enforced. We believe that the minimum standards in rented accommodations [set out in SI 137 of 2019] should be updated to include specific performance requirements

based on IEQ best-practice standards, and that the government needs to support local authorities with enforcing the standards or find an alternative mechanism for inspections, such as estate agents.

To date, the focus of the grants has been on energy efficiency, however we firmly believe that energy efficiency and IEQ should be considered together, so that works under energy retrofit grants schemes are designed to ensure positive IEQ outcomes along with energy use reduction.

Finally, to help deliver healthy homes, more data is required on the scale of the issue and the potential benefits of improving housing. We recommend that a comprehensive national study on the impact of housing conditions on health in Ireland is urgently required. It should investigate the link between poor housing and public health expenditure and social impact.

More broadly, the report also addresses links between housing and health, including a review of the literature on the impact of IEQ on health. It takes stock of the housing sector in Ireland, focusing on supply issues and housing standards in the rental sector and completes the picture with a survey of the relevant policy landscape, both national and EU.

HHI commissioned the report to create a more integrated, forward-thinking approach to healthier homes. It aims to spearhead the integration of health considerations into public policy and delivery of both newbuild and retrofit homes, in their planning, design, construction as well as householder operation. It marks a beginning rather than an end.

To download the Our Place: Towards Healthier, Greener Homes report visit https :// n

Pictured are (l-r) Velux GB & Ireland public affairs manager Neil Freshwater; Healthy Homes Ireland chair Kevin O’Rourke; minister of state Kieran O’Donnell TD and IGBC head of policy Marion Jammet. Words by Kevin O’Rourke, chair, Healthy Homes Ireland. Photo: Shane O’Neill, Coalesce


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If you were choosing how to build in a bushfire-prone region of Australia, you could be forgiven for skirting over the possibility of packing your walls with straw. Talina Edwards of Envirotecture describes an extraordinary off-grid passive house which uses straw and a range of low embodied carbon building materials to blitz regulatory requirements on fire, while delivering year-round comfort levels that the neighbours can scarcely believe.

1. Huff’n’Puff Haus – a strawbale Passive House

The Huff’n’Puff Haus is a new off-grid, energy efficient, natural and healthy passive house for retirement that is designed to be adaptable, bushfire and climate resilient. It is a contemporary strawbale house that is off-grid with completely self-sufficient power, water and waste.

Located in the southern part of Australia, it is a few hours’ drive inland from Melbourne in ‘high country’ in the Strathbogie Ranges, Tangurung country. The temperate climate means winter temperatures drop to freezing overnight, but summer highs can reach 40+ C.

It was designed to settle unobtrusively into the natural landscape.


We have owned the land (55 acres) since 2000 and dreamed about this for years.

When our clients initially approached us back in 2015, we’d just started learning more about the passive house standard and the importance of understanding building science for keeping a home comfortable and healthy – and energy efficient, which is a consideration for living off-grid. What started as a conversation about a resilient and sustainable strawbale home in a rural location, soon offered us all a

new exciting challenge - was it possible to achieve certified passive house (with a low operational carbon footprint) whilst using materials with low embodied carbon too (with more bio-based materials like straw and timber)?

The whole team was eager to explore this possibility and make it a reality. Thankfully, there’s now a growing awareness about the importance of upfront carbon.

3. Bricks, timber or straw – which is best?

The strawbale walls we used were prefabricated “situp” panels made by John Glassford and team at Huff’n’Puff. No big bad wolf or three little pigs here – this house will be strong and resilient for many years to come. The wall panel frames are crammed full of straw and sealed up for delivery – and it was observed they looked like a stack of coffins.

Being 350 mm – whereas a typical Australian wall frame is 90 mm thick – they are strong. The timber used for the framing is plywood, and this was very fortunate during the Covid materials shortages when typical timber studs were in very short supply.

Straw has excellent insulation values, is a waste-product from the farming industry, and as it’s a natural bio-based material it’s low in embodied carbon.

Once erected on site, the panels were temporarily wrapped up again to protect them from weather and from any curious rodents.

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2. The brief

4. The wrong orientation?

An interesting siting challenge was that this regional location has lovely 360-degree outlooks, however the best views to the distant horizon are to the south. In the southern hemisphere, we want to maximise solar gain from the north during our winters, while ensuring the building is appropriately shaded from the harsh summer sun.

Traditional principles of “solar passive

design” limit south-facing glazing as they lose too much heat from the home in winter. However, by looking at the building holistically and using PHPP as a design tool, we were able to test the performance impacts of adding (or removing) these southern windows and optimising the design to ensure every room in the house gets to enjoy the views – while not negatively impacting the internal comfort.

From an architectural design perspective, this was exciting news to realise that with passive house there aren’t necessarily “rules of thumb” that apply in every scenario – so our creativity as designers is not limited. In this case our clients desire to embrace those views, meaning we could have large windows to both the north and the south as we’d checked that it would still perform as intended.

5. Biophilic design

Internally, the straw panels were finished with lime render which formed the internal airtight layer. The exception to this was the two bathrooms, as these were wet areas. They had internal Intello membrane installed so they could be lined with cement sheeting, waterproofing and tiles.

The lime render really contributes to the biophilic design of the home – the texture and natural colour is lovely. Sustainable timbers were also chosen to complement the render, creating a simple, calm colour palette.

Deep sills are another benefit of the lime-rendered straw, framing the triple glazed windows, and creating shelves in some locations – or enough space to sit in the window and enjoy the views in all directions to the countryside.

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The intention was for this home to be safe, healthy, natural and non-toxic, with low embodied energy, durable and fireresistant materials. Due to the remote rural location, the threat of bushfire is real in hot dry summers, and due to a changing climate.

At the time we were also learning more about the Living Building Challenge and more ethical and responsible material choices – and we wondered if it was possible to have a certified passive house with no plastic. We realised this was potentially possible with rendered strawbale walls but could’ve been trickier to detail for the

ceiling airtight layer. We opted for Intello for the underside of the roof trusses, with a suspended ceiling to run the MVHR ducting through.

Our clients wanted to ensure their home was built to a higher ‘bushfire-prone’ standard than the building code required. While the rendered-strawbale may have been suitable, the roof design would have needed to change with larger eaves if we’d wanted to protect external rendered walls. As this wasn’t aligning with the design concept of a long house reminiscent of an old woodshed in the paddock, and the additional bushfire protection we

were aiming for externally, we tried to source non-combustible magnesium oxide boards for cladding. However, thanks to the pandemic and supply issues, this unfortunately wasn’t to be, and we had to choose a non-combustible cement-sheet cladding instead.

Its neutral colour with clean lines does look lovely. This meant the external face of the strawbale was wrapped with a vapour-permeable membrane, with a ventilated cavity behind the cladding in a way more like typical lightweight walls would be constructed.

7. Views for days

This home sits quietly in its place. It’s modest in size, selfsufficient in use, and a healthy home to live in harmony with the landscape.

While it is relatively small (TFA 171 m 2) in comparison to typical new Australian homes (240 m 2), inside it feels incredibly spacious and with connection to the distant horizon in every direction, and bright with lots of natural daylight. It is a real retreat from the harsh elements all year round.

Our clients have shared how they love watching the sky change colours, and how this paints the landscape in varying beautiful ways – depending on the time of the day, the time of year, where they are in the house and the direction they’re facing.

This was a conscious design decision: to create space for contemplation and enjoy the views, to be able to chase the sun when desired, or to be able to seek shade and shelter from the winds when required too.

Photos: Marnie Hewson
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6. Bushfire-prone area and external materials




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8. That’s something a bit different. Who will build a straw passive house in a rural location?

The site is reasonably remote, with not a lot of local builders servicing the area – particularly not ones who were familiar with straw bale construction or passive house performance. This led us to working with Huff’n’Puff straw “Sit-up” panels (a prefabricated strawbale company) who could make the wall panels off-site and deliver them all boxed up ready to be erected.

Then with the expertise of a great team of builders, Hedger Constructions, who care about quality and were very open to learning something new, we had a successful outcome.

9. Flexibility and adaptability

The house design balances the integration of passive solar design principles with the site constraints and local climatic conditions – view, orientation, site slope, sun, wind and rain. It has also been designed with a zoning of spaces unlike a typical family home, creating a flexibility of use with one wing of the house occupied by its permanent residents while the second wing can adapt to fulfil the needs of visiting family and friends when required. The ‘guest’ wing is within the same thermal envelope but separated by an external timber-lined covered entry/hallway space. This creates a sheltered transition between outside and inside, whilst also creating privacy between the homeowners and their guests. Our clients have shared how well this is working for them and their visitors – making the home feel a lot larger than it is by utilising these outdoor spaces as extra rooms.

10. Thermal envelope and airtightness

The floor plan for this house is relatively long and thin (37 m long by 6.7 m wide), with the roof trusses spanning the full width in the north-south direction. This meant the house could be constructed with the floor, external walls and roof structure all up, insulated and airtight before any internal walls were built. This simplified things for the builders internally with installing the MVHR and dealing with other services.

You don’t often see a whole house’s thermal envelope volume in one space like this, without the visible interference of internal partitions. It did create a distorted sense of size during the construction process but was clever to construct it in this way.

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Trust Grant on the journey to warmth and comfort by sending house plans to

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Trust Grant on the journey to warmth and comfort by sending house plans to

Trust Grant on the journey to warmth and comfort by sending house plans to

16 | | issue 45

One of the design intentions was to keep the house size more modest, but create great functional use of all the space, while maximising the views, and creating a warm and welcoming space to be in.

There are appropriately sized eaves to the north to shade the house from the harsh summer sun while ensuring the occupants can enjoy natural daylight and views to the landscape all year round.

Our clients’ neighbours commented on this as they live in a typical ‘wooden tent’

11. Why the odd roof pitch?

This home is off-grid, which means it’s completely self-sufficient for power, water and disposing of waste on site. There is no gas connection (or bottled LPG gas), so it is an all-electric home with enough solar PV and batteries to run the home and charge electric vehicles too.

The roof of the house was designed with an asymmetrical gable, so the north-facing pitch was steeper – a more appropriate angle to harvest that renewable energy from the sun, maximising the solar collection. The carport is at the western end of the house, which creates an asymmetrical double gable profile and adds a little fun and a modern twist to the roof line.

with little insulation, single glazing, and no external shading. In an attempt to keep cool in summer they close all the curtains and keep the house dark. It was a stark contrast for them to visit a home that was perfectly comfortable inside despite the sweltering heat – and still light and bright and a joy to be in!

Our clients also told us how their home was the ‘talk of the town’ while under construction, as everyone was curious about this “big, long shed with small windows”.

Yet when the neighbours visited, they all commented on how deceptive appearances could be from afar, and how truly beautiful this home feels to be in. (We know that a passive house’s beauty is more than skin-deep.)

The last word should go to our clients: “We are delighted to be in the house,” they said. “It really is wonderful. Thank you for your skill and thoughtfulness in designing our lovely home.”


Architect and interior designer: Envirotecture

Builder: Hedger Constructions

Prefabricated SIP supplier: Huff-n-Puff Strawbale Constructions

Passive house consultant: Alex Slater

Passive house certifier: Detail Green

Stylist: Belle Bright

Windows: Logikhaus

Ventilation: Fantech

Cladding: Cemintel Barestone

Airtight membranes: Pro Clima

12. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
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UN pushes for radical sustainable building action

The United Nations is pushing for a rapid drive to make the world’s buildings sustainable – aided by an international coalition centred in the Wexford town of Enniscorthy.

The Enniscorthy Forum has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on a broad collaboration to accelerate the global transition to decarbonised, high performance buildings – including the UN’s Buildings Breakthrough target of making “near zero-emission and resilient buildings the new normal by 2030.”

Founded to support the UN sustainable development agenda, the forum has launched a global network, the Buildings Action Coalition (BAC), with a membership comprising community-centric organisations, global industry players, and academia – and set to include Zero Ambitions Partners, a new sustainability communications and strategy consultancy co-founded by Passive House Plus editor Jeff Colley.

The MoU between the Enniscorthy Forum and UNEP was announced at a major ministerial summit hosted by the forum on 27-29 June in Enniscorthy. The MoU includes a collaboration with UNEP’s Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) on the Buildings Breakthrough target. Led by the French and Moroccan governments, 16 countries have signed up to date.

Mark Radka, chief of the energy and climate branch of UNEP, said: “We are delighted with our newly formalised relationship with the Enniscorthy Forum and look forward to a strong and enduring partnership that helps raise the performance of buildings and the built environment on a global scale. Experts from Ireland helped initiate the UN’s High Performance Buildings Initiative and this prompted creation of the Enniscorthy Forum. UNEP values and appreciates the Irish government's support for the Enniscorthy Forum and the activities of its Buildings Action Coalition.”

The Enniscorthy Forum is supported by the Irish government and the summit was attended by senior industry figures, government officials, community-based organisations, and leading academics from around the world. Participants called on the Irish government to endorse the Buildings Breakthrough target, and the initiative has been placed on the government’s agenda for review and consideration.

Speaking at the event, Yves-Laurent Sapoval, senior advisor to the director general of planning, housing and nature at the French ministry

of ecological transition, affirmed support for the initiative: “We consider improving the performance of buildings and the built environment to be imperative if we are to achieve the objectives set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement, and we look forward to working with the Enniscorthy Forum to accelerate achievement of tangible progress through the GlobalABC towards the Buildings Breakthrough target.”

The Passive House Institute was among a number of organisations from either side of the Atlantic which formally joined the coalition to coincide with the summit, alongside Building Energy Exchange, Building Innovation Hub, Built Environment - Smarter Transformation, Onion Flats, Passive House Canada, passivhausMaine, Passive House Network, River Clyde Homes, and South West College. Meanwhile, the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), The Energy Coalition, Passive House for Everyone, Passive House Massachusetts, A2M, and Zero Ambitions Partners signed letters of intent to join the BAC.

The BAC aims to advance the cause of high-performance building and a more sustainable built environment, and accelerate tangible action on decarbonisation and improving quality of life everywhere, by developing a pan-continental forum to share the experience and expertise from some of the world’s foremost experts in the field.

The BAC’s knowledge-sharing and anti-gatekeeping ethos is being driven by its coalition partners. By promoting and demonstrating the transformative benefits of high-performance buildings it is pushing for a quicker adoption of

best practice methods in planning, design and construction across the world.

Zero Ambitions Partners co-founder Jeff Colley and Enniscorthy Forum CEO Barbara-Anne Murphy signed the letter of intent in a ceremony at Enniscorthy Castle on the occasion of the summit.

“We recognise the potential for the Buildings Action Coalition to make a major contribution to raising the performance of the world’s buildings and the built environment,” said Colley.

“There is real substance in the coalition’s approach. Strong engagement with the UN sends out a significant positive signal, but the focus on engagement with grass-roots organisations will make a real difference.

“We’re excited to join the coalition to offer our help in raising awareness, recruiting, setting priorities for strategic communications, and assembling the required resources.”

Enniscorthy Forum CEO Barbara-Anne Murphy said: “We look forward to welcoming Zero Ambitions Partners to the coalition. They are extremely effective at outreach and information sharing, which is precisely the kind of support this initiative needs now.

“We have a significant programme underway to mobilise resources and disseminate knowledge, experience and best practices to transition towards high performance building. Given their competence in strategic communications, Zero Ambitions Partners will have an important role to play.”

Scott Foster, an adviser to the Enniscorthy Forum and former director of the Sustainable Energy Division of the UN in Geneva, said:

“Improving the performance of buildings and the built environment is the one action that can deliver integrated solutions at scale in a timely fashion to produce tangible outcomes on economic, social, and environmental resilience, quality of life, and climate, among other desirable outcomes, and in the process advance employment, innovation, and investment.

“This launch is an exciting development for the Enniscorthy Forum and is proof that small local organisations can achieve big things with the right support, the right partners and the right vision. The Buildings Action Coalition has far-reaching ambitions to help transform the built environment worldwide.”

For further information visit •

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(above l-r) Pictured are signatories including (top row) Passive House Massachusetts president Hank Keating; A2M founder Sebastian Moreno-Vacca; AECB CEO Andy Simmonds; River Clyde Homes director Richard Orr; Passive House Pennsylvania director Dave Parker (representing Passive House Network); Building Energy Exchange executive director Richard Yancey; (bottom row) passivhausMaine executive director Naomi Beal; Enniscorthy Forum CEO Barbara-Anne Murphy; Passive House for Everyone! co-founder In Cho; and Passive House Institute head of training Susanne Winkel.

EU project aims to accelerate market for green homes

Anew European project focussed on accelerating the roll-out of certified green homes – including the development of green mortgages, loans and development finance – has been launched.

Irish partners in the Smarter Finance for EU project, which is led by the Romania Green Building Council, include the Irish Green Building Council and Passive House Plus publisher Temple Media Ltd, along with partners in Spain, Portugal, Ukraine, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

The EU Life-funded project builds on the success of the Smarter Finance for Families project, which has led to over €8.5bn worth of certified green homes being built or planned to date. This includes over €600m worth of new homes under development in Ireland to the IGBC’s Home Performance Index certification, financed by AIB at reduced interest rates over the last twelve months. (Editor – See the feature article, “Banking on Sustainability” in this issue).

All in all, Smarter Finance for Families led to the creation of programmes for green home and green mortgages in 11 countries, and the new Smarter Finance for EU project has been designed to build on this early success, to accelerate the transition to verified green homes and tailored finance – both within the markets where programmes have already started, and in new partners in Spain and Portugal, along with a focus on the postwar rebuilding of Ukraine.

With energy poverty on the rise across Europe since the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the project also includes a work package on hybrid green finance tools for vulnerable citizens, led by Habitat for Humanity. The aim will be to improve the health and comfort, financial stability, and energy

performance of very low income, vulnerable households. It will also facilitate European and global discussions on what knowledge and lessons learned can be shared when implementing solutions that combine government incentives with private bank financing. The intent is to demonstrate that energy poverty solutions are “bankable” by private sector banks, provided they are supported with well-designed, hybrid solutions – such as a mixture of private finance and state subsidy – and that the banks are supported with an easy-to-use method of measuring energy efficiency and green performance.

One major undertaking included in the project is the establishment of a European centre of excellence, which is being set up to mine, expand upon and share the knowledge gained from developing successful programmes in Smarter Finance for Families, for two purposes: to ensure potential implementing partners don’t have to “reinvent the wheel”, and to give existing partners in the Smarter initiative the opportunity to improve the uptake of their green home programmes.

One issue that threatens to undermine public and investor confidence in green buildings is the lack of clarity – and in some cases credibility – to sustainability claims in the construction industry, including at building level. To this end the IGBC will focus on ensuring programmes from new partners - and those of existing implementing partners – are aligned with a number of EU policies, including the Level(s) sustainable buildings framework, the forthcoming recast to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the EU Taxonomy, Fit for 55, and other critical EU initiatives. This will also involve ensuring strong governance principles and auditing practices so stakeholders can rely upon a trusted impartial

green finance program to deliver for Europe’s citizens.

Meanwhile, the project will focus on providing training and guidance to build the capacity of essential stakeholders, including citizens, property developers, lenders and green homes solution providers (in other words the supply chain offering the products and services needed to build green homes). Luxembourg-based sustainable finance facilitators EnerSave Capital will lead this work, which will also include specialized training for the financial services sector.

In addition to providing a portal of the businesses who provide products and services that can be used on green buildings, Temple Media Ltd’s main role in the project will centre around communication, including publishing news on progress in the project, and working out how to ensure that the approach taken to communications takes into account the needs of different stakeholder types in different local markets, and how to establish the best ways of reaching people with different needs and perspectives.

Co-ordinated by the Romania Green Building Council, the partners include Irish Green Building Council, Luxembourg-based sustainable finance facilitator EnerSave Capital, Passive House Plus publishers Temple Media Ltd, the Association Energy-Efficient Cities of Ukraine, Green Building Council España, Portuguese energy agency Adene, Habitat for Humanity International, and the European-Ukrainian Energy Agency. •

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(above) Speaking at the Smarter Finance for EU kick-off meeting in Brussels on 19 June, European-Ukrainian Energy Agency director Kateryna Polyakova describes the rebuilding challenge Ukraine will face when the war ends.

NSAI Agrément director suspended

Seán Balfe, director of NSAI Agrément, has been suspended, Passive House Plus understands.

A member of NSAI’s management team responsible for the certification of all construction products, Balfe represents Ireland at the European Organisation for Technical Assessment (EOTA) and the group of notified bodies in Europe.

Passive House Plus heard of the suspension at the point of going to press, and reached out for comment from the NSAI.

“As a matter of general principle NSAI does not comment on individual cases,” an NSAI spokesperson said. •

IGBC launches biodiversity building professionals network

The Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has launched a new Community of Practice (CoP) on biodiversity and the built environment.

The CoP is a networking group for building professionals and property managers working on biodiversity and the built environment in Ireland. Its objective is to provide a forum for industry leaders to share information on challenges and best practices, and to learn from each other. Members of the group include architects, developers, ecologists, engineers, investors, planners, property managers and representatives from local authorities.

Speaking at a launch event for the CoP, heritage minister Malcom Noonan – whose brief includes biodiversity – said: “The findings of the Citizens' Assembly on biodiversity loss are clear: We must all do more to protect nature. I am delighted to see the IGBC bringing together this group of leading building and property professionals to address this issue in the construction industry. I hope that the factsheet launched today will empower everyone in this sector to take concrete steps towards protecting and enhancing nature.”

The factsheet launched on biodiversity and the built environment offers useful insights to those working in the construction and property industry on what can be done to help nature thriving in the built environment, and in doing so address the climate crisis. The launch of the document follows a successful webinar

series, where experts showcased solutions and tools, and shared best practice to protect biodiversity when designing, constructing, renovating, or using buildings.

CoP chair Susan Vickers said: “As a sector, there is so much we can do to better protect and enhance biodiversity and play our part in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, and in doing so improve people's quality of life. I am looking forward to working with all members of the Community of Practice, to learn from each other and to start making a meaningful impact in our field”.

The construction and built environment is a carbon and resource intensive sector, with a significant impact on biodiversity. These impacts happen both on-site and offsite, and result from land-use changes, pollution, climate change and the introduction of invasive alien species. However, when properly planned, designed, and maintained the built environment can protect and enhance nature, while improving people's health & wellbeing.

IGBC head of policy and advocacy Marion Jammet said: "With 400,000 homes to be delivered in the next decade, it is imperative for our industry to embrace the biodiversity challenge. We must plan, design, build and renovate homes to protect and enhance nature in Ireland and further afield. I hope that the factsheet and the collaborative efforts of the Community of Practice will help everyone in this transition."

For more information visit •

20 | | issue 45 NEWS PASSIVE HOUSE+ To enquire about advertising, contact Jeff Colley on +353 (0)1 2107513 or email Advertise with us. Contact us for more information on how your brand can feature in our next issue.
(above) Pictured are (left to right) IGBC head of policy and advocacy Marion Jammet, heritage minister Malcolm Noonan, and CoP chair and Cluid Housing national sustainability manager Susan Vickers.

Construct Innovate welcomes thirty-five companies as first members

Construct Innovate, the University of Galway-hosted national research centre for construction technology and innovation, has announced Technological University Dublin as a new academic member and thirty-five companies as the first associate members.

Member companies will be supported by academic researchers and empowered to take ownership of the research, development and innovation activities required for their continued progression.

Construct Innovate provides access to a knowledge, business and innovation ecosystem to comprehensively deliver a broad agenda of strong innovation, engagement, excellence and impact in the Irish construction and built environment sector.

Dr Magdalena Hajdukiewicz, co-director of Construct Innovate, said: “Construct Innovate was founded just over a year ago with official launch in December 2022 and six months later it is very exciting to see the growing network of Construct Innovate. We are designing Construct Innovate to be inclusive for all stakeholders in the Irish construction and built environment sector, which builds on its current capacity and accelerates research and innovation.”

The announcement of the growing membership of Construct Innovate follows an academic industry meeting day (AIMday), the first networking and workshop event where members posed business challenges and sought new knowledge and solutions through work-

shops with multi-disciplinary groups of academic research experts.

As a result, the first research themes have been identified with working groups now being formed around these themes that include research and industry partners. The research programme of Construct Innovate will be driven by those multidisciplinary and intersectoral working groups to ensure research is focused on industry needs.

Construct Innovate centre manager Colm McHugh said: “Seeing the positivity and engagement that our industry members and academics brought to the first AIMday was very encouraging. It clearly demonstrated the scale of the issues that industry faces in transitioning to a more modern, productive and sustainable sector, but also the appetite and energy that is being brought by stakeholders to overcome these challenges. Construct Innovate will work to continuously facilitate vital research to assist our industry in this process.”

To coincide with the announcement of growing membership of Construct Innovate, University of Galway (UG) has launched a new postgraduate diploma in construction innovation, which starts in September.

Professor Jamie Goggins said: “The postgraduate diploma in construction innovation was developed in response to critical and proven skills needs in the construction and built environment sector. It is one-year, part-time, that aims to equip students with key knowledge and skills needed to develop sustainable tech-

nological solutions to the challenges facing the construction and built environment sector in Ireland and elsewhere.”

The course is funded through the Government’s Human Capital Initiative to provide 90 per cent funding towards fees, and fees are fully covered for those unemployed.

The diploma will enable prospective students to develop skills in digital adoption, sustainability and modern methods of construction (MMC), develop critical thinking, curiosity and problem solving to manage the innovation process, identify opportunities (and challenges) for innovation in the construction sector, create novel construction technology solutions to previously unmet, under-met and unrecognised problems, and continue their professional development for meeting the future needs of the construction sector.

Nuala McGuinn, director of UG’s Centre for Adult Learning & Professional Development said: “The postgraduate diploma is designed with busy professionals in mind who wish to upskill or reskill to meet the critical demand for skills in innovation, digital adoption, sustainability and modern methods of construction, as identified. Course delivery is flexible, combining online learning with periodic onsite workshops. Course assessment is focused on the workplace enabling students to immediately apply their learning to the workplace.”

For more information visit •

London award-winner put the retro in retrofit

Withpolyester clothes and Cork interiors conjuring images of the 70s, it seems fitting that both materials should find a home in an award-winning retrofit to a house built in that decade: Bowman’s Lea. The Harry Paticas-designed retrofit to a London townhouse, which won the retrofit award at the recently announced UK Passivhaus Awards, uses recycled polyester to insulate the loft, and cork internal wall insulation. What’s next? Mirrorball windows? •

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Align all of budget 2024 with climate targets: IGBC

All government spending and fiscal policy should be aligned with a 50 per cent drop in emissions by 2030, the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has said in a pre-budget submission.

IGBC CEO Pat Barry said: “EPA figures released earlier this month revealed a marginal decrease of only 1.9 per cent in Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions for 2022, making it increasingly challenging to meet our climate targets. This situation emphasizes the urgency for immediate action. It’s hence critical that in 2024 all government expenditure and fiscal policies align with the objective of halving emissions by 2030”.

The IGBC pre-budget submission sets out a series of recommendations to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment while tackling the housing crisis and addressing the issue of inflation in construction, including several recommendations to support better use of the existing building stock and high-quality energy renovation, as well as the development of more sustainable new homes.

“Government must lead by example when providing funding for public procurement or grant aid to private developers,” said Barry. “It must require evidence of enhanced sustainability beyond minimum building standards for all new housing and construction, as is already done in other jurisdictions”.

The submission also calls for the introduction of a 9 per cent VAT rate on construction products which contribute to carbon savings in the operational phase of a building life cycle, highlighting that within two years, this reduced VAT rate will be reviewed to consider embodied carbon emissions.

To grow the market for sustainable materials the submission calls for financial incentives and direct funding of production facilities for biobased construction materials (such as CLT, sheep’s wool, hemp, and straw), as was done in Scotland to support the development of natural fibre construction insulation. The submission also proposes fully resourcing NSAI to make it easier and faster for new innovative, low embodied carbon materials to be placed on the Irish market without lowering standards.

Taking inspiration from requirements in Germany for projects funded by stateowned investment bank KFW, the sub-

mission suggests new homes could be built to align with Ireland’s climate objectives using green building certifications such as the Home Performance Index or equivalent –– and first piloted on a programme where subsidies are significant, such as the Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme.

The Home Performance Index (HPI) is Ireland’s national certification system for quality and sustainable residential development. The label was developed by the IGBC with support from the EPA and after extensive consultation with the industry. The HPI certification is based on verifiable indicators that are divided into five categories: environment, economic, health and wellbeing, quality assurance and sustainable location. 24,000 homes have registered for certification to date.

While new homes are needed, Mr Barry stressed the absolute necessity of better supporting the reuse of our existing buildings. According to the IGBC, the carbon cost of a home deep retrofit is approximately a quarter of a new build.

“Many vacant and underused properties to be retrofitted are in easily accessible locations with reduced dependence on cars. Encouraging reuse would help reduce Ireland's fastest growing carbon emissions namely from transportation. Furthermore, this approach will help provide more housing while revitalising city, town, and village centres.”

Actions recommended by the IGBC to support this approach include extending the “First Home Scheme” to renovation projects in village, town and city centres, making the “vacant property refurbishment grant” available in instalments, and allocating funding and resources to pilot a one-stop shop for re-use to make it easier for building owners and prospective buyers to bring back properties into use, along with another one-stop shop pilot for traditional buildings.

The submission also calls for reforms to the free energy upgrades scheme to ensure low-income households living in low BER homes are eligible – regardless of home ownership status and/or welfare payment eligibility.

Other highlights from the IGBC’s budget asks for 2024 include including allocating funding for:

• well-resourced community energy advice services in each local authority;

of a new build.

• local authorities better supporting the re-use of construction materials, such as by providing storage facilities for large quantities of high-quality construction materials for re-use;

• a warranty scheme for all SEAI’s retrofit schemes to better protect building owners and increase trust in the process;

• a register of independent energy renovation advisors to make it easier for building owners to identify building professionals who have upskilled in energy renovation, hence supporting quality renovation. This would complement SEAI’s list of registered technical advisors;

• piloting the introduction of Building Renovation Passports as a first step to access any single measures under the Individual Energy Upgrade Grant scheme;

• allocating funding for the development of more user-friendly information for homeowners/occupants, such as to improve the technical manuals that are shared with building users post retrofit and make them available in various formats (e.g., short videos);

• introducing low interest energy renovation loans as soon as possible, making sure these are true low interest loan (i.e., 1-2 per cent as per international best practice).

The IGBC’s pre-budget submission was developed in close cooperation with its members and is available at www.igbc. ie/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/ IGBC_Budget24_Final.pdf

You can find out more about the Home Performance Index at https://

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According to the IGBC, the carbon cost of a home deep retrofit is approximately a quarter

#BuildingLife series: Addressing the environmental impacts of buildings across their lifecycle.

In this #BuildingLife Ambassador Spotlight Series, Passive House Plus is profiling leaders who have endorsed the Irish Green Building Council’s call to address the environmental impacts of buildings across their lifecycle.

In this issue, Ciaran Cuffe, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and rapporteur for the proposed revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), tells us more about the campaign, the EPBD recast, and why he is supporting #BuildingLife.

Why did you choose to become a #BuildingLife ambassador?

Ciaran Cuffe: I became a #BuildingLife ambassador because, as an architect, a member of the Green Party and a legislator, this role aligns perfectly with my professional expertise and passion for a sustainable built environment. Buildings account for approximately 40 per cent, of the energy consumption in the European Union, and are responsible for 36 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonising our building stock presents a tremendous opportunity to address climate change and tackle energy poverty at the same time. The majority of buildings in Europe remain energy inefficient. By advocating for and promoting building renovations, we can achieve clear wins in terms of energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and lowering energy bills.

The goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 is clear and imperative. As a #BuildingLife ambassador, I am committed to helping pave the way toward this target by demonstrating the necessary political will and determination to drive change in our sector. I aim to contribute to the vital mission of transforming the building industry, making it more sustainable, energy efficient, and environmentally responsible.

What are you hoping to achieve with the #BuildingLife campaign?

CC: With the #BuildingLife campaign, my primary objective is to address the numerous barriers that currently hinder building renovation efforts. These barriers include challenges within supply chains, skills and labour shortages, and insufficient financial resources. As an ambassador for the campaign and an MEP, I believe I have a crucial role to play in overcoming these barriers and paving the way for more energy efficient

buildings that are accessible to everyone, no matter your income. The role of politics is pivotal in this effort, and it is essential to pass laws and regulations that support and facilitate energy efficient building practices. As ambassadors, we can advocate for these policy changes and work towards creating an environment that fosters sustainable building practices.

One of my core aspirations with the #BuildingLife campaign is to maintain sustained pressure for action. By being an ambassador, I can contribute to keeping the spotlight on the importance of energy efficient buildings. Moreover, I aim to inspire households in Ireland to take action by showcasing the benefits of energy efficiency, including improved comfort, reduced energy bills, and enhanced health outcomes.

Can you explain a few ways in which you are working in the European Parliament towards a sustainable built environment?

CC: One of the key areas where I am actively involved is in shaping a crucial piece of legislation called the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. As the lead negotiator in the European Parliament, I am committed to driving this legislation forward, as an essential part of the action plan to make our buildings climate neutral through renovations and reduce energy poverty. Moreover, I have been dedicated to raising awareness among fellow MEPs about the significance of energy efficiency. Through discussions and engagement, I aim to increase understanding and support for energy efficient measures, which can bring about substantial improvements over time.

An important aspect of my work is to prioritise the needs of vulnerable and low-income households. I advocate for policies that focus on buildings with high energy consumption, as addressing their energy inefficiency can have a significant positive impact on both reducing energy bills and enhancing people’s quality of life.

It's crucial to recognise that achieving a sustainable built environment encompasses more than technology. It involves addressing financial barriers and taking into account social considerations, and access to information services. As part of the EPBD recast, I am actively involved in creating an ecosystem that supports these aspects, including the introduction

of minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and the establishment of high quality one-stop-shops across Europe.

There is an extraordinary opportunity at the EU level to mainstream sustainable building practices. We are at a critical juncture where taking swift action is important and urgent. I look forward to working with everyone involved in the #BuildingLife campaign to support this transition.

About #BuildingLife

#BuildingLife is a project led in Ireland by the Irish Green Building Council. The initiative aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life impact of buildings. Learn more and endorse the Building a Zero Carbon Ireland Roadmap at https:// •

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An important aspect of my work is to prioritise the needs of vulnerable and low-income households.

An early green building in a changing Ireland

It’s fair to say that green building wasn’t a thing in early 90s Ireland, which makes one extraordinary Dublin project from 1994 all the more remarkable, as Dr. Marc O Riain writes.

Almost 30 years ago, designers and researchers set out to create a modern ‘green’ building on a vacant lot in the centre of Temple bar at the outset of its regeneration. I, at the time, was street-painting across from Trinity and had a good view of the queue that formed a day before the apartments went for sale. Word on the street was one could get paid for holding a spot in the queue for potential buyers of the eight apartments. So, what made the Green Building an instant hit?

Supported by €3m in European funding in 1994, Tim Cooper with Murray O'Laoire Architects developed a design for the Green Building. It was described in a 2007 feature in Construct Ireland, the progenitor magazine of Passive House Plus, as “an innovative mixed-use development of offices, apartments and shop units laid out around a six-storey central courtyard designed as a semi-external atrium space with a glazed operable roof. The atrium's roof is oriented southwards and designed to naturally ventilate and light the building”.

The building was designed with a low glazing factor and high interior radiant panel surfaces supplied by low temperature solar water heating. It was cooled in the summer by drawing cold air up through the atrium at night using canyon and stack effect ventilation. The building benefitted from its compact apartment units’ mid terrace location, thus reducing surface heat loss. The envelope uses a mineral wool external insulation sys-

tem coupled with south-facing double glazed windows and triple glazing on the north face.

Although the roof initially featured wind turbines combined with solar electric panels (PV), the turbines would be later decommissioned because they were not successful. “The problems have been two-fold: firstly, their vibrations were heard in the penthouse apartments causing some discomfort for residents and, secondly, they failed to reliably produce power due to turbulence,” Walsh wrote.

The PV panels were another matter. The PV energy production (3,000 kWh/a) met 75 per cent of associated heat pump electrical demand (4,000 kWh/a) when built. Although grid connected, surplus electrical energy was fed back to the grid for free, as there was no associated purchase tariff at the time. “When we first put them in (PV panels) we couldn't grid connect,” Cooper told Walsh in 2007. “So, we had to put in the massive accumulator and a stack of inverters. That is now all redundant. The grid-connected photovoltaic alone is much more efficient than the photovoltaic and turbines were together, before".

Space heating and domestic hot water was driven by a ground source heat pump and evacuated solar tubes on the roof. The vertical ground source heat pump runs at a very efficient 5:1 co-efficiency of performance, which is impressive even by today’s standards. Interestingly Cooper reports that bedrock temperatures in Dublin have risen 2.5 C in the past 28 years since the bore-

hole was first measured, either a reflection of global warming or urban heat island effect. Whatever the reason, it must be improving the heat pump efficiency.

This early Irish example of low energy building design had a blend of passive and active solutions. Of the active solutions the PV and ground source heat pump would appear to function well with the internal thermal mass of the building fabric. It was definitely a signpost for things to come, as building standards in Ireland had just been introduced in 1992 and energy efficiency standards under Part L of the Building Regulations, didn’t differ too much from the 1974 elective standards. It would be the Kyoto protocol in 1998 which would drive the European Union to introduce the Energy Performance of Buildings directive in 2002 which would have a direct impact on the design of our buildings going forward. It is perhaps only today, almost 30 years later, that we have caught up with the Green Building in Dublin. It is a testament to the visionaries who brought this new ground in a very conservative country which itself was on the brink of change. n

Dr Marc Ó Riain is a lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Munster Technological University (MTU). He has a PhD in zero energy retrofit and has delivered both residential and commercial NZEB retrofits In Ireland. He is a director of RUA Architects and has a passion for the environment both built and natural.

24 | | issue 45 DR MARC Ó RIAIN COLUMN
Photos: David Ruffles





T. 064 7751151 E.



T. 064 7751151 E.

NS Cert ied



The ever-tightening ambitions to integrate sustainability throughout Ireland’s new and existing buildings won’t be realised unless we can find smart, flexible ways to upskill the industry. Lis O’Brien of Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) explains how Digital Academy for Sustainable Built Environment (DASBE) has it cracked.

cases is still well below par and the “performance gap”, a common expression used these days, is not being closed. Often, I am told about short-cuts being made – short cuts which are lethal to the quality of build. This can be anything from poor window installation causing thermal bridging, to the stubbornly persistent phenomenon of cavity walls packed with paper cups and rubbish from the site – like some nightmarish subversion of the circular economy – and, shockingly, no DPC being installed.

this is that a woman with young children needs child support and incentives to help working on site. This is why many move towards the managerial or administrative roles. I was lucky – or perhaps I struggled unnecessarily – in that I was self-employed supervising work on site for houses and small retrofits in the middle of the boom, so I didn’t have to travel far for work and childcare was worked around.

DASBE is creating an innovative digital training platform where professionals and workers alike can not only find and choose from a range of programmes, but also develop their own training plans. In a bid to respond to the ever-changing demands of the construction industry, DASBE is funded under Pillar 3 of the Higher Education Authority Human Capital Initiative.

New training is constantly being designed and developed, and DASBE is always looking for new ideas and needs from the industry. Whether this training leads to micro credentials or certificates, if the training is funded by DASBE, it will always be accredited. It’s about knowing that you will be upskilled by the best in the industry and validated by professional bodies.

For individuals and companies alike, upskilling is essential. The industry is constantly moving forward, and regulations have changed significantly in the last five years. The “bibles” for the industry, such as the Building Regulations, and NSAI’s SR 50 (Standards for modern plumbing and heating) and SR 54 (the code of practice for the energy efficient retrofit of dwellings, which is currently under revision) are key to understanding construction – especially for residential buildings.

Residential buildings in particular need our help. The level of construction in many

Eleven years ago, we at TUS started a campaign for quality construction with the Build Up skills (BUSI) project QualiBuild. Some older – or should I say more mature – readers may remember this. But unsurprisingly, poor workmanship still exists. I suppose it is politically incorrect to use gendered words like workmanship, but I stand by the use of the word in this case as the uptake of women in the market is still so low.

Women currently make up less than 10 per cent of the construction workforce in Ireland – with only 1 per cent taking up jobs working on site. So how do we rebalance the gender quota?

In reality there is interest, especially from the younger cohort, but as usual the infrastructure is not there. What I mean by

The dramatic changes to the roles of workers in the construction industry are pretty obvious now, with an urgent need for young people with IT skills. Let’s face it – anyone below 30 has been brought up with laptops and gaming. This skillset fits pretty well into the role of a drone operator, robotics operators, and BIM technicians and coordinators. There is less heavy lifting on site now and it certainly isn’t a dirty workplace, with the advent of modern methods of construction (MMC), heat pumps and green technologies. Given the opportunity and the transformation that’s occurred in how we build, if you’re not currently working in construction, why wouldn’t you want to join?

So let’s get back to upskilling or even reskilling. We all need to be diverse in our life and a change of direction is always good.

Recent research in DASBE and Build Dig-

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ital projects has predicted the urgent need in the construction sector for a number of key roles. Retrofit experts (in particular for dwellings), traditional building advisors, site coordinators / clerk of works, heat pump installers and technicians, BIM coordinators and technicians, and drone and scanning experts are some of the needs which are being looked at by DASBE. We are busy working with the industry and other educational bodies such as the educational training boards, the Construction Industry Federation and of course other technological universities. It’s a busy period ahead, but it will be worth it in the end to upskill our workforce. It may be fair to say that we are one of the most upskilled workforces in Europe – and that comes from my experience working on EU projects for over 12 years and speaking at many events in Europe on construction skills – but we still have so much room for improvement.

One of the most challenging areas for the industry is the energy renovation of traditional buildings. This has rapidly become a popular topic with the announcement of the Conservation Advice Grant Scheme for Vacant Traditional Farmhouses. This avails of expert advice and supports the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant of up to €50,000 to renovate a vacant property. And an added bonus is that these grants can be used in conjunction with the existing Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grants to help improve the energy efficiency of a home.

So how can we make sure the advice is suitable for the building? We need to make sure that architects and engineers working on these buildings have the knowhow – and also the skills – so that when they give advice, it’s the right advice, because renovating a pre-1940s vernacular building is a different kettle of fish to a newer concrete build.

This is where the Certificate in Energy Renovation of Traditional Buildings comes into play. People who gain this accreditation will know how to prepare a condition survey, how to detect defects and competently analyse them, and how to make informative

decisions to get it right from the start, before any extensive retrofit works have happened.

The Certificate in Energy Renovation of Traditional Buildings supported by the Irish Heritage Council starts in September for twenty-four weeks and has the illustrious Colm Murray – a bona fide heritage guru – delivering the first module on the fundamentals of energy renovation.

You could be forgiven for thinking digital tools and building information modelling (BIM) are restricted to the cutting edge of modern construction, but try telling that to Finola Deavy, our own renowned TUS lecturer. Finola is a passionate advocate for the application of digitalisation in heritage buildings and will deliver a module on how to prepare a condition survey, and how to use digital tools to streamline your work and investigate defects in more detail.

What’s not to like? The last run of this certificate was hugely popular and feedback was, frankly, amazing, with glorious testimonials and praise for not only the lecturers, but also the expert industry speakers, practical workshops and informative site visits.

“It’s been great in terms of learning about different ways to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings - roofs, floors, windows, walls etc.” said John Beatty, conservation officer, Dublin County Council. “It’s covered a whole gambit, starting from first principles and basics through to complexity of porosity and hygroscopic materials. There’s been a really good mix of people on the course – architects, people working in authorities, BER assessors and contractors themselves and this stimulated a range of conversations which I found really useful. I really enjoyed the site visits in the Georgian Quarter in Limerick seeing physical case studies, and the speakers themselves have a really broad range of knowledge. Having international speakers and keynote speakers from Ireland was fantastic and it has been really worthwhile. I enjoyed it.”

Angela Naughton, senior assistant chief fire officer, fire & building control department,

Clare County Council was equally positive:

“From completion of this course, I have a far better understanding of how modern materials and modern practices cannot simply be imposed onto older buildings that were designed on entirely different principles, where issues of moisture movement and risk are different from those found in new construction.

“I was inclined to encourage everyone that was carrying out retrofit works to strive for compliance with the Building Regulations,” said Naughton. “I now have a better understanding that the Building Regulations cannot always be applied to traditional buildings. I also have a better understanding on how the use of computer models such as DEAP to predict energy use in traditional buildings is not very accurate as the default values of DEAP are often significantly different to measured energy use. Rather than relying on default values, an understanding of renovation materials and traditional materials must always be considered.”

Hopefully this interactive, informative and innovative course will continue to be acknowledged. It should be noted that this year the delivery is now fully blended with evening online lectures, practical workshops and site visits around Ireland. If you have any building that we can showcase on this course reach out to us, as we could well include it. We also have the Certificate in Scan to BIM and the newly validated Assets for VR, which actually fit very nicely within the realm of renovating traditional and historical buildings by gathering detailed information and collecting this in a database to assess and carry out pathological analysis if required. And last, but definitely not least, one course that will be very popular and will be a game changer in renovation is the Certificate in Drones for Construction. While this course is specifically aimed at attracting younger learners, it does not exclude more mature learners.

For more information visit www. •

ph+ | dasbe insight | 27 INSIGHT DASBE


Development type: 47 unit housing scheme, comprising apartments, duplexes and houses

Method: Externally insulated hollow block walls with brick slips

Location: Killiney, Co. Dublin

Standard: Passive house classic

Heating costs: €74 to €265 per year

*Prices based on the smallest (77 m2) and largest (220 m2) homes in the scheme. See In detail panel for more information.



What happens when one of Ireland’s most seasoned passive house builders and a renowned design-led architecture practice collaborate? They create a head turning, high density passive house scheme that showcases the aesthetic possibilities of external insulation.

Building new homes in the middle of a housing crisis would seem uncontroversial. There are always pitfalls, however, from planning objections to the temptation to scrimp on quality simply in order to get numbers up. In light of this, any significant development will face an uphill battle getting planning permission, not to mention the danger that buyers will be nonplussed by the attention to technical detail.

And yet this is precisely what has been delivered in Egremont: 47 dwellings on a one-hectare site, designed to a high standard with extreme care taken to meet sustainability goals, including the passive house standard. And all of this done in a district not known for approving planning for new housing of any sort, let alone a high-density mix of terraced houses, apartments and duplexes.

Located on Church Road in Killiney, County Dublin, the homes in Egremont are A2-rated and all electric, heated by an integrated air-based heating and ventilation system in the smaller units, and air-to-water heat pumps in the larger ones. Developed by Durkan Residential and designed by Ruth O’Herlihy of architects McCullough Mulvin, the development also saw consulting input from Irish passive house pioneer Tomas O’Leary of MosArt.

When it comes to low energy building and retrofit, Durkan Residential has form. The firm set up an external insulation arm, Ecofix, in 2009, with pioneering green architect and sustainability consultant Jay Stuart. The

firm built what remains Ireland’s largest passive house scheme, the 59-unit phase three of Silken Park in City West, and a sheltered housing scheme that became one of Ireland’s largest Enerphit schemes, St Bricin’s in Arbour Hill, Dublin city. Durkan Residential’s Barry Durkan said that, with this development, the twin goal was to meet the energy efficiency and sustainability standards that the company has put at the centre of its work, but to do so without making any compromises on design.

“Church Road is quite architecturally unique. It was always going to stand out. We did go down the road of passive house four or

five years ago, and I wanted to continue to do so,” Durkan said.

This proved a point, he says: the passive house standard could be adapted to all manner of architectural forms, including quite adventurous ones.

“The design called for lots of cantilevers, lots of balconies. That’s what I like about passive house: it’s a scientific model, so you eliminate all of the cold bridging, and you can prove you have done it. There’s no guesswork,” he said.

This is especially important as Durkan wanted the buildings to have design elements not typically associated with passive

30 | | issue 45

house developments.

“Airtightness is a real challenge with cantilevers,” he said.

In addition, sedum roofing added additional natural insulation to the main insulation layer beneath, but its primary focus was to consider the environment in a broader sense than energy use. Egremont was built on the grounds of two demolished houses in a

leafy suburb. As a result, adding 47 dwellings required deep consideration of landscaping.

“The whole idea of the development is, because it’s an infill site with lots of houses around it, we had to help it blend into the landscape,” Durkan said.

The result has been transformative. Durkan Residential committed to the passive house standard some years ago, but until now, and

particularly with the ongoing housing crisis, energy issues have been secondary for buyers who are often happy to get any home. With Egremont, however, buyers have taken note of the buildings’ performance.

“It’s the first time we’ve had buyers with an interest in passive house. Up to now it has been location and price. It’s only until you live in one that you really understand it. People hate change,” he said.

Arguably, rising energy costs have played a role in this, alongside growing concern about climate change. Nonetheless, there can be little doubt that developing architecturally interesting houses that spark imagination helps.

However, one choice made at Egremont also represents a deviation from convention: the walls are externally insulated single leaf 9 inch hollow block, sitting on an insulated foundation system.

A combination which he had used successfully on Silken Park, Durkan says this choice made sense, but that he has often had to argue the point.

ph+ | church road case study | 31 CASE STUDY CHURCH ROAD
Photos: Terry McDonagh
1F 2F
1F 2F
It proves the point that a passive house doesn’t have to be a rectilinear box.

Applications open now!

Applications open now!



32 | issue 45
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“I’ve had a lot of push back from architects, engineers, building control [and so on] on single leaf, but if you externally insulate and use a single leaf block the results are excellent. Condensation does not occur, and it releases heat [back] into the home. They’ve been using this kind of system in Germany for the last 30 or 40 years,” he said.

In the end, Durkan Residential worked with sympathetic architects and engineers and, as a result, Egremont is another step in the journey it has been taking to sustainability.

“I guess sustainability was always part of what we did. We have worked with really good architects in the UK and Ireland. We met passive architect Jay Stuart, and that’s how we went down that road,” Durkan said.

The project was passive house certified by MosArt, led by Tomas O’Leary, who built the first passive house in the English-speaking world and will be well known to readers of Passive House Plus. O’Leary says he likes to think of the role of certifier as being a quality gatekeeper. Part of this, he says, is helping the team rise to challenges.

“In a project like this, for a lot of people in the design team it was new, so the learning curve was pretty steep. The architecture on this project, at face value, doesn’t lend itself to passive house: recessed balconies, cantilever rooms, roof lights, but it proves the point that a passive house doesn’t have to be a rectilinear box,” he said.

“Thermal bridging was a challenge, but we worked with the engineers and architects in

the detailing. It’s a real self-learning process and it’s very gratifying,” he said. The project is now due to be submitted for the Irish Green Building Council’s Home Performance Index (HPI) certification, which includes consideration of embodied carbon and a broad range of quantifiable sustainability indicators. This is a reflection, O’Leary says, of Durkan Residential, and Barry Durkan in particular, having a sharp eye for sustainability.

“Barry really gets passive house. Very few developers have that. It’s so refreshing working with him. He has replicated a building system that he developed in Silken Park,” he said.

For his part, Durkan downplays his own

role in the project’s success, praising the role of Durkan Residential’s commercial manager Terry Maguire, who is procuring and project managing the whole project, and the funders, NAMA. “They backed our green agenda from the word go,” he said.

Architect Ruth O’Herlihy – who provides an architect’s statement below – was away on holiday when Passive House Plus approached her for additional comment, but her practice colleague and co-director Corán O’Connor spoke to us.

“As a practice, McCullough Mulvin has been interested in energy efficient building for some years. It all started with a lecture,” O’Connor said.

“Personally, I went to a lecture by Tomas

ph+ | church road case study | 33 CASE STUDY CHURCH ROAD
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 &

[O’Leary] in Dublin Castle about ten years ago and I got wind of the passive house concept that way,” he said.

“Church Road, nevertheless, represented something of a departure for McCullough Mulvin as the majority of the practice’s work is in public buildings. But some of the knowhow the practice picked up on sustainability in other projects was transferable,” says O’Connor.

“A lot of our work is not one-off houses, and this project was developer-led. Barry has been doing this for quite a while in the threebed semi world. In the commercial world, BREEAM and NZEB have been coming in for some time,” he said.

The attraction of the techniques that have grown up in the wake of passive house is that McCullough Mulvin, as a practice, puts significant focus on building fabric.

“We’ve always had an interest in doing things simply, trying to hold on to simple things […] before we add in the tech,” O’Connor said.

McCullough Mulvin’s design for Egremont added one additional complexity to the build: each dwelling is unique. Indeed, despite being a development, the contemporary design is more akin to high-end one-off houses than giant schemes.

2 1 8 3 7 10
4 11 5 34 | | issue 45 CHURCH ROAD CASE STUDY
1 Several courses of Mannok blocks to start external walls; 2 floor Insulation EWI to foundation; 3 slab poured. see insulation again to front; 4 steel beams for cantilevered sections of townhouses; 5 Mannok block courses to wall plate level; 6 Tektherm plate thermal breaks to thermally isolate structural fixings; 7 windows sitting in external insulation layer; 8 Roben brick slips being fitted to external insulation; 9 bituminous cap sheet layer of IKO green roof system; 10 Siga membrane to roof structure and Skylux iWindow3 triple glazed roof windows; 11 Blowerproof paint-on airtight membrane used here at a concrete ceiling to blockwork junction; 12 fire collars for ductwork penetrating the ceiling.
9 12 6


Client: Durkan Residential / NAMA

Architect: McCullough Mulvin Architects

Mechanical/electrical engineer: Metec

Civil/structural engineer: CS Consulting

BER assessor: Buildcert

Passive house certifier: MosArt

Main contractor/project management: Durkan Residential

External insulation and airtightness

contractors: Ecofix

Mechanical contractor: MCD Plumbing

Electrical contractor: Armour Electrical

Airtightness tester/consultant: Building Envelope Technologies

Fifty percent GGBS mortar: Kilcarrig Quarries

Green cements: Milford Quarries

Quantity surveyors: Conway McBeth

External insulation: Baumit, via Chadwicks

Thermal blocks: Mannok

Green roof system: IKO

Airtightness membrane: Siga

Paint-on airtightness seals: Blowerproof Ireland

Windows and doors: Carlson

Roof lights: D&R Daylight Services Ltd.

Compact heat pumps and ventilation systems: Nilan Ireland

Air-to-water heat pumps: Unitherm

Fit-out, furniture, flooring and carpets: Minima

Sanitaryware: Rocca, via Bathhouse

Attenuation tank: Resolute Engineering Group Ltd.

Landscaping: Buggle Landscaping

Insurance: Le Cheile

O’Connor praised his colleague’s work, saying McCullough Mulvin had achieved the feat of creating a high-density scheme that felt anything but.

“From our point of view, it was about making the green agenda important, also the fact that we kept as much of that green land. 47 units on one hectare, this is high density –but it doesn’t feel like an urban scheme: it’s like a landscape scheme”.

Indeed, O’Herlihy’s design not only resulted in unique houses, it also avoided a simple grid. Instead, homes are laid out in four terraces that have been ‘cranked’ or bent to shift perception of scale as well as situate them better in the landscape.

This runs counter to general expectations of passive houses, O’Connor said.

“We didn’t just drop in a grid of terrace houses; we bent them to make them feel quite natural and organic”.

In addition, the wider landscape of south County Dublin and Wicklow also figured.

ph+ | church road case study | 35 CASE STUDY CHURCH ROAD

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“You want it to have a dialogue with Killiney hill, and it looks out toward the Sugar Loaf [mountain]. It’s a site-specific response,” he said.

“There are dozens of neighbours here, to the back of the scheme alone here are half a dozen houses and we wanted to preserve their views of the Wicklow mountains, so we put the short gable ends against their side”.

O’Connor says that he hopes the development will spark conversation about the future of high-density housing in Ireland, as it offers an alternative to uniformity and considers the environment in the widest possible sense.

“There’s so much talk at the moment about low-rise, high-density. We should be asking: how can good design be used to make these the best possible places to live,” he said.

Architect’s statement: Ruth O’Herlihy, McCullough Mulvin

The site, on the side of a hill in South County Dublin, along with a progressive client inspired an idea that we would try to make a green housing project together.

Four individual sites were combined on a south facing slope – a beautiful backdrop

surrounded by and shot through with mature trees – for the insertion of four canted blocks comprising 47 passive units.

The blocks are oriented east / west to maximise the light penetration and their cranked forms create a series of generous external public spaces including a children’s playground. Their juxtaposition allows for parking to be dispersed, fractured by landscaping and access roads which twist up the site, their impact mediated by the geometries.

Two blocks of three-storey family houses take up each side of the site with two blocks containing apartments (duplex over ground floor) defining the centre of the site.

The sinuous geometry of the scheme is accentuated by the unity of materials – buff brick with green roofs and a series of carefully scaled inset balconies in all blocks that capitalise on views of the Wicklow mountains. Living spaces are dual aspect and designed to be flexible, shot through with light that is brought deep into the houses & duplexes via roof lights and voids that allow it to penetrate. Generous landings below these give unique opportunities for the owners to make

them their own – maybe a library, maybe a home office, maybe a playroom.

The houses are a collection of flexible spaces designed for both living and working and for all stages of life.

Generous gardens to the rear of each have a stunning elevated backdrop of mature hedgerows and trees. The project has been carefully landscaped to draw together the existing context and enhance this with new levels and planting. Stone from the site has been used to create level changes using gabion baskets and sliced-in paths culminating in a public terrace elevated at the rear of the site looking towards the Leadmines chimney.

A simple palette of natural materials seeks to draw out the colours of the landscape making the buildings of the place. The varied views, available from the units resulting from their differing orientations, seeks to start a new conversation about how we live as a community: oblique connections are established between the blocks and perspective views change as you move, released by the way the light falls on the building planes.

ph+ | church road case study | 37 CASE STUDY CHURCH ROAD
It’s the first time we’ve had buyers with an interest in passive house. Up to now it has been location and price.
38 | | issue 45 Follow us: Already an IGBC member? You can now opt in to become a member of Construct Innovate for FREE. Join IGBC now to access complimentary membership of the new National Research Centre for Construction Technology and Innovation, Construct Innovate. IGBC is the industry partner in the Construct Innovate Technology Centre BECOME A MEMBER TODAY Do something constructive… Join the Irish Green Building Council and accelerate your journey towards a sustainable built environment. Learn Discover our wide-range of online CPDs, Webinars and inhouse training. Lead Contribute to the development of new tools, processes and policy. Innovate Drive, develop and deploy innovation in construction.


Development type: Speculative housing scheme of forty-seven passive houses, including apartments, duplexes and terraced houses of various sizes, indicatively including 73-97 m2 two-bed apartments, 125-175 m2 duplexes and 165-220 m2 three-bed houses.

Site type and location: Suburban infill site, Church Road, Killiney, Co. Dublin

Completion date: Construction in progress

Budget: €17m

Energy standard: NZEB and passive house classic (pending)

Energy costs:

Smallest (73 m2) apartment: €74-88 per year. Largest (220 m2) house: €223-265 per year. These prices assume occupants opt for smart meters, with tariffs based on Electric Ireland’s Home Electric+ Night Boost offer, 03 August 2023. The prices are for space heating only, and assume 20 per cent of usage at day rate, 30 per cent at night rate, and 50 per cent at night boost rate (between 2-4am). The prices assume a seasonal COP of 3.

Space heating demand (PHPP): 16 kWh/m2/yr (Blocks A and C), 17 kWh/m2/yr (Block D) and 19 kWh/m2/yr (Block B)

Heat load (PHPP): 9 W/m2 (Block A) and 10 W/ m2 (Blocks B, C and D)

Primary energy non-renewable (PHPP): 90 kWh/m2/yr (Block A), 109 kWh/m2/yr (Block B), 91 kWh/m2/yr (Block C) and 106 kWh/m2/yr (Block D).

Primary energy renewable (PHPP): 44 kWh/m2/ yr (Blocks A and C), 52 kWh/m2/Yr (Block B) and 51 kWh/m2/yr (Block D)

Heat loss form factor (PHPP): 2.08 (Block A), 2.18 (Block B) and 2.05 (Block C and D)

Overheating (PHPP, expressed as percentage of year above 25C): 1 per cent (Blocks A and D), 0 per cent (Block B), 5 per cent (Block C)

Number of occupants (assumed in PHPP

calculations): 24 (Block A, 34 (Block B), 32 (Block C) and 34 (Block D)

Green building certification: The project will be submitted for certification to the IGBC’s Home Performance Index

Embodied carbon: Not yet calculated (subject to HPI certification)

Airtightness: All homes will meet 0.6 ACH @ 50 Pa (final tests pending). Airtight strategy includes sand / cement plaster layer to inner face of blockwork, Siga membrane to roof, with taping and Blowerproof paint-on membrane used around services and floor junctions and hard to reach areas.

Thermal bridging: The use of external insulation – also brought below ground level – largely minimised thermal bridging. Several courses of Mannok Aircrete blocks were used at the base and top of external walls. Windows and doors with thermally broken frames sit proud of wall on structural insulation within insulation layer. Tektherm plate thermal breaks used at external stairs and canopy connections.

Ground floor: 150 mm in-situ reinforced concrete slab (airtight layer) on 100 mm EPS insulation on gas barrier DPM on 200 mm EPS insulation. U-value = 0.10W/m2K

Walls: Single leaf masonry with Baumit external insulation system, comprising 15 mm clay facing brickslip by RobeN, 5 mm adhesive mortar & basecoat render, 160 mm EPS Platinum EPS70 (thermal conductivity 0.031 W/mK), 5 mm adhesive mortar & basecoat, 215 mm hollow concrete blockwork, 12 mm sand and cement render (airtightness line), 20 mm service cavity, 15 mm plasterboard & skimcoat finish.

U-value: 0.17W/m2K

Roof: Iko green roof including sedum mix blanket, 80 mm growing substrate, 20 mm drainage layer, 7 mm bituminous cap sheet and underlay, 220 mm Xtratherm FR/BGM insulation bonded to deck (thermal conductivity 0.025

w/mK), VCL, 18 mm ply decking, firring pieces to falls, 276 mm (minimum) Posi-joists, 15 mm plasterboard & skimcoat finish.

U-value: 0.11W/m2K

Windows and external doors: Carlson triple glazed timber aluclad windows.

U-value (typical) = 0.79 W/m2K

Roof windows: Skylux iWindow3 triple glazed roof windows. Uw-value: 0.5 W/m2K

Heating system

(Apartments & Duplexes): Nilan Compact P Passive House Institute-certified compact heat pump (air-based heating integrated with heat recovery ventilation, post heater, and domestic hot water) with 180 litre buffer tank. Hot water and the majority of heating is provided by the Nilan Compact P. Heat is extracted from the exhaust air after the heat exchanger via a heat pump and then used to heat a hot water tank. The hot water tank stores the heat and when required provides hot water. The energy stored in the hot water tank can be extracted for use by the post heater when heating is required. There are electric radiators installed to provide top-up heating as and when required.

(Houses): LG Therma V R32 monobloc air-to-water heat pumps, with a SCOP of 4.45 and Energy label rating of A+++, supplying radiators and 180 litre buffer tank. The heat pumps feature a corrosion resistant heat exchanger designed for humid conditions and coastal regions, and produce 100 per cent power output down to -7 C ambient temperature, with an operation range of 25-65 C without an electric backup heater.

Ventilation: Nilan Compact P — Passive House Institute certified to have heat recovery rate of 80 per cent

Potable water use: Not yet calculated (subject to HPI certification)

Change in ecological value: Not yet calculated (subject to HPI certification)

ph+ | church road case study | 39 CASE STUDY CHURCH ROAD



While the passive house standard has had a lasting impact on the design and construction of new homes in Ireland, progress has been slower in commercial property. With the business world under increasing pressure to take meaningful climate action while providing better working conditions for staff, one new office building in the southeast may be a sign of things to come – and a beacon for a UN-affiliated project.


Building type: Four-storey, 4,710 m2

office building

Method: Steel frame with celluloseinsulated timber panels

Location: Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Standard: Passive house classic

Embodied carbon: Meets RIAI 2030

Climate Challenge target

See In detail panel for more information.

Alandmark development on a prominent site just outside Enniscorthy in Co. Wexford has become Ireland’s first passive house certified office building. Built by longstanding passive house contractor Michael Bennett Group under a design and build contract, Senan House was designed by passive house architects MosArt. With that combination of expertise behind it, this building was always going to be exceptionally high performing. It also represents an early benchmark in respect of embodied carbon for Irish office buildings.

“Ever climbed Croagh Patrick?”, architectural technologist Stephen Donoghue asks in response to a query about the challenges posed by the site. Enniscorthy is a hilly town. Its new technology park – of which Senan House is the lead building – is cut into the side of a steep hill that runs down to the Wexford road and the river Slaney, which run parallel to each other for about five kilometers outside the town. During the early stages of the project, preparing a sloping site and getting levels right was very challenging, not least because of the unstable wet marl that comprises so much of the land in this part of the country. The payoff comes in a striking building with fantastic views. Senan House runs on a slightly cranked north-south axis, with views of the river valley to the west. You can see the town with its spires against the backdrop of the Blackstairs Mountains to the north while St. Senan’s Hospital – a distinctive Victorian building now converted into

apartments – can be seen through the southern windows.

Art McCormack of MosArt explains that the reference building for this project was a successful tech incubation space called The Hatch Lab down the road in Gorey. Once brought on board by Michael Bennett, MosArt created a masterplan for the site, which included the construction of a sister building alongside Senan House. Wexford County Council, who plan a pedestrian and cycle bridge linking the town centre and the technology park, owned the site and supported the development through all its phases.

A variety of design options – including the possibility of creating a construction training centre – were explored before the team settled on a rational, flexible office building. The first plan ended at the third storey, but following input from Wexford County Council, it was decided to add a fourth, recessed, penthouse-style storey facing west to the river. Further proof of the support of the local authority comes in the fact that it took just five weeks to get through planning.

“The steep site was one of the main design problems,” says Art McCormack. “So, we used the higher ground to the east to create a bridge and enter the building at the firstfloor level.”

In the original plan, the central bay which projects towards the river housed a multiheight atrium. The site was subsequently sold to a private company however, and, as McCormack puts it “they added insight into

how the offices might be optimised.” Rentable floor space was expanded, and the atrium took on more modest dimensions.

McCormack explains the north-south alignment follows the contours of the site and makes sense in terms of road layout and how the building would be accessed via that aforementioned bridge linking the car park with the first floor.

The detailed design stage coincided with the pandemic and everything that went with it. A subcontractor was commissioned to provide the timber wall panels that the design team had settled on. Covid-related issues forced that contractor out of the project in mid 2020 however, and finding a replacement proved challenging. During this period, the design team almost decided on a cross laminated timber (CLT) construction. This is the process of using bonded layers of solid wood panels for floor, roof and wall elements, thereby achieving carbon savings that are vastly superior to concrete and steel. In the

42 | | issue 45
The HVAC units have yet to operate. So far, things are really comfortable.

end however, the financials didn’t add up, and PYC Construction stepped into the breach with their I-beam system. They built and supplied the factory-fabricated timber panel I-joist system that was used on the build –a low embodied carbon system designed to be airtight, breathable and windtight. The 240 mm wide panels comprise Propassiv boards on the inside taped at edges, I-beams fully filled with close to roughly 67 kg/m3 of Warmcel cellulose, Meditevent board and Pro Clima Fronta Wa, taped for wind tightness. While the panels came pre-taped, they were taped together for airtightness, and taped to the concrete slab and roof.

Stephen Donoghue lists the advantages of this build approach. “There’s less mess, it’s cleaner and safer, and the panels go up faster, plus you get better quality. And you don’t need scaffolding. There was no scaffolding erected on this building.”

In order to avoid thermal bridging where the external walls meet the structure, the panels were hung from the steel beams. This was one of several strategies deployed to ensure an unbroken thermal envelope. Though the bridge at the main entrance looks as though it’s connected to the building, it is structurally separate, and actually ends 5 mm from the wall. On the top floor, a 10 mm load-bearing insulation was used to separate the steel base plate which supports the roof canopy from the insulation below, and rainwater downpipes were wrapped with foil-backed insulation from roof to ground floor.

Windows, curtain walling and external doors are Passive House Institute certified. The windows have thermally broken aluminium frames, which were manufactured locally by Reynaers Aluminium. Unusually in an office space, all units are triple glazed, and glazing covers 23 per cent of the structure. At 1.34, the building has an excellent heat loss form factor.

According to the PHPP, there is zero risk

ph+ | senan house case study | 43 CASE STUDY SENAN HOUSE
Photos: Paul Tierney
5. Roof plan 3. Second floor plan 1. Ground floor plan 2. First floor plan 4. Third floor plan

that the air temperature will exceed 25 degrees over the course of the year. In the absence of brise soleil, overheating risks are mitigated by glass with three separate G values, ranging from 42.7 per cent down to 27.8 per cent.

Art McCormack notes that there was a particular overheating risk in an office high in the central bay, which projects east but also has exposure to the southern sun. Again, that risk was dealt with using glazing with a very low G value.

Doubts about the airtightness strategy planned for the raised mono-pitch steel panel roof prompted the build team to construct a mock-up onsite, and test its airtightness, just to see if it would work. It didn’t. The dovetailed system failed, so all the panel joints and roof-to-wall junctions were taped by airtightness contractor Aerzeal Ltd, with input from Joe Fitzgerald from Ecological Building Systems and Roman Sypura from Clioma House. The subsequent test confirmed an excellent score of 0.15 ACH at 50 Pa.

There is no oil or gas onsite – the office is fully electric. Integrated units from Nilan –two per floor – look after heating, cooling and ventilation. These units are connected to the Nilan Cloud system, a cloud-based management system which allows the facilities manager to remotely control the system as they wish, rather than going to individual control panels, and which enables remote servicing and maintenance. A large PV array supplements the power load. At one point, the plan was to mount the panels on the pitched roof, but the change to the roof spec

as a result of airtightness issues prompted a rethink, and the panels – 119 in all – were relocated to the flat roofs.

The system was actually installed by the building’s first tenant – Pinergy Solar Electric. CEO Ronan Power explains the system generates an annual average power of just over 44,000 kWh, with peak power of just over 48,000 kWh.

“The install here was quite similar to those we’ve done with other corporate customers. Because this was a building still under construction rather than a retrofit, however, it was quite a complex lift and build, with a number of health and safety issues. So far, the generation appears to be excellent.”

He expects the system to offset in the order of 20 per cent of the building’s total power demand. There is also an export connection under ESB Networks’ mini-generation connection process which effectively compensates users for any unused electricity that is exported to the grid.

Power says that he and his colleagues moved in last February. “We’ve our feet under the table at this point, and it’s great, we love it here. Senan is very aligned to our core values, in terms of sustainability, and it’s nice knowing we’re in a passive building.”

Though the company has not yet seen a full heating and cooling season, first impressions are very good.

“The building seems to be performing very well. Bear in mind, mine is a corner office, with two external windows. We’re monitoring humidity and CO2, and everything is staying within normal levels. There’s just our-

selves – twenty-four people – and one other tenant so far. That’s not a huge load, and the HVAC units have yet to operate. So far however, things are really comfortable.”

And there’s no comparison with the company’s last office, he says, which was old, with all an old building’s flaws. It’s currently being retrofitted.

“Ours is a growing business, so this is ideal for us. We’ve got space to expand, and we signed a ten-year lease because we want to continue to stimulate employment here.”

44 | | issue 45 SENAN HOUSE CASE STUDY
digital version of this magazine
The digital magazine is available to subscribers on &
includes access to exclusive galleries of architectural drawings.

A cradle-to-grave embodied carbon calculation was done by Ciaran Flanagan of MosArt using One Click LCA.

The scope included all the big ticket items within the building itself - the foundations, superstructure, thermal envelope, PV array and heat pump and ventilation system – but did not include the external works, including the car parking area, which would likely have

added a significant amount. The building fit out was excluded, as were the ducts, pipes and cables for buildings services.

In many cases punitive default data from One Click was used, in the absence of Environmental Product Declarations, most notably in the case of the three largest sources of the building’s embodied carbon: the structural steel frame, concrete, and PV array,

which respectively contributed 1,200 tonnes, 371 tonnes and 180 tonnes of CO2e to the building’s cradle-to-grave total of 2,357 tonnes – or 484 kg CO2e/m2 of gross internal area, comfortably inside the RIAI 2030 Climate Challenge target for offices of 750 kg CO2e/m2, albeit with omissions from the scope including a potentially large total for external works.

2 1 8 3 7 9
4 6 10
1 The steel frame structure; the thermal envelope takes shape with 2 PYC Construction’s cellulose insulated, airtight panels and 3 windows and steel battens and counter battens; 4 airtightness tests were conducted on a mock-up of the roof system to catch and address leakage issues; 5 & 6 to obviate thermal bridging where the external walls meet the primary steel structure, the wall panels were hung by steel lugs from the steel beams; 7 the windows have thermally broken aluminium frames, which were manufactured locally by Reynaers Aluminium; 8 a 10mm thick Farrat TBK structural load-bearing insulation was used to separate the steel base plate from the insulation within the structure; 9 precaution was taken to wrap rainwater down pipes with foil-backed insulation from roof to ground floor; 10 heating comprises air-based heat distribution via two Nilan VPM 360 MVHR units per floor.
ph+ | senan house case study | 45 CASE STUDY SENAN HOUSE
Embodied carbon

Ventilation and Active Heat Recovery

The Nilan commercial AHU series of ventilation units with heat recovery and integrated heat pump are aimed at ventilation of schools, offices, cleanrooms and business premises with a requirement for heating and cooling.

The primary heat recovery takes place via a high efficiency rotary heat exchanger or heat pipe, which is supplemented with the built-in heat pump. The reversible heat pump that can reverse the cooling circuit so it can cool the supply air in the summer. The compact design makes the units easy to place in projects.

An all-in-one economically good investment.

46 | | issue 45 SENAN HOUSE CASE STUDY
indoor climate solutions for all types of low energy buildings Scan the QR code to see Nilan VPR/VPM series • Eco-friendly R134a refrigerant • 200 Litre Water Tank Capacity • Rated Heating Capacity: 2.5kW • Water Outlet Temperature: 38°c~60°c • Dimension (mm): ø560 x 1730 (H) • Weight (Kg): 105 We also supply and design for Split and Monobloc Heat Pumps and underfloor heating. Contact: Gavin Dallas Business Development Manager (Renewables) Mobile: +353 (0) 87 183 8131 Email: • User friendly touch controller • Wrap around Micro-Channel Heat Coil • Tranquil Flow Technology • Easy installation • Constant hot water supply • Low Noise 45 DB(A)
FEATURES Replace your inefficient immersion heater or hot water tank with a highly efficient Domestic Hot Water Heat Pump WS23_17-WS-Heat-Pump-135x93mm-Passive-House-070223.indd 1 07/02/2023 5:53 p.m.

UN Connection

One thing the project team could not have anticipated is the building becoming emblematic of a UN-backed high performance building initiative, but that is what has happened.

Early in the project, builder Michael Bennett organized a visit to the site by a delegation that included Scott Foster, then director of sustainable energy at the United Nations in Geneva. During his decade-long tenure at the UN, Foster worked with experts to develop the UN’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings that were at the heart çof the high performance buildings initiative. The guidelines were endorsed by the Committee on Sustainable Energy in 2017 and then by the UN Economic and Social Council in 2018. Foster credits Tomas O’Leary as a catalyst for the discussions that led to the creation of the guidelines.

Foster and Washington DC-based consultant Robert Cavey supported establishment of an entity in Enniscorthy, the Enniscorthy Forum, to support the UN’s sustainable development agenda. The remit for the forum includes not only buildings and the built environment, but also energy, diplomacy, health and education. In the process of the forum’s institution they worked with Michael Bennett, who championed Enniscorthy for the new organization and sits on the forum’s board.

Under the stewardship of CEO Barbara-Anne Murphy, the forum now has launched the Buildings Action Coalition, a global collaboration comprising partners from industry, communities, academia, NGOs, governments – all stakeholders in the built environment. “Our partners are dedicated to making real and rapid differences in the built environment around the world to enhance quality of life globally

while meeting the climate challenge,” said Foster. The coalition convened an international summit in Enniscorthy in June to celebrate the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding with the UN Environment Programme. The memorandum of understanding sets out a broad collaboration between the Enniscorthy Forum and the UN to advance the buildings breakthrough target proposed under the Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda. The target calls for near-zero emission and resilient buildings to be the new normal by 2030. Foster notes how helpful it is to have a landmark building in Enniscorthy that demonstrates how high performance can be achieved, “The forum’s logo represents the castle of yesterday, the building of tomorrow, and the bridge of transformation”.


Client: Moyne Point Ltd

Main contractor: Michael Bennett & Sons

Architects/passive house designers/ landscape architects: MosArt Ltd

Mechanical engineers: Arkman

Mechanical designers: Colman Reynolds Associates

Civil/structural engineer: John Quigley & Associates

Energy consultant: JOT Energy / IES

Quantity surveyors: Nolan Construction Consultants

Mechanical contractor: Ollie McPhilips Ltd

Ventilation contractor: AirCon Mech

Electrical contractor: Bunclody Engineering

Fire alarm & access control: Bluerock Networks

Airtightness tester/consultant: Greenbuild

Structural steel: Wall Steel

Structural thermal breaks: Farrat

Insulated wall panels: PYC Construction

Thermal building blocks: Mannok

Roof insulation: New Century Roofing

Floor insulation and screeds: Niall Barry and Co. Ltd

Airtightness contractor: AerZeal Ltd

Windows, doors and curtain walling: Reynaers, via Curran Aluminium

Cladding supplier: Cembrit, via New Century Roofing

Flooring and carpets: Matt Kilroy

Heating, cooling and ventilation: Nilan Ireland

Primary hot water system: Ollie McPhilips Ltd

Photovoltaic supplier: Pinergy Solar Electric

ph+ | senan house case study | 47 CASE STUDY SENAN HOUSE


At MosArt Architects, we believe that architecture should not only inspire but also embrace nature while providing unparalleled comfort and energy efficiency As pioneers in Passive House design and certification, we bring a new era of sustainable living to the forefront

Partner with Us - A Developers' Dream

As developers, you seek to create cutting-edge and sustainable projects Partner with MosArt Architects to elevate your development to new heights Our expertise in Passive House and NZEB will not only enhance the market value of your projects but also attract environmentally-conscious buyers and investors

48 | | issue 45 C E L E B R A T I N G 3 0 Y E A R S O F P A S S I V E H O U S E E X C E L L E N C E
W E L C O M E T O M O S A R T A R C H I T E C T S , Y O U R N Z E B & P A S S I V E H O U S E E X P E R T S
W W W . M O S A R T . I E
Architecture | Sustainability | Education


This building, Senan House, is the first in a series of buildings in the Enniscorthy Technology Park (ETP) that are intended to stimulate economic growth and development in Enniscorthy Town and its surrounds, as well as augmenting a sense of purpose and pride. The site, positioned on a slope that overlooks the river Slaney and its gentle flood plain, is highly visible from the town. A new pedestrian and cyclist bridge is planned to cross the river Slaney, linking the town centre and the ETP, thus ensuring greater sustainability. It has been commented that this building makes a 21st century contribution to the form and profile of the town that is noteworthy for landmark structures from bygone years, including the Anglo-Norman Castle and two elegant Victorian church spires.

Building type: Senan House comprises a four-storey detached office building of 4,710 m2 with the top-most floor set back as a gallery balcony to provide penthouse offices. Construction comprises factory-produced timber wall panels with Warmcel cellulose insulation that hangs on a steel primary structure.

Site type & location: The building is the first in the Enniscorthy Technology Park on a site owned by Wexford County Council and zoned for Business and Technology Park. It is a peri-urban site northeast of Enniscorthy Town, Co. Wexford looking onto the N11 linking to Wexford Town and over the river Slaney and its flood plain.

Completion date: February 2023

Budget: €6.5 million for construction and €8 million including site development and external works, but not including site purchase and professional fees.

Passive house certification: Passive House Classic (certification in process)

Space heating demand: 18 kWh/ m2/yr

Space cooling demand: 1 kWh/ m2/yr

Heat load: 10 W/m2

Space cooling load: 6 W/m2

Primary energy: 149 kWh/m2/yr

Heat loss form factor: 1.34 (Total thermal envelope of 5,708.32 m2 / TFA of 4,238 m2)

Overheating: PHPP): 0 per cent of year above 25 C.

Number of occupants: 377

Energy performance coefficient (EPC): 0.52.

Carbon performance coefficient (CPC): 0.53. BER (SBEM/NEAP): A2 (52 kWh/m2/yr)

Embodied carbon: 484 kg CO2e/m2 TFA, calculated using One Click LCA (cradle-to-grave, excluding operational energy and water). See article for detailed description.

Measured energy consumption: N/A – would require a minimum year’s occupation and use.

Airtightness: 0.15 ACH at 50 Pa or 0.540 m3/m2/ hr at 50 Pa.

Thermal bridging: Point thermal bridge where steel posts supporting projecting roof canopy at top floor meet the gallery. A 10 mm thick Farrat TBK structural load-bearing insulation (0.187 W/ mK thermal conductivity) was used to separate the steel base plate from the insulation within the structure.

Thermal modelling was carried out at the plinth, particularly regarding the penetration of floor insulation by steel stanchions. Likewise, the plinth was modelled to see whether the thermal block used as a thermal break could be reduced. It was, thus, established that a reduction was feasible. Precaution was taken to wrap rainwater down pipes with foil-backed insulation from roof to ground floor, and ventilation ducts were isolated with insulation from the external walls.

Main access via a steel and concrete bridge that remained structurally independent of the building. To obviate thermal bridging where the external walls meet the primary steel structure, the wall panels were hung by steel lugs from the steel beams.

Ground floor: 150 mm reinforced concrete slab reinforced with fiberglass thread on 125 mm PIR insulation (thermal conductivity 0.022 W/mK), on Visqueen EcoMembrane loose-laid polyethylene DPM, U-Value: 0.169W/m2K.

Walls: 8 mm Cembrit fibre cement rainscreen board, on treated and planed timber battens and counter battens faced with EPDM and profile ribs, on factory-fabricated s.w. wall panels from PYC Construction comprising Pro Clima Solitex Fronta WA membrane, on 12 mm Smartply Medite Vent Board (vapour-open), 240 mm deep I-sections @ 600 mm centres filled with blown Warmcel cellulose 0.15 W/mK thermal conductivity), on 12.5 mm Smartply ProPassiv airtight board on 12.5 mm plasterboard. U-value: 0.152 W/m2K

Roof: Single-ply membrane with standing seam on pitched roofs on RK Roofliner with 10 mm insulation. U-value: 0.12 W/m2K

This insulation abuts directly to the perimeter parapet balustrade and to high-density Rockwool

insulation beneath the recessed glazing forming part of the wall for the top floor in order to minimise thermal bridging.

Fenestration: Passive House Institute certified windows, curtain walling and external doors. Aluminium thermally broken frames with argon-filled triple glazing. Whole-window and curtain walling U-value installed: 0.63-0.90 W/ m2K, depending on orientation. Average U-value installed: 0.71 W/m2K.

North-facing glazing: U-value of 0.6 W/m2K and a g-value of 42.7 per cent.

East, south and west-facing glazing: U-value of 0.5 W/m2K and a g-value of 36.7 per cent.

Modelling with SBEM established that a single office located above the main entrance and with east and south exposure could suffer from more critical over-heating and, thus, comprises a U-value of 0.5 W/m2K and a g-value of 27.8 per cent.

Doors: Installed U-values of 0.93-1.3 W/m2K, depending on orientation.

Typical Psi-values for fitted windows are 0.060 W/mK at heads, 0.047W/mK at cills and 0.058 W/ mK at jambs.

Heating, cooling and ventilation system: Air-based heat and cooling distribution via the 2 x Nilan VPM 360 heat recovery ventilation units per floor. Each unit has a 3,600 m3/h capacity, combining passive and active heat recovery as well as heating and cooling to all office spaces. The building is completed to a shell and core standard with fit-out by future tenants. Individual split units to meet localized heating and cooling needs if necessary for each office area are, therefore, to be selected as tenants assume occupancy.

Electricity generation: Vertex S solar photovoltaic array with an average annual output of 44,386 kWh and 48,196 kW peak power. The majority of the electricity thus produced is used on site, with the excess exported to the grid. Four car parking EV chargers fitted and there is a provision in 20 per cent of car parking spaces for future EV charging.

Sustainable materials: Timber frame panels using FSC certified timber; cellulose insulation, glass fibre reinforcement in (above ground floor) concrete floor slabs instead of more conventional steel reinforcement bars, locally produced high performance windows and curtain walls.

ph+ | senan house case study | 49 CASE STUDY SENAN HOUSE


Building type: Steel barn converted into 204 m2 office and recording studio

Method: Flat pack I-beam timber frame, wood fibre insulation, material reuse and biodiversity focus

Location: Oxfordshire

Standard: Uncertified passive house Energy use: Beyond net zero. Net export of 1,400 kWh from Jan to mid July 2023, excluding EV charging.

Embodied carbon: Meets LETI 2030 target and RIBA 2025 target

See ‘In detail’ panel for more information.



The new Oxfordshire studio of Charlie Luxton Design, the practice of the well-known TV presenter and architectural designer, is deeply impressive for its exhaustive attention to sustainability across every facet of the project, from energy use and embodied carbon to the reuse of materials and the ecological restoration of the three-and-a-half-acre site. It’s a gorgeous building, too.


If you’re a fan of architectural TV shows, you will know Charlie Luxton from programmes such as Building the Dream, Homes by the Sea, and Building a New Life in the Country. What you may be less aware of is the sheer depth and breadth of his knowledge of — and commitment to — sustainable building.

Charlie heads his own small practice, Charlie Luxton Design (CLD). When the firm decided to build a new studio just outside the village of Hook Norton in Oxfordshire, it was a chance to push the envelope across a swathe of sustainability metrics in a way that is often difficult when working for a client. “If I’m going to do a project for me, I have to make it a massive education piece,” he says.

His commitment to environmental protection stretches back to his childhood in Australia, when protests to save some of the

country’s old growth forests made a lasting impression on him. He moved to a farm in England at the age of nine and says playing in streams and climbing trees helped to foster his love of nature.

Charlie and his wife Kate, who is CLD’s studio manager, were finishing their own house next door when this three-and-a-halfacre plot came up for sale. It had been used to keep horses and had a steel-framed barn surrounded by heavily grazed paddock. The CLD team had been working in Charlie and Kate’s old thatch cottage down the road, but this site offered the perfect opportunity to create a purpose-built studio.


From the outset, Charlie was keen to make use of the existing barn. “We stripped it back very carefully and engineered it so we could work with the existing concrete slab,” he says. “We took down the walls, took all the wood out of the stables for reuse, and basically tried to design a [new] building that could use as much of the existing structure as possible.”

Building on the existing slab required extra thick walls to spread the load of the new studio. But with a goal to get close to the passive house standard and a preference for natural insulation, the walls were always likely to be quite thick.

Charlie served as principal contractor and recruited as many local trades as he could. The team laid a thin layer of levelling screed and then set out to build a new timber-framed studio within the structure of the old barn.

“The idea was very much to build a building within the building,” he says, “so that we didn’t put any additional load on the frame, because the frames of those buildings are really only designed to take themselves, and the wind.”

But the barn did provide a sheltered space within which to build the studio. The CLD team chose a timber I-beam system from German wood product specialist Steico. Each of the beams was digitally modelled and precut before being delivered to site. It’s a low-waste system Charlie had grown to like on previous projects.

“The thing about going with these precut systems is you can get an entire building on one lorry,” he says, and this was one of many ways he sought to reduce the carbon footprint of the build.

Steico laminated veneer lumber (LVL) — a mass timber product that takes dozens of thin layers of wood and glues them together to create a structural timber panel — was used for posts and beams, and around the building’s Internorm timber aluclad triple glazed windows. Durelis VapourBlock, a structural chipboard that also provides airtightness and vapour control, frames the

walls and roof internally, and serves as the main airtightness layer too. The walls and roof were pumped with blown cellulose insulation (Charlie brought his local labourers down to PYC Systems in Welshpool for training in how to install it), and then lined internally with Fermacell board, which is made from recycled gypsum and paper.

The team clad the structure in dark, powder-coated standing seam steel and British-grown larch and fitted a cap of EPS insulation — salvaged from another project — above the LVL ridge beam to stop thermal bridging down through the steel joist hangers. “We were really careful about that level of detailing,” Charlie says. The roof is finished with a 20 kW solar PV array.

Design for reuse

Inside, the team fitted 250 mm of EPS insulation over the existing slab. This was laid without any glue so that it could be easily reused in future. “We planned it all out on a computer so that we could do it with as few cuts as possible,” Charlie says. The team also used a hot wire cutter to cut the insulation as cleanly as possible, to stop microplastics from breaking off. The floors are finished with boards made from English elm.

An obsession with minimising the environmental impact of materials permeated the whole project. “We really tried to reuse as much as we can,” Charlie says. Timber reclaimed from the horse stables was reused for internal finishes. An oak-framed sliding door was salvaged from another project and re-purposed as an internal screen. Old walkways from the site were reused as solar shading. Recycled furniture and second-hand appliances were specified throughout. Outside, rather than completely dig up the concrete yard, the team simply broke up some areas of concrete and planted within it.

Charlie says that thinking about how to reuse materials at scale was one of the big takeaways from the project. “How do you use the things you’ve got to make the buildings you need?” he asks. “And how do you do that at scale? How do you find the materials, log the materials, test the materials, certify the materials?” These are some of the next big environmental questions for the building sector to get to grips with.

The CLD team also thought about how the building, and its components, might be used long into the future. “We sort of tried to imagine how you might minimise disruption for other phases of the life of the building,” he says. The building has been plumbed for future conversion to a house, and it’s been framed so that more doors can easily be installed in future.

Cladding and roofing were also fixed to be easy to remove.

52 | | issue 45 LUXTON CASE STUDY
8. Insulation
20 kW PV array
Corrugated metal skin
Reclaimed walkaway as solar shading
Existing and adapted steel frame
Steico timber inner frame
Internorm triple glazed windows
Existing concrete slab
above slab
Void for services & ease of construction

Minimalist heating

The finished studio achieved an airtightness score of 0.3 air changes per hour and is within the parameters for passive house certification. The building is both heated and cooled, when needed, by an air source heat pump that warms or cools supply air being drawn into the building through a Passive House Institute-certified heat recovery ventilation system from Airflow, the specialist ventilation supplier who suggested this project to Passive House Plus for this article. The system, along with the lighting system, is managed by a building automation system from Wiise.

It’s a fairly minimal approach to heating, and Charlie says it keeps the building sufficiently warm on all but the three or four coldest days of the year. But while the building was wired for infrared radiators to top up the heating, he decided against putting them in. “Given how little we would use it, I suspect the embodied energy would make no sense whatsoever,” he says.

So instead, on freezing winter mornings, an old electric radiator, covered in paint, is wheeled to provide some extra heat, and Charlie says this works well.

And what about comfort on hot days? The heat pump provides cooling too, and on the hottest day of 2022, when temperatures in Oxfordshire exceeded 38 C, the temperature in the studio was a warm-but-acceptable 26 C. An external shade limits solar gain from the high summer sun to the south-facing studio space.

The 20 kW solar PV array provides electricity to the studio, to two electric cars, and to Charlie and Kate’s own house next door. So far this year, as of 12 June, the three buildings have used 11 mW of electricity in total, but only 2.4 mW of this was imported from the grid, with the rest — almost 80 per cent — coming from solar power. Charlie is planning to install a battery next year.

Studio space

And what about the spaces inside? What kind of studio did a group of architects and designers want to create for themselves to work in? Kate says that while the old thatched cottage was a pleasant space, it wasn’t really suitable for an office. “For clients coming, it was slightly weird,” she says.

For the new studio, the team wanted to have an open plan working area that fostered collaboration, but also separate rooms for calls, meetings, or quiet working. And with its light filled spaces and warm timber finishes, the new studio is certainly a beautiful space to work in.

“I know the team love coming here,” Kate says, “post-Covid there has been a culture of working from home, but we didn’t suffer from that. The guys wanted to get back into the office and be all together, and I think having this building is a huge part of that.”

She adds: “It’s a place that we want our clients to come to, we want to have meetings here, we want to share it with people.”

CLD does not use the whole building — about one third of the footprint is a music studio for writing and rehearsal, rented by a friend of Charlie’s, and some work was needed during the build to ensure this would be acoustically separated. “You can hear a little bit of drumming, but nothing bothersome, actually it’s really quite nice,”

ph+ | luxton case study | 53
Finished photos: Ed RS Aves | Other photos:
In the seven years since the Luxtons bought the site, it has gradually become richer in wildlife, and noticeably louder with the sounds of nature.
Charlie Luxton Design 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 &

he says.

The needs of this space were factored into the design of the building management systems by Wiise. When musicians press record in the studio, the ventilation system – which is inaudible to the occupants but may be detectable in recordings – is temporarily turned off.

Rewilding the site

Outside, the team’s attention to detail extended well beyond the boundaries of the building. The site was heavily cropped and packed with hardcore and rubber crumb, and as soon as they got the site, Charlie wanted to start restoring biodiversity.

This included planting over seven hundred native trees — particularly elm, alder and black poplar — plus new areas of wildflower flower meadow, and native scrub with crab apple, dog rose, hazel and rowan.

Charlie estimates that it will take about twenty years for the surrounding site to sequester, in the soil and new vegetation, the building’s carbon footprint (excluding the PV array – see embodied carbon section below) of sixty-seven tonnes. He says this is based on back-of-the-envelope sums, but he’s having more detailed calculations performed soon, and developing a longer-term biodiversity management plan.

He says that in the seven years since they bought the site, it has gradually become richer in wildlife, and noticeably louder with the sounds of nature. “Last year waking up at certain times of day and in certain weather was extraordinary,” he says. “That’s just been joyous to be honest with you… the sense of wellbeing it gives you to bring a land back to biodiversity health. It just feels amazing.”

The project was a winner of the sustainability prize at the 2023 Architects’ Journal Small Projects Awards. “That was a real vindication of what we’ve done and what we’ve worked towards,” Kate says. “To get that industry recognition was so exciting and we feel incredibly proud of it.”

I asked Charlie what the biggest challenge on the building was, but he says it all went pretty smoothly. “It went really well if I’m honest,” he says. “Do you know why? Because it was incredibly rational. And that’s the biggest lesson I think is, we just need to make things a lot simpler, to make all of our buildings a lot simpler.” He says that simpler buildings mean quicker and cheaper builds, less travel to site, lower embodied energy, and more flexible and longer-lasting buildings. It makes it easier to deliver airtightness and eliminate thermal bridges, too.

“And I think it’s actually really liberating to say I can make a really simple building, and if I concentrate and work really hard on that, it can be beautiful.”

54 | | issue 45 LUXTON CASE STUDY
5 2 1 8 3 7 9
4 6 10
1 Charlie Luxton in the old building. The slab and steel frame were retained, and some blocks were reused; 2 levelling screed to existing slab; 3&4 Steico I-beam frame going up; 5 Caberfloor chipboard on 100 mm Platinum EPS, including channels cut for 75 mm semirigid Airflow ducting, with a further 150 mm EPS beneath; 6 25 mm battens on Durelix Vapourblock airtight vapour control board and Pro Clima airtight tapes, after the Steico Zell woodfibre insulation was blown in; 7 Fermacell boards; 8 Luxton and the Airflow Flexi DV1600 MVHR system; 9 Panelvent under Solitex Fronta vapour permeable breather membrane; 10 battened and counterbattened wall awaiting the powder coated corrugated iron cladding and roofing.

Embodied carbon

Embodied carbon calculations were conducted by passive house consultant Richard Bendy of The Healthy Home, using the AECB’s PHPP-based embodied carbon calculation tool, PHribbon. I amended these calculations to consider the effect of different product specifications in a couple of high impact areas. The project was then compared against the embodied carbon targets for offices in the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, and the LETI 2030 design targets.

The scope included the whole building, with the exception of reused/recycled items such as the retained concrete slab, steel frame and blocks for a first course of blockwork, along with brise soleil made from a recycled walkway. Groundworks were not included. Fixed furniture and equipment – including reused appliances – were also omitted, as were external works, along with ductwork, pipes, electrical fittings, and the Mixergy hot water cylinder, but the vast bulk of the building was included.

In the absence of quantified data on construction process-related emissions, the calculations rely on the default assumption in the RICS methodology, where construction process emissions are derived based on the value of the project. In this case, the construction process-related emissions, which are taken to represent 23 tonnes of CO2e, are likely an over-estimate, given the care taken by the project team to minimise emissions throughout the build.

In several cases, where the specified product didn’t have source data – such as an Environmental Product Declaration, default data, or CIBSE TM65 calculations in the case of building services – data was taken from EPDs or Product Eco Passports on similar products, to produce an indicative result. Most notably, this was the case with regard to the PV array, EPS insulation, air-to-air heat pump and heat recovery ventilation system.

Based on the precautionary principle, in the case of the building’s large PV array, where the specified product didn’t have an EPD, a similar product a with high embodied CO2 score was included in the calculations.

On this basis, the building scored a cradleto-grave total of 814 kg CO2e, meaning it meets the RIBA 2025 target for offices.

As Passive House Plus has shown previously, this total was dominated by the large PV array, which contributes a whopping 59.3 per cent of the total – albeit based on a panel with an EPD showing a high embodied carbon score, given the absence of an EPD for the actual panels used. If the roof mounted array is omitted, the total is just 332 kg CO2e/m2. This ignores the energy generated by the array, and is based on the conservative requirement set by RICS that any replacement materials/technologies within

55 W D C o O B 0 0 0 0 n @ m -W 004 0 5 Q W K A M M W W S o T W S e b w o d R O 5 B P 2 0p P 2 D W W W 0 D W W W D W 2 LocationincorporatingReproductionOrdnancearightpropertySurvey 0 25 50 M 1 2 6 5 6 7 7 4 3 1. Black Barn Studio 2. Writer’s Retreat 3. Site entrance 4. Parking 5. Existing concrete yard adapted for planting 6. Native woodland 7. Wild flower meadow & grassland 6 WIDER SITE PLAN 1. Black Barn Studio 2. Writer’s Retreat 3. Site entrance 4. Parking 5. Existing concrete yard adapted for planting 6. Native woodland 7. Wild flower
Wider Site Plan
meadow & grassland
Charlie Luxton Design

Detail Study

Roof Construction:

Photo voltaic panel

0.7mm corrugated metal sheet

Existing steel frame

Ventilated void

Solitex Fronta Quattro breather membrane

12.5mm Panelvent

300mm Steico I-Beam & blown woodfibre insulation

Duralis Vapourblock board, taped for airtightness

25mm service void

12.5mm Fermacell board, finished & painted

Wall Construction: UK grown larch vertical cladding

50 x 50mm treated softwood counter batten

50 x 50mm treated softwood batten

Solitex Fronta Quattro breather membrane

12.5mm Panelvent

300mm Steico I-beam & blown woodfibre insulation

Duralis Vapourblock board, taped for airtightness

25mm service void

Floor Construction:

20mm English Elm wood floorboards

22mm Glued Caberdeck

100mm HP EPS 100 (laid for re-use)

150mm EPS PREMIUM 100 (laid for re-use)

Fully taped radon membrane

20mm levelling screed Existing concrete slab


Client, architect, main contractor:

Charlie Luxton Design

Passive house consultant:

The Healthy Home

Structural engineer:

Varndell Engineering

Quantity surveyor:

Andrew Bird Associates

Electric contractor:

AMR Electrical Contractor

Airtightness tester: Aldas

Life cycle assessment:

The Healthy Home

Building system supplier: Steico

Wood fibre insulation: Steico

Floor insulation (EPS): Kay-Metzeler

Windows & doors: Internorm, via At-Eco

Liquid airtight membrane: Blowerproof, via Ecomerchant

Airtight tapes & membranes: Pro Clima, via Ecomerchant

Corrugated metal roofing: Sandford Roofing

Fit out: Hook Norton Construction

British elm floorboards: Sutton Timber

Heat pump: Panasonic, via Airflow

MVHR: Airflow

Solar PV: Aspey Energy

Building management system: oxone, via Wiise

Landscaping: Katie Guillebaud

Garden Design

Breathable sheathing board: Panelvent, via Ecomerchant

Insurance: The Build Store

Hot water cylinder: Mixergy

Lighting: Darklight design

Sanitaryware: Duravit

Insulating blowing machine and training: PYC

the 60-year study period for the building must be assumed to have the same embodied carbon emissions as the initial one – a highly questionable assertion given the rate of decarbonisation in industry. Based on the projected lifespan of 25 years in the EPD for the default PV array chosen, this meant two replacement arrays were included.

It is worth adding, however, that if the value for what is currently the lowest emissions PV array on the market was used – the Sunpower Maxeon 3 – the totals for the PV array would have dropped by 73 per cent –or a cradle-to-grave total of over 26 tonnes, versus almost 98.5 tonnes. While this massive reduction owes mainly to the panel’s low carbon manufacturing – notably including the wafer and ingot being manufactured in Norway, using hydroelectric power – it’s also due to the panel’s higher output. For this calculation, 103 m2 of Maxeon 3 array had the same output as 120 m2 of the high carbon array that was assumed.

While thinking in terms of cradle-to-grave impacts is key, there is an argument that greater emphasis should be placed on reducing emissions now, provided it doesn’t lock in avoidable emissions over the lifespan of the building via operational energy use and avoidable repair or replacement of components. For this reason, LETI has set upfront embodied carbon emissions targets, alongside cradleto-grave and operational energy targets.

On this basis, the building fares very well, registering a total of 217 kg CO2e/m2, comfortably beating LETI’s 2030 target for upfront embodied carbon target for office buildings of 350 kg CO2e/m2.

It’s also worth noting that because both RIBA and LETI – quite reasonably – have separate embodied carbon and operational energy performance target, the extra carbon

invested in reducing emissions over time is counted, but the carbon saved through energy efficiency and generation of renewable energy isn’t. It may be the case that the upfront carbon pays back very quickly, which is precisely why it makes sense to have embodied carbon and operational energy targets, rather than trading one off against the other.

One factor which substantially helps: LETI’s targets don’t count roof-mounted PV arrays, instead regarding them as part of the grid, which drops the upfront total by 157 kg CO2e/m2

Based on LETI’s definitions of upfront emissions alone – excluding the PV array – the biggest embodied carbon total comes from the standing seam galvanised steel cladding at over eight tonnes – an estimate which would have increased if the impact of the vertical steel ribs on surface area of materials was considered.

While LETI’s targets don’t permit CO2 sequestered in materials to be offset against the emissions released upfront, the reliance on timber and wood fibre insulation means that at the point of practical completion, the building’s materials had absorbed and stored 176 kg CO2e/m2 – over 80 per cent of the upfront total.

Another factor significantly affecting the cradle to grave totals is the life cycle assessment requirement to consider the sequestered CO2 in the building’s timber and timber-based materials as effectively being released into the atmosphere at the building’s assumed end of life. 35.9 tonnes of CO2 stored in the building become 40.8 tonnes at the end of life, through a combination of the emissions being assumed to be released, and the extra carbon spent in transporting and processing the materials at that stage.

ph+ | luxton case study | 57 CASE STUDY LUXTON
Wall Construction: - UK grown larch vertical cladding 50 x50mm treated softwood counter batten 50 x50mm treated softwood batten - Solitex Fronta Quattro breather membrane - 12.5mm Panelvent - 300mm Steico I-beam & blown woodfibre insulation - Duralis Vapourblock board, taped for airtightness - 25mm service void - 12.5mm Fermacell board, finished & painted Floor Construction: - 20mm English Elm wood floorboards - 22mm Glued Caberdeck - 100mm HP EPS 100 (laid for re-use) - 150mm EPS PREMIUM 100 (laid for re-use) - Fully taped radon membrane - 20mm levelling screed - Existing concrete slab Roof Construction: - Photo voltaic panel - 0.7mm corrugated metal sheet - Existing steel frame - Ventilated void - Solitex Fronta Quattro breather membrane - 12.5mm Panelvent - 300mm Steico I-Beam & blown woodfibre insulation - Duralis Vapourblock board, taped for airtightness - 25mm service void - 12.5mm Fermacell board, finished & painted 0 2 M DETAIL STUDY Wall Construction: - UK grown larch vertical cladding 50 x50mm treated softwood counter batten 50 x50mm treated softwood batten - Solitex Fronta Quattro breather membrane - 12.5mm Panelvent - 300mm Steico I-beam & blown woodfibre insulation - Duralis Vapourblock board, taped for airtightness - 25mm service void - 12.5mm Fermacell board, finished & painted Floor Construction: - 20mm English Elm wood floorboards - 22mm Glued Caberdeck - 100mm HP EPS 100 (laid for re-use) - 150mm EPS PREMIUM 100 (laid for re-use) - Fully taped radon membrane - 20mm levelling screed - Existing concrete slab Roof Construction: - Photo voltaic panel - 0.7mm corrugated metal sheet - Existing steel frame - Ventilated void - Solitex Fronta Quattro breather membrane - 12.5mm Panelvent - 300mm Steico I-Beam & blown woodfibre insulation - Duralis Vapourblock board, taped for airtightness - 25mm service void - 12.5mm Fermacell board, finished & painted 0 2 M DETAIL STUDY
Charlie Luxton Design
58 | | issue 45 LUXTON CASE STUDY
hab hab

Building type: 204 m2 (gross internal floor area) timber frame building comprising architectural studio and music studio.

Treated floor area: 195 m2

Site type & location: Village edge site, Hook Norton, Oxfordshire.

Budget: £340,500 (£1,669 per square metre).

Inclusive of landscaping but exclusive of VAT, fees and loose furniture.

Completion date: January 2022

Passive house certification: Not certified

Space heating demand (PHPP): 12 kWh/m2/yr

Heat load (PHPP): 10 W/m2

Primary energy non-renewable (PHPP): 15 kWh/m2/yr

Primary energy renewable (PHPP): 13 kWh/m2/yr

Renewable energy generation (PHPP): 65 kWh/m2/yr

Heat loss form factor (PHPP): 3.6

Overheating (PHPP): 4 per cent of year above 25 C

Number of occupants (PHPP): 12

Embodied carbon: When assessed in line with requirements of the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, the whole-life cycle carbon footprint (A1 to C4, excluding emissions from operational energy and water use) calculated as 76.4 tonnes CO2e or 814 kg CO2e/m2 gross internal area in PHRibbon. 59.3 per cent of this total is based on the PV array alone, albeit based on conservative default data), meeting the RIBA

2025 target for office buildings.

Measured energy usage: 39.8kwh/m2/yr

Airtightness (at 50 Pascals): 0.3 air changes per hour

Ground floor: 22 mm elm floorboards, followed underneath by Caberfloor Chipboard flooring, 100 mm timbers at 600 mm centres with 100 mm platinum EPS, on 150 mm timbers at 1200 mm centres with 150 mm white EPS, on radon-proof DPM, on levelling screed, on existing concrete slab. U-value: 0.13 W/m2K.

Walls: Polyester powder coated corrugated iron cladding to existing steel frame, followed inside by ventilated cavity, breather membrane, Panelvent breathable sheathing board, Steico I-beam system with 300 mm Steico Zell wood fibre insulation, Durelos Vapourblock airtight vapour control board, 25 mm services zone, Fermacell board. U-value: 0.132 W/m2K

Roof: Polyester powder coated corrugated iron sheet on steel frame, followed underneath by wind-tight membrane, Panvelvent breathable sheathing board, Steico I-beam system with 300 mm Steico Zell wood fibre insulation, Durelis Vapourblock airtight vapour control board, 25 mm services zone, 12.5 mm plasterboard to ceiling. U-value: 0.132 W/m2K

Windows & doors: Internorm HF410 triple glazed timber-aluclad windows throughout. Plus, Internorm HS330 timber/aluminium lift and slide door. Installed U-value range: 0.70 to 0.82 W/m2K.

Heating & ventilation system: Airflow Flexi DV1600 MVHR system. Passive House Institute

certified heat recovery rate of 86 per cent. Extracts up to 1,600 m3/h (0.44 m3/s) at 200 Pa. A Panasonic PACi Elite single phase inverter air conditioner/heat pump (with R32 refrigerant) provides heating or cooling to MVHR supply air via a DX coil.

Electricity: 20 kW solar photovoltaic array on the south-facing roof. Provides electricity to this building, three electric car chargers and to the house next door. Between 1 January and 12 June 2023, the PV system had supplied 8.6 mW out of 11 mW consumed on the site, with 2.4 mW imported from the grid.

Biodiversity and landscape: 2,100 m2 of land stripped of hard standing, rubber crumb and returned to wildflower and scrub. 180 tonnes of hardcore taken from land for local recycling. 25 m3 of rubber crumb reclaimed from menage for reuse locally. 1,800 m2 native scrub, 2,500 m2 of wildflower and over 700 native trees planted. The next step is to analyse the biodiversity net gain and develop a long-term management strategy with local wildlife trust.

Sustainable materials: Steico PEFC certified timber building system, steel barn and concrete slab retained, salvaged oak door reused as internal screen, salvaged timber from horse stables used for internal finish, walkways recycled as solar shading, rubber crumb reused locally, concrete blockwork and site hardcore reused. Floor insulation, cladding and roofing are designed to be easy to remove and reuse in future. English larch cladding, English elm floorboards. Recycled furniture and secondhand appliances throughout.

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How do you solve a problem like decarbonising social housing, and do so rapidly, en masse, in a manner that lifts vulnerable people out of fuel poverty while delivering warm, healthy homes?

River Clyde Homes may be about to pull off the seemingly impossible.

Rapidly decarbonising our built environment is an urgent task, but it poses a vicious puzzle: how to do it fast, but do it well? And how to pay for it? Deep retrofit is complex, and poorly executed upgrades have a history of causing damp and mould.

The UK and Ireland both plan to become zero carbon societies by 2050. Both countries will need to upgrade a large majority of their homes — two million dwellings in Ireland, twenty-seven million in the UK— by 2050. This will require an unprecedented scaling up of retrofit, and an unprecedented level of investment.

The UK government sees heat pumps as

one answer to this challenge — it wants to install 600,000 every year from 2028 onwards to deliver low carbon heat to homes, with less emphasis on fabric upgrades.

But heat pumps require careful design and installation, and if electricity prices are high, they can run up frightful bills in poorly insulated homes. Deep fabric upgrades are better at cutting fuel poverty and making homes comfortable, but they can be complex and expensive.

One housing association in Scotland has come up with a different answer to this puzzle. River Clyde Homes, which manages 6,000 dwellings in Inverclyde, west of Glasgow, wants to decarbonise its housing

stock through a mix of whole-house retrofit, low carbon heat networks, and by generating its own renewable energy.

Passive house advocates might shudder at the idea, but the association thinks that the way to decarbonise and eliminate fuel poverty is to perform more modest whole-house retrofits, and then meet heat demand via low carbon heat networks, powered by heat pumps and other renewables.

Duncan Smith, head of energy and sustainability at River Clyde Homes, is honest about the challenges of performing very deep retrofits over large numbers of dwellings.

“The fabric measures that we would like to do are probably challenging both practically

60 | | issue 45

and financially for all of our homes,” he says.

The association is currently deep retrofitting a block of 90 homes to the AECB’s CarbonLite Retrofit L2 building standard, an energy standard based on passive house principles, but with a space heating and cooling demand of 50 kWh/m2/yr rather than the target of 25 kWh/m2/yr for the Passive House Institute’s retrofit standard, Enerphit, and an airtightness q50 requirement of 2.0 rather than the Enerphit n50 target of 1.0. In fact Smith says the project is on course to exceed the energy targets of the CarbonLite New Build L3 standard, which strictly speaking isn’t applicable to retrofits, and has tighter targets of 40 kWh/m2/yr and an airtightness q50 score of 1.5 or better.

But as Smith thinks ahead to how River Clyde Homes will retrofit most of its 6,000 dwellings, he says it will need to adopt a more pragmatic approach and get the balance right between fabric and heating.

“I think the reality is about eighty per cent of the time we’ll be between 50-80 kWh for space heating demand, with four air changes per hour of airtightness,” he says. The emphasis will still be on careful whole-house retrofit, with cheap and publicly-owned renewables supplying the remaining heat demand. “We can address fuel poverty, we can eradicate dampness and mould, and we can do it in a practical way,” he says.

River Clyde Homes currently has about eight hundred dwellings on three district heating networks, mostly run on biomass, but envisages a major of expansion of this, with future networks running on heat pumps.

Where next for district heat?

District heating is hardly new. The oldest known example comes from France, where hot spring water was first piped to thirty homes in the spa town of Chaudes-Aigues during the 14th century.

In Europe, district heating provides over sixty per cent of residential heating in Denmark, and fifty per cent or more in each of Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania. By contrast, heat networks currently meet just two per cent of the UK’s heat demand, but the government envisages a major expansion in the coming decades.

Of course, district heating is only as green as the fuels it uses. Globally, nearly ninety per cent of district heat was produced by fossil fuels in 2021, especially in China and Russia. Renewables represent about five per cent of global supply, and most of this comes from burning biomass or waste.

But in Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Estonia and Lithuania, more than fifty per cent of district heat comes from renewables. Sixty per cent of all renewable energy in Europe now comes from biomass though, and this has not been without controversy.

Last year, environmental NGOs fought, but ultimately lost, an effort to remove woody biomass from Europe’s Renewable Energy Directive because of concerns over its climate and environmental impact. In 2021, a group of five hundred scientists and economists wrote a letter to world leaders asking them to stop burning trees for bioenergy because of its impact on climate and biodiversity.

The letter said there has been a shift in

ph+ | river clyde case study | 61
1 Duncan Smith, head of energy and sustainability at River Clyde Homes;
1 2
2 a rendering of the new façade of Prospecthill Court, a tower block being retrofitted to the AECB CarbonLite Retrofit Level 2 standard by River Clyde Homes

1 A wind turbine at Whitelees Wind Farm, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm, which is located near Glasgow; 2&3 Queens Quay regeneration project features the UK’s largest heat pump powered district heating system, featuring two 2.6 megawatt water source heat pumps built by Star Refrigeration; 4 the housing stock features a diverse range of housing typologies including tower blocks and tenements; 5 an Enerphit project from Duncan Smith’s time at Renfrewshire Council; 6 & 7 renderings and an elevation of Huntley Drive, an RCH deep retrofit project.

recent years from burning forestry wastes for bioenergy towards burning whole trees or large portions of stem wood, releasing carbon that could otherwise remain stored in forests.

“Regrowing trees and displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off this carbon debt, but regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change,” the letter read. “As numerous studies have shown, this burning of wood will increase warming for decades to centuries.”

Expansion of heat pumps, wind and solar will be critical to replace biomass and fossil fuel powered heat networks. Duncan Smith says that River Clyde Homes want to exploit the huge potential for renewable energy that exists in the Clyde itself, and along the west coast of Scotland. “Water based heat pumps are absolutely the way to go,” he said. “We have access to huge amounts of freshwater, and lots of wind too.”

Queens Quay

An exciting template exists just down the estuary in Clydebank. There, the Queens Quay regeneration project features the UK’s largest heat pump powered district heating system. Two 2.6 megawatt water source heat pumps capture heat from the Clyde and deliver it to a heat network that extends for three kilometres from east to west, and 750

metres from south to north. The heat pumps use ammonia, which has a global warming potential of zero, as their refrigerant, and deliver about three units of heat for every unit of electricity.

Queens Quay will eventually feature over 1,000 homes, a health centre, care home, leisure centre, offices, shops and civic spaces.

“In terms of what the network could be expanded to, it could be five or six times the

62 | | issue 45 RIVER CLYDE CASE STUDY
1 2 3

Shared Boundary

Solar PV panels x12

Proposed extended verge for EWI

Proposed recycled composite tiles

Proposed replacement windows - Nordan triple glazed installed to EWI layer

Proposed aluminium rainwater goods

Proposed 150 mm external wall insulation - Phenolic with silicon render finish

Proposed Air Source Heat Pumps

Shared Boundary

Proposed replacement windows - Nordan triple glazed timber/ aluminium installed to existing walls

Proposed 150 mm External wall insulation - EPS with silicon render finish

ph+ | river clyde case study | 63 CASE STUDY RIVER CLYDE
4 5 6 7

size, it’s just a matter of putting the pipes in the ground,” says Dave Pearson, group sustainable development director of Star Refrigeration in Glasgow, which built the heat pumps. “The Clyde itself could supply well over 1,000 times what we’re doing at the moment.”

Pearson points out that with its abundance of wind energy, the carbon footprint of electricity in the south of Scotland is particularly low. The region also has nuclear power. Between January 2020 and October 2023, the south of Scotland had the smallest average carbon footprint for electricity of any UK region at 47.28 gCO2e/kWh (the worst performing region was the south of Wales, at 316.94 gCO2e/kwh).

“The only things holding back subsequent projects are a coordinated effort to push buildings away from gas towards district heating, but more importantly a radical rethink on electricity pricing,” he says. Heat pump operators are currently paying over 30p per kilowatt for electricity, even though wind farms are selling it to the grid from just 4p per kilowatt. This is down to a “slew of outdated policy levers”, Pearson says.

Across the Irish Sea, the recently opened Tallaght District Heating Scheme in Dublin takes waste heat from Amazon’s Tallaght data centre and uses it to heat 32,800 square metres of public buildings, including Technological University Dublin’s local campus, plus the county hall and county library. The heat network is operated by Ireland’s first publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company.

Notwithstanding the question of whether building new data centres is a good idea — they are projected to account for twenty-eight per cent of Ireland’s electricity demand by 2031 — there remains huge potential to capture waste heat and distribute it via heat networks. Dublin’s energy agency Codema says there is enough waste heat and deep geothermal energy in the city to heat one million homes via district heating, with most of the waste heat coming from power stations, data centres, wastewater treatment plants and industry.

In the UK, the energy consultancy Fairheat estimates that waste heat from the industrial sector, wastewater treatment plants and incineration plants could supply fourteen per cent of the country’s space heating and hot water demand.

Locally owned heat & power

But if heat networks are to help eliminate

fuel poverty, we may need to embrace new models of generating and selling energy. Last year, district heating made headlines in both the UK and Ireland, with residents of apartments running on gas-fired heating reporting eye-watering energy bills. The sector suffers from a lack of regulation in both countries.

In the UK, residents in council homes and private flats serviced by district heating have faced bill increases of up to seven hundred per cent, the Social Market Foundation has warned. Tenants have not benefitted from the government’s recent energy price cap be-

cause heat networks are treated as businesses rather than homes.

“The problems in heat networks disproportionately affect the worst-off families,” said Will Damazer, author of a report for the foundation on how to make heat networks fairer. “They have to put up with higher prices, worse regulation and less control over their heating and energy use.”

Residents serviced by district heating often have no option to change supplier, creating monopolies that can exacerbate the risk of price gouging. Duncan Smith believes the only way to protect tenants, and to shield

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2 1
1 Albertslund heating plant, which heats the whole Albertslund suburb in Copenhagen including; 2 these non-profit social housing apartments from Bo-Vest.

them from high energy prices, is for housing associations to start producing their own renewable energy.

“One of my concerns with energy security is that unless you tackle it head on, you’re always going to be dependent on the market, which quite frankly is broken,” he says. “So, are we going to let the market provide energy, or do we look for models that are more equitable, more sustainable?”

Smith envisages River Clyde Homes building out heat networks, powered by water source heat pumps along the Clyde. And he foresees the association developing its own wind and solar farms to power those heat pumps with cheap, clean electricity.

“If we want to look at big industrial heat pumps to produce low temperature heat, we need to think about how we feed those units. If we buy from the gird, we’re exposed to the same prices that you and I are exposed to,” he says. “If we put a turbine on the hills and produce energy, we think we can provide electricity for 4p per kilowatt.” The association could then sell heat to its tenants for between 4p and 8p per kilowatt, he says. “For any income level, that’s solving fuel poverty.”

Energy service companies

Public or co-operative energy utilities are

rare in the UK and Ireland, but far more common in mainland Europe. Of Denmark’s 350 district heating companies, approximately eighty per cent are owned co-operatively by their members, and most of the rest are owned by municipal authorities. There are few private companies in the sector, and a legal requirement to sell networked heat as cheaply as possible helps to keep prices down.

Germany, meanwhile, has around nine hundred stadtwerke, or municipal utilities, which are owned by local authorities, and which supply water, energy and other essential services. Today, stadtwerke account for sixty-five per cent of heat distribution in Germany, and they enjoy strong public trust.

Smith is excited about the possible knock-on benefits of locally owned, renewable heat networks. For example: there are about 40,000 homes in Inverclyde, and the average annual UK energy bill is about £2,500, which means £100 million leaves the area each year and goes to large energy companies. The same calculation could be performed for almost any region of the UK or Ireland. How would it benefit communities to have that money circulating in the local economy instead?

Smith envisages publicly-owned energy service companies using waste heat from

district heating networks to provide cheap energy to new enterprise parks, or to heat indoor, vertical farms that might otherwise rely on high carbon fuels. But more than that, he says providing cheap renewable heat is about improving people’s lives and health.

He points to recent research showing that British children who grew up during austerity were, on average, five centimetres shorter than their Danish counterparts, with diet, healthcare, living conditions, illness and poverty to blame. Meanwhile, almost one quarter of homes in Scotland experience fuel poverty , while twenty-four per cent of Scottish children live in poverty.

“This energy crisis we’ve got right now is much bigger than affordability,” he says, “it’s a health crisis.”

It doesn’t look like energy prices will become less volatile in the near future. So, is it time for housing providers and communities to start taking the generation of cheap, renewable heat and power into their own hands?

ph+ | river clyde case study | 65 CASE STUDY RIVER CLYDE
1 2
1 A large heat pump powering a district heating system at Frederiksberg Forsyning, Copenhagen; 2 Logstor insulated pipework for district heating in Albertslund.
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Heat pump photo: Linda Bergholt Bertelsen



Last year Irish banking behemoth AIB launched discounted development finance for homes certified to the Irish Green Building Council’s rating system, the Home Performance Index. But what was behind the move, how is it being received and does this indicate the finance industry is getting serious about green homes?

These days sustainability is a core part of business for banks like AIB, particularly when you hear numbers like €600 million. That’s the amount of green finance that the pillar bank has already lent over the last 12 months to developers here in return for submitting their schemes to an international green building standard known as HPI (Home Performance Index) which is spreading like wildfire – with over 20,000 homes built or in development to the standard to date.

The motivation for developers is twofold. Firstly, AIB is offering discounted finance to developers in return for certifying schemes to the HPI. Secondly, the bigger developers know that the writing is on the wall: the investment community is increasingly moving towards demanding verifiable sustainability claims on real estate projects as ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting requirements become the norm in the investment community.

Given that AIB’s offer is tied to the HPI, it’s worth understanding just how rigorous this flourishing new national certification scheme for new homes is.

Developed and managed in Ireland by the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC), the HPI is the residential equivalent of wellknown green building certification systems for non-domestic property like LEED or BREEAM, and takes a holistic approach to evaluating the sustainability of new housing with 35 measures including calculated energy efficiency, embodied carbon, monitored indoor environmental quality, biodiversity, land use, water use, universal design and accessibility to public transport, schools and amenities.

“I think the reason the uptake is very successful in AIB is because they lend to developers with large developments which may include investors from pension funds,” said IGBC programme manager Johanna Varghese. “Often, long term investors are looking for certified properties as it provides a cer-

tain amount of assurance that the buildings are built well, are durable, energy efficient and sustainable with many ESG requirements fulfilled. In addition, the value often appreciates over time.”

So how did the bank come across the HPI standard and why did it appeal? AIB has been prioritising its sustainability agenda for some time. Under the leadership of chief executive officer Colin Hunt, it had pledged some time ago that 70 per cent of all its new lending would be “green’’ or “transition’’ by 2030, and that it would be net zero in all its own lending activities by 2040 (excluding agriculture).

With those two key targets in mind, Paul Kelly, head of sustainability at AIB’s real estate finance division, told Passive House Plus that, as a leading player in the development finance space, the bank felt it had a duty to more than just encourage developers to tick the sustainability box.

“With that leadership position comes responsibility and so we’re conscious that we have to bring customers with us…and to leave no one behind,” he said.

As a platinum member of the IGBC, all the roads were clearly leading to the adoption of HPI as its standard, not least once it emerged

that several of its developer clients were also members too. “If I look at our customer base, it’s almost an overlay of the IGBC,” he said.

“What we wanted to do was come up with something that, I suppose, resonated with our own values in terms of trying to do more.” International recognition was important, said Kelly, but also that it was “independently verifiable”. In developing the HPI, the IGBC aligned it with the EU’s Level(s) sustainable buildings framework, taxonomy on sustainable finance and European Committee for Standardization (CEN) standards, along with Irish building regulations and the international Well certification for communities. The certification was awarded 5 out 5 for best practice and transparency by the European Construction Sector Observatory.

Kelly said that in addition to the HPI’s international credentials, AIB was attracted to the fact that the HPI goes far beyond energy performance calculations. “BERs are an important tool in that they align to the taxonomy and all of that,” he said. “But, equally, they have their restrictions and limitations.”

“What we liked about HPI was that it took into account the location, it took into account water usage, daylight, the overall emis-

66 | | issue 45 AIB HPI INSIGHT

sions. It took in biodiversity, acoustic performance … a huge amount more than just the BERs. And so we looked at that and we said, yeah, you know, that’s a good basis. But then we engaged with the IGBC and we had some really good conversations with Pat (Barry) and his team and they understood what we were trying to do, and that we were trying to put a process in place from our perspective that could be robust.”

Kelly’s own route to spearheading the AIB’s sustainability drive in real estate finance was a circuitous but interesting one that started with a project in social housing. In the course of working with smaller developers all around the country to build a national profile, he was encouraged to help them get a foothold in ‘turnkey’ social housing. “I realised that there were disparate strands, but I then said, let’s pull together a fund here….and so we actually kind of almost created a sausage machine that would allow the bank consider these kinds of social housing deals a lot quicker, a lot more smoothly, a lot more efficiently.”

This involvement in the social housing space segued naturally into sustainability, with Kelly later joining the board of the Oakfield Trust, where he focused on kicking off funds to help social enterprises. That led to getting invited to discussions and proposals around green bonds, and later green loans and ESG and before long he gained a name as AIB real estate finance’s “green guy”.

“So it started off small in effect,” he said. “In a bank you have your day job, and then you have your after-hours stuff.” He agreed with his bosses that this was unsustainable (“no pun intended”, he jokes) so, to no-one’s surprise, sustainability became the day job.

The over €600-odd million worth of loans generated by AIB’s current green development finance offering is currently having the most resonance with developers building private rental sector (PRS) developments. “The reason being that the purchasers of PRS are particularly concerned about ESG credentials said Kelly.

But how much of a cost premium is HPI

adding? Remarkably little, it turns out. “We modelled it, and we found with the PRS schemes that there’s a cost of approximately €350 per unit on HPI, when you take into account the extra design features, going through the processes, the extra paperwork”.

So what the bank tries to do is ensure any margin reduction will enables the HPI costs to be covered “and some”.

“We offer this to every customer that walks in the door. Every time they get a term sheet from us it will say ‘your margin is X, if you go with HPI it’s Y.’ And it’s always a reduction. It’s 0.1% which sounds small, but we modelled it and realised that we are covering the

cost double.”

Given that these PRS schemes tend to be large projects, even relatively small cost savings can add up. “Let’s say the customer’s cost is €100,000 for doing HPI,” says Kelly. “The average margin reduction was meaning to them about €200,000. So they’re getting all the costs covered. They’re getting a better product for their purchaser, they’re helping the environment, and they’re quids in. We as a bank are taking a hit on that margin income, but we are happy to do that because we’re trying to prompt customers to move in the right direction.”

While engagement has been positive so far among AIB clients serving the PRS sector, Kelly cautioned that uptake wasn’t as strong among traditional house builders – and the bank has plans to fix that, starting by engaging with the IGBC to work out how to tackle it.

“It’s not good enough from our perspective that we see that estate houses, the HPI offering isn’t really quite landing,” he says. “Is that something to do with our offering, or is it that the HPI isn’t quite covering it? We’re literally just at the foothills of having those conversations with the IGBC. Is it whole life carbon, is it net zero? How might we try to develop a proposition for our developer customers that takes into account some of those future pieces? The principle is trying to prompt behaviours to look to the next thing.”

ph+ | aib hpi insight | 67 INSIGHT AIB HPI

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68 | | issue 45
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As it stands AIB launched a green mortgage offering with rate reductions for homes with a B3 BER or higher in 2021 – developed by the mortgage lending team before and separately from the green development finance initiative.

As AIB seeks to expand the footprint of its green development finance beyond PRS and into the traditional house builder market, Kelly says he expects to be “a bit more involved” with the mortgage lending team to understand what their end user customers’ wants are.

European market movement

There is precedent here, with many banks in Europe starting to combine discounted developer finance with offering their own preferential rate to buyers of certified green homes, according to Dr Monica Ardeleanu, project coordinator for the pan-European Smarter Finance for Families initiative. “Our bank partners do not have to implement a new process for a green development loan. The process connecting a green certified residential project to a development loan or retail home mortgage is exactly the same. The reduction in financing risk for green homes versus standard homes also applies to both types of loans.”

In 2019 the IGBC partnered with 12 green building councils, The United Nation Environment Programme’s Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency, Habitat for Humanity International, and 11 other expert green organisations (along with Passive House Plus magazine) in the EU Horizon 2020-funded Smarter Finance for Families initiative to implement best-in-class green mortgage and green loan programmes, including preferential financing for renovation loans that are certified to ambitious green standards.

The initiative was also designed to support improving finance options for green homes in regions where energy affordability and fuel poverty are issues.

By the middle of 2023 over €8.5 bn worth of green home projects were built or un-

der the process of certification within the Smarter initiative. A new phase co-funded by the EU’s Life programme called Smarter Finance for EU will create a European Centre of Excellence to ratchet up the programme’s ability to catalyse and foster the development of green finance linked to credible building certifications. Drawing from the hard-won experience and expertise that have led to successful green home certifications and related finance products, the centre will provide key capacity building for the financial services and investment industries, as well as support for ensuring the rebuilding of Ukraine assists the country in their urgent need to transition towards greener energy and fuels.

With recognition of the need to address a confluence of planetary emergencies –meaning interest in green homes has never been higher – there is an all too real risk of greenwashing, or a rush towards poorly conceived solutions. That’s why a key element of Smarter Finance for EU is to focus on the adoption of verified green home rating systems, underpinned by rigorous assessments, including quantification of a home’s sustainability under a number of indicators.

According to Kelly, the rigour required for accredited green ratings offers additional benefits. He takes some comfort in the huge amount of paperwork (albeit all online these days) and sign-offs that developers have to process and push through every month for drawdowns, adding that “everybody is signing in their own blood that everything is in line with regulations”.

“But equally, I think that underscores why we would like to see more and more people on the new build side trying to push beyond regulations and taking that on as a challenge, because I think then that the risk of non-compliance starts getting heavily mitigated if people are moving on beyond even what the [current] regulations are. So that’s the view we would take.”

Kelly also believes the need to address the ESG agenda has had a positive influence on developers in terms of understanding their

role in the supply chain of construction, including looking after customers when the building is handed over. “I think we’re all much more conscious of the interconnectivity between all of us, and that’s why, when I speak about AIB’s role, we speak about us but we speak about us in society as well.”

Kelly acknowledges that the larger PLCs and large private developers are the ones that have sustainability teams and are ahead of the ESG game because “they’re large enough to have the corporate head space to do it” and “are operating in a different ecosystem, even internationally”.

“What I find encouraging is that those large developers are…pushing that envelope or asking those questions and they’re receptive to the answers. So it’s not being foisted upon them. They are actually making mindful decisions to do this, to try to push beyond what they’re actually required to do, and it’s extraordinary to see how far they’re going.”

He cites the example of real estate firm IPUT’s new four-unit, 550,000 sq ft industrial buildings in the Quantum Logistics Park at Kilshane Cross in Dublin, (near Dublin airport) perhaps the first time someone has built such massive buildings in Ireland entirely in timber frame.

He is already hearing how hard some developers go in pushing their customers on sustainability, although very much at a measured pace. He recalls a conversation with one such developer, where he asked how comfortable he would be with AIB managers talking about issues like meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in relation to eradicating child labour and modern slavery. The developer replied that they had a sustainable procurement policy in place and was already having those conversations with sub-contractors.

AIB is taking a similar approach with its other customers, says Kelly, in terms of pointing the direction things are going and “giving people the opportunity to come along”.

ph+ | aib hpi insight | 69 INSIGHT AIB HPI

Marketplace News

Proctor opts for PV to cut emissions

Coady project helps to benchmark home energy and IEQ performance

Coady Architects is conducting post occupancy evaluation (POE) of its Kilbride Court social housing scheme to gather hard data and occupant feedback on the real-world performance. Driven by Coady senior architect and RIAI Sustainability Taskforce member Simon Keogh, the POE will also check the buildings against the energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) targets in the RIAI’s 2030 Climate Challenge.

Thirteen homes from the scheme, which achieved a Gold rating in the Irish Green Building Council’s Home Performance Index (HPI) rating system, have been monitored over a year to check actual performance against calculated values – with quantitative data to measure overheating, indoor air quality, and a number of energy-related indicators.

The project is being monitored by Ian Pyburn of IES under the SEAI-funded AMBER project, which has been gathering data on CO2 levels, relative humidity and overheating, as well as checking the energy performance against a simulation via the IES VE tool. Meanwhile the performance of heat pumps is being measured by Dr Shane Colclough from University College Dublin under the SEAI research project MacAirH.

The A. Proctor Group factory in Blairgowrie has recently been upgraded with solar PV panels to provide a significant part of its energy from renewable sources and substantially reduce its carbon emissions. The high-performance 30kWp Solar PV system was installed to the roof at the manufacturing site by specialists Forster Energy.

Based on current electricity consumption, the company said the new system is expected to provide the equivalent of a reduction of 201,741kg of CO2 emissions over 20 years.

The investment is a reflection of the Scottish manufacturer’s increased focus on sustainability, with the company emphasizing it is working to ensure that its actions have a positive impact from a social and environmental perspective.

In 2022, the company set up a dedicated sustainability focus group, led by

the group’s managing director, Keira Proctor. The group includes specialists from technical, operations, manufacturing, IT, marketing, sales, and accounts, and continues to review internal processes and materials and work closely with external supply chains and customers. The company is also driving improvements in the critical areas of reduced waste, and recycling.

Amongst the A. Proctor Group’s product portfolio is a wide selection of high-performance products and solutions aimed at helping the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. The company said the change to a highly efficient renewable energy source at the manufacturer’s site is in line with this aim – and with the need to transition businesses to become more sustainable. •

Along with Pyburn’s analysis, graduate architect Sawsan Bassalat from UCD’s College of Engineering and Architecture – with guidance from Dr Oliver Kinnane – is using the project as a masters-linked research project, involving comparing the monitored energy and IEQ data to calculations, and measuring occupant satisfaction using the Building Use Studies (BUS) methodology developed by POE pioneers Adrian Leaman and Bill Bordass. Passive House Plus editor Jeff Colley has helped advise the research, connecting Leaman, Bordass and Coady Architects with the UCD academics, and feeding back to Bassalat on interpreting the energy performance data against data from the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP), the tool used to calculate Building Energy Ratings (BERs) for dwellings.

The homes are being assessed against the operational energy and IEQ targets for new homes within the RIAI 2030 Climate Challenge, and specifically the 2025 target of 60 kWh/m2/yr, which is based on final energy use (energy at the meter), including both regulated and unregulated use. It therefore differs significantly from DEAP, which is based on primary energy (i.e., energy used to generate and transmit electricity), but only counting regulated energy. Unregulated energy (i.e., plug loads) is assumed to add 25 kWh/m2/ yr at the meter, and Bassalat’s research will evaluate this against real homes too. •

(above) The new 30 kWp PV array on the roof of A. Proctor Group’s factory in Blairgowrie.

Avoid thermal bridging with Bosig Phonotherm 200 (RG550)

heavy sliding door. This poses a risk of a significant thermal bridge where the high-performance door meets the cold concrete. To avoid a linear thermal bridge in this area, structural insulation is needed to separate the frame from the concrete, and that’s where Bosig Phonotherm 200 (RG550) provides the ideal solution.

When measuring heat loss at a linear junction we use the Psi value to describe how much energy in Watts is being lost per metre of a junction for every degree of temperature difference between inside and outside (W/ mK). By contrast, a metre long linear thermal bridge with a Psi value performance of 0.40 W/mK is equivalent to an extra 1 m2 section of wall with a U-value of 0.40 W/m2K. The use of structural insulation such as Bosig Phonotherm 200 (RG550) could result in Psi values improving to 0.04 W/mK or better, thereby reducing heat loss by up to 10 times.

Thermal bridges will most likely occur where one building element meets another, for example a wall meeting a window. These key building junctions present a linear thermal bridge which run along the entire length of each element. The consequences of not addressing a linear thermal bridge are a major cause for concern as warm internal air cools and allows water vapour to condense, potentially resulting in mould growth, building deterioration, and poorer indoor air quality which may have an adverse impact on occupant health.

New windows and doors usually have high thermal resistance and good U-values. They are essentially filling up the holes in the

building’s outer envelope, which represents a lot of missing insulation. Despite this, the connection between doors or windows to adjoining insulated building elements is all-toooften poor. As a result, heat can find a way out between the high-performance frames and the insulated building and these weak connections between the elements are often the cause of surface mould in the reveals of windows and doors.

What about at thresholds? Take a large sliding door, for example. The considerable weight of this element requires rigid support from beneath with a high compression resistance, such as a layer of concrete. Conventional insulation usually doesn’t have the compression resistance needed to support a

Optimising junctions with load-bearing insulation such as Bosig Phonotherm 200 (RG550) can offset the risk of low temperatures and prevent unnecessary heat loss. Bosig Phonotherm 200 (RG550) insulation board is made entirely from upcycled polyurethane, a material that would typically be disposed of in landfill and does not contain any formaldehyde, and has an independently certified Environmental Product Declaration and well as European Technical Assessment certification. More information can be found at: https:// product/phonotherm-200 •

(above left) Bosig Phonotherm 200 (RG550) loadbearing insulation, here shown in a door threshold detail.

Cemex and Ecocem partner on low carbon R&D

Building materials supplier Cemex, and Ecocem, both European leadingedge companies in lower carbon construction technologies, today announced a new partnership, which will see the two companies work together from June 2023 to evaluate and implement lower carbon solutions in France.

Cemex and Ecocem have a long history of collaboration, with Ecocem supplying Cemex France with raw materials for many years. With this extension of the partnership the two companies will explore opportunities to use lower-carbon cementitious material in concrete production, in line with Cemex’s European aspiration of hitting a 55 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions in its operations by 2030.

Initially, the partnership will trial lower car-

bon solutions in ten of Cemex’s French readymix production plants, with the ambition to extend in France and potentially the wider region as part of a portfolio of initiatives in the sector. Developing innovative partnerships with key industry players such as Ecocem is an important pillar of Cemex’s dedicated climate action strategy, Future in Action.

Cemex France president Michel Andre said: “Cemex continues to reinforce its commitment to advancing the sustainability agenda with the announcement of this extended partnership with Ecocem. We know that if we are to achieve our global ambition of operating as a net-zero business by 2050 we must prioritise exploring innovation and new technologies with like-minded companies who share our dedication to leading the industry’s transition to a lower carbon and

circular economy.

“The validation of our global goal through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for alignment under their 1.5 C scenario, the most ambitious pathway defined for the industry, further underlines our commitment to more sustainable operations, products and solutions.”

Ecocem founder and MD Donal O’Riain said: “Cemex has been a key partner for Ecocem since the inception of our business in France. Combining our strengths has huge potential to make considerable progress in supplying lower-carbon cementitious material for use in lower-carbon concrete. We are firmly committed to this partnership starting in France. It is only through working together we will make the progress needed to achieve decarbonisation targets.” •

ph+ | marketplace | 71 PASSIVE HOUSE+ MARKETPLACE

Daikin sustainable solutions on display in BBC Earth Experience

Heat pump giant Daikin has sponsored a groundbreaking sustainable building in London, for the BBC Earth Experience.

The newly opened Daikin Centre, a new immersive attraction in the centre of London offers visitors the chance to experience the extraordinary diversity of our seven unique continents on the most epic scale, featuring bespoke narration from Sir David Attenborough – housed in a new, purpose-built, demountable venue equipped with the very latest heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to offer fresh air and climate control, in a highly energy efficient way.

BBC Earth Experience showcases footage, including extended scenes to fully immerse the visitor, and music from the BBC Studios Natural History Unit television series Seven Worlds, One Planet, projected on multi-angle screens using the very latest digital screen technology.

Located in London’s Earl’s Court, the 1,608 m2 attraction offers a truly transformative experience that will allow audiences of every age to feel like they’ve stepped into the natural world, losing themselves in boundless wonder as they travel to

far flung places.

Built by contractor Neptunus using the Evolution-structure, the temporary building can be built rapidly with insulated and soundproofed roof and wall panels. This makes it ideal for longterm events or studios. Neptunus finished the structure in December. It has been fitted with multiple multi-angle screens suspended from the roof of the structure and the latest digital screen technology to fully immerse the visitors to experience the extraordinary diversity of seven unique contents.

Seeking to educate audiences on the benefits of low-carbon heating and cooling solutions, Daikin’s UK business has installed nine customised air handling units, to offer highly flexible ventilation. The units serve different zones throughout the Daikin Centre, ensuring maximum visitor comfort, and a regulated source of fresh, healthy air.

Meanwhile a state-of-the-art Daikin VRV 5 Heat Recovery heat pump has been chosen for the front of house and first-floor educational spaces and staff areas, to deliver superior indoor climate control with a minimal carbon footprint.

Daikin said a combination of performance developments and technologies means that Daikin’s VRV 5 Heat Recovery is the ideal solution for projects such as this, where environmental impact is a top priority. “Daikin’s unique climate control systems have been purpose-engineered to meet the demands of modern buildings while also minimising their carbon footprint,” the company said. •

Partel launches range of airtight grommets and accessories

effectively preventing air leakage and optimising energy efficiency. Specially designed for multi-cable use, Kabseal Pro 6 can accommodate multiple cables, making installations hassle-free. Partel said that their user-friendly installation and exceptional durability will ensure long-lasting performance in residential, commercial and industrial settings.

of sizes, Kabseal Cap offers a suitable option for various conduit dimensions, ensuring a perfect fit for project-specific requirements. Engineered to facilitate smokeproof and airtight connections, this product has been designed to be equally adept at sealing empty conduits, to provide a comprehensive solution for any electrical installation needs.

Leading manufacturer of air and windtight systems Partel has announced the launch of the Kabseal line of airtight solutions for detail sealing, in addition to its new airtight electrical back box, Electriseal Box. One of the most complete ranges of solutions in its category, Kabseal features airtight pipe and cable grommets, along with radon grommets. With a focus on exceptional performance, reliability and energy efficiency, Partel believe these innovative products are set to revolutionise the market.

Partel said the phA Class Passive House Institute-certified airtight cable grommets

Kabseal Pro and Kabseal Pro 6 use cutting edge technology to offer reliable solutions for sealing cable penetrations. Available in various dimensions and suitable for internal and external use, these grommets have been designed to ensure a secure and permanent airtight seal,

While Kabseal Pro can also be used for sealing pipes of different diameters, Partel has also launched Kabseal Heat, a remarkably heat-resistant grommet of up to 250 C for sealing exhaust pipes and other temperature-sensitive openings. Partel said the advanced safe design and superior sealing capabilities of these pipe grommets eliminate air leaks, providing unmatched protection against energy loss.

The company has designed Kabseal Gas and Kabseal Slab to address the unique challenges of radon mitigation systems. By creating an airtight seal around pipe, cable and supply line penetrations, these grommets prevent the entry of radon gas into living spaces, ensuring the health and safety of occupants. Partel said these grommets are an essential component in radon mitigation strategies, offering peace of mind and compliance with regulatory standards.

Meanwhile, Kabseal Cap has been designed as an “extremely practical” airtight conduit seal to provide a fast, convenient solution for creating secure, durable seals around multiple cables within a conduit. With a versatile range

Finally, Partel describe its new airtight electrical back box Electriseal Box as “a gamechanger in electrical installations”. Engineered to enhance safety and energy efficiency, Electriseal Box creates an airtight seal around electrical connections, preventing air leaks and the ingress of dust and moisture. With a robust construction and compatibility with standard electrical fixtures, Partel describe these back boxes as a “must-have” for residential and commercial electrical systems.

“Partel is proud to unveil our comprehensive range of airtight solutions, Kabseal,” Partel CEO Hugh Whiriskey. “These innovative products demonstrate our commitment to providing reliable, efficient, and sustainable solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers.”

For detailed information and technical specifications visit •

(above left) Pictured are two of the main options in the Kabseal range, the Kabseal Pro 6 (left) multi cable grommet and Kabseal Heat, a heat resistant grommet.

ph+ | marketplace

Flash floods and porous materials

While the most dramatic impacts of climate-induced flash flooding abounding on social media this year are all too obvious, other more insidious effects also pose risks to everything from agriculture to porous materials, as Toby Cambray explains.

This year winter didn’t get the memo, and this summer we seem to proceed directly from non-stop rainstorms to glorious sunshine; perhaps a sign and a symptom of the changing climate.

Where I live, the ground went from a boggy mess to a cracked, hard-baked moonscape, with grass struggling to get going where the soil has been churned up. Low river levels also indicate the ground water has quickly receded. Counterintuitively, these dry conditions can actually increase the risk of flash flooding. This got me thinking about how liquid water interacts with soil, and that it can tell us something about how our buildings work.

It turns out I’m far from the first person to have these thoughts – in fact, we have the advances made in agricultural science to thank for our current understanding of moisture storage and transport in building materials. It is of course really important to understand how water moves around in soil for plant health, and the research on this topic was transposed to building materials decades ago.

tion between the tea and cup exists around the circumference and lifts the edges of your tea up the sides of the cup, maybe a millimetre or two. Imagine the diameter of the cup shrinking until the curve of the meniscus meets in the middle; the surface area reduces faster than the circumference (and hence the total lifting force). Keep shrinking the tube and that force starts to overcome the weight of the water. Keep reducing that diameter to the sub-millimetre scale and the force on the tube of water becomes enormous compared to the area of the tube, so a large pressure is created, sucking liquid into the pores. This is capillary suction and it is the reason brick, stone and other porous building materials suck up water.

On the other hand, there is viscous friction slowing things down – it’s the reason your honey is runny (but less so than water), and is the subject of the world’s longest continuously running laboratory experiment, the pitch drop experiment. It’s harder to drink lemonade through a narrower straw. At the sub-millimetre scale of the pores in building materials, the viscous friction of water is considerable, and increases as pore size reduces.

So, if a material is relatively dry, the liquid transport will be driven by the behaviour of the smaller pores – that is where the water prefers to hang out. The liquid transport in these pores is dominated by viscous friction and is therefore relatively slow.

There are other, more important reasons why dry soil doesn’t absorb water quickly – the plate-shaped particles of clay form a less porous matrix when dry, and damp surfaces are more hydrophilic. But all together these factors mean a heavy shower is more likely to overwhelm the short-term absorption capacity of dry soil because it can’t suck it up fast enough, potentially resulting in run-off. Somewhat moist soil will absorb more readily, but of course if the ground is saturated this will also cause run off. This raises questions about how our changing climate will influence runoff; severe storms after longer dry spells are bad news for the soil and the areas within its watershed.

What has this got to do with flash flooding? The absorption of liquid into porous materials is governed by two counteracting effects: capillary suction and viscous friction. Capillary suction is the meniscus effect – the phenomenon where the surface of a molecular substance such as water curves up when it touches another material. But it's the meniscus effect writ large (or if you like, very, very small). Consider a cup of tea. A small force due to the interac-

These effects are therefore in direct competition, both increasing in magnitude, but in different directions, as pore size reduces. They are both non-linear effects, and there is a sweet spot at around one micron, where the balance between the two effects results in the fastest transport. It just so happens that the pores of lime-rich mortars are mostly in of this size, hence their very useful moisture transport properties. Many stones and bricks have larger pores, which hold onto water less tightly, so it tends to move from the masonry unit into the mortar. Cement-based materials have mostly very small pores (and significantly fewer of them – they are denser) in which viscous friction dramatically slows transport, so moisture drying is much slower.

The shift towards more extreme weather is very relevant in building materials, not least via the increasing risks of flooding. This is neatly captured by the Four Cs proposed by Chris Sanders and the late Neil May (visit to read about the Four Cs - editor). All of us working with buildings, but particularly those including porous materials, should be aware of the likely changes in rainfall patterns, and what these might mean for our buildings, as well as our agriculture. n

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

A large pressure is created, sucking liquid into the pores.
DR TOBY CAMBRAY COLUMN 74 | | issue 45
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