Anyone familiar with spending a hot summer's day in a caravan and then another in a stone house with closed shutters will appreciate the meaning of ‘Decrement delay’. The inside of the caravan closely maps the rise and fall in external temperature to provide the familiar stifling effect on the occupants .
Total primary energy consumed from direct and indirect processes associated with a product or service within the boundaries of cradle to gate. This includes all activities from material extraction (quarrying / mining / harvesting), manufacturing, transportation and fabrication until the product is ready to leave the final factory gate.
Solar energy is a seriously underrated resource. More power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, yet solar only provided 0.39% of the energy used in the US last year.
“As debate ramps up in Ireland about whether local authorities in Dublin should adopt the passive house standard, and the UK government scraps its plans for zero carbon homes, Dr Shane Colclough urges passive house advocates to prepare for the lobbying battles ahead by remembering the basic science behind the standard.”
Now nearing completion, the University of East Anglia's (UEA) most recent development, The Enterprise Centre, is on course to become an exemplar low-embodied carbon buildinq, pushing the boundaries for sustainable architecture.
This Guide is a unique publication which combines professional guidance from a range of suppliers and industry experts, which, when combined together, can deliver a low energy building. A variety of systems are presented ranging from ventilation systems to a range of insulation, airtightness, windows and water treatment systems.
The cheapest and cleanest energy choice of all is not to waste it. Progress on this has been striking yet the potential is still vast. Improvements in energy efficiency since the 1970s in 11 IEA member countries that keep the right kind of statistics (America, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden) saved the equivalent of 1.4 billion tonnes of oil in 2011, worth $743 billion.
The new CREST centre will comprise of three areas; the Hub, the Research & Development Lab and the Pavilion. The Pavilion will be newly developed while the Hub and Research & Development lab will be integrated into the existing Skills Centre building; with the work on the Hub area recently completed.
The Hub will form the central office area within the CREST centre and will comprise modern office and meeting space where the CREST team will meet with companies to discuss their requirements and outline the services available.
From the very outset it was made clear that sustainable design was key to the successful completion of the entire CREST project, this responsible approach was to reflect the innovative aspirations of the CREST project. We are pleased to be associated with our client, South West College, who are striving to create a sustainable centre that will form a benchmark for construction projects in the future.
The new pavilion project is the one of the most sustainable projects in the UK and will be the first commercial building in Ireland to have the following three sustainable credentials:
- Passivhaus Certified for Energy efficient envelope and ventilation system
- BREEAM excellent in terms of the BRE sustainable benchmark for UK commercials buildings
- The building will also be Carbon Neutral, this means that the building can provide, by renewable energy, it own source of heat and lighting.
Whilst a combination of these sustainable criteria has been attempted in other parts of the UK, this will be the first example in Northern Ireland or Ireland and will become a benchmark building for sustainability.
The Hub element of the project comprises of several meeting rooms, a waiting area, small kitchen and computer desk. During the fit out of the Hub office area, where ever possible and feasible, recycled components and sustainably sourced materials where used.
A palette of recycled materials has been used to decorate the meeting rooms. Bangor blue slates, reclaimed from the Belturbet Convent of Mercy (demolished in 2008) and reclaimed Florencecourt brick from a house in Enniskilen (demolished 2008) have been re used on the walls of the meeting rooms. Pitch pine floor boards from the Belturbet Convent of Mercy have been used to differentiate the meeting rooms from the rest of the Hub.
The reception desk of the new hub has been created using the same pitch pine as has been used on the floors of the meeting room; the desk is supported on gabions of handpicked stone from the only slate quarry in Ireland.
The timber cladding used for the cladding walls in the Hub is reclaimed scaffolding boards that were used as shuttering on the A5 road extension project. Scaffolding racks and poles are used to support the desks and other furniture that has been created bespoke for the project.
The palette of materials combined with the exposed duct work have created an industrial warehouse type aesthetic that is illuminated with low energy lamps to further increase the sustainability criteria. The design utilises these materials to create a tactile, efficient and user friendly hub for a functional educational facility. The project was completed in February 2014.
Zero carbon is great as a political aspiration but will it stack up effectively as a policy? Richard Hillyard examines Government aims to impose zero carbon targets on the construction industry. Back in July 2007 the Government published the Building a Greener Future statement. This policy document announced that all new build homes would be zero carbon from 2016.
The definition of zero carbon requires new dwellings to take into account:
- emissions from space heating, ventilation, hot water and fixed lighting,
- exports and imports from the development (and directly connected energy installations) to and from centralised energy networks.
Note:- Expected energy use from appliances is excluded from zero carbon definition.
By following this policy the Government expects new buildings to have net zero carbon emissions over the course of a year.
The definition of zero carbon consultation subsequently introduced by the government, sought views on the Government's proposals. This consultation ran from 17 December 2008 to 18 March 2009 and goes on to explain how to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
The Government also announced that from 2019 all non-domestic new builds will also be required to have zero net carbon emissions, with earlier dates for schools (2016) and public sector buildings (2018).
Wisely, the government set boundaries to what it meant by zero carbon. The embodied energy content of construction materials is not covered, and neither is the transportation of materials. Additionally, transport emissions associated with developments are not included as the government intends to deal with these through other policy instruments.
Given these omissions, it could be argued that Government's proposals do not equate to zero carbon. Even if it is not possible (nor cost-effective) to construct a building without generating any greenhouse gases, how far could we get by dramatically improving the efficiency and sustainability of construction methods?
In any case, does it really matter? Less than one per cent of the UK's existing building stock is replaced every year, and it's been estimated by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) that 87 percent of the current housing stock will still be around in 2050. That means that the UK cannot meet its carbon reduction targets without a far-reaching retrofit programme for existing buildings.
The UK Green Building Council's proposal for a Code for Sustainable Buildings will play an important role in improving the focus on energy efficiency in existing buildings. But this is just one of a hierarchy of measures that the Government says will be needed.
The consultation document proposes a three-stage hierarchy for designers to achieve zero-carbon. The first step for energy efficiency requires compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations. This stage may also encompass other regulatory instruments, such as a mandatory requirement to design to Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.
The second stage proposed by Government is something called Carbon Compliance', which essentially is the use of on-site micro-energy generation. A report by the UK GBC Zero Carbon Definition Task Group believe over 80 per cent of homes in the UK to be unable to achieve zero carbon targets this way. The development of near-site and off-site low and zero-carbon energy generation is also being proposed.
Initially there were reservations over whether the use of biomass technologies could be included in the zero carbon strategy. However, the government appears to be in full support of using biomass systems both within new homes and as a source of direct heat from nearby off-site generation.
The third stage in the zero-carbon strategy is what is known as allowable solutions', which is a buy-out fund or form of carbon offsetting through high quality international investment in low and zero carbon projects.
This third way will, it is believed, only be permitted where energy efficiency and carbon compliance are unable to be achieved totally through on-site and near-site measures achieve the goal of zero carbon - in other words the residual emissions.
The government is proposing a system of credits to permit off-setting to occur. Credits will be awarded to developments that have a range of energy-saving criteria. For example, energy-saving appliances and low and zero-carbon technology capable of exporting energy to the grid will earn credits to enable an offset of residual carbon emissions.
The government would prefer off-site low and zero carbon technologies to be included in this part of the hierarchy by feeding into the national grid.
So will the policy work? The first two parts of the hierarchy - energy efficiency and carbon compliance - are signs of forward thinking. With a few tweaks, off-site low and zero carbon energy generation could play an integral part of reaching the zero carbon target, but only if the contribution from the grid can be guaranteed to be clean.
Other questions remain to be answered. For example, with allowable solutions, will off-setting contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions enough for claims of zero carbon to stack up - not just initially but over a sustained period? Or is it, as some might argue, just a way of covering up holes in the system, and easing collective guilt?
Off-site low and zero carbon energy generation technologies sounds like reasonable measures, but if they are supplying to the grid as opposed to supplying directly to a development, what guarantees will there be that this clean energy will not be lost in the overall electricity generation? This is a key issue, especially when it's mixed with the output from the proposed eight new coal power stations (each potentially generating eight million tonnes of CO2 per year) that the Government is keen to build.
These questions highlight the credibility gaps that still exist between intention and delivery in Government's push for a low carbon and sustainable energy future. Whatever transpires following the zero-carbon consultation, tackling the issue effectively will not only significantly affect the environment, but also our pockets.
Zero carbon targets on the construction industry, [Online], Available: http://www.bsria.co.uk/news/article/clean-home/ [18 March 2014].
All was not well when work began on this impressive Co Cork home and its architect had to pull out the stops to make the eco-home fit the brief
A problem with the design of a passive house in Co Cork made its designer, John Morehead, go hot and cold. A fault in the climate information, that was used to regulate the airtight, ventilated and draught-proofed house, meant the house was too cool. Passive house designs are so sensitive to the environment and climate that even heat from a plasma television can throw the controlled temperature off kilter.
Morehead, an architect with the Cork firm Wain Morehead Architects who specialises in designing passive homes, was concerned to get all the details right when he embarked on a new project on the shoreline of the upper Owenabue estuary, in Carrigaline.
Building had just started on the two-storey, four-bedroom family home and, while the greatest care had been taken to find ecological and energy-efficient materials, it was clear that everything was not as it should be.
“We commissioned the job of sourcing climate data to specialists in Britain,” says Morehead. “We were working off Dublin data, not local data, and suddenly we found we didn’t meet the passive-house criteria. By this stage, we were already on site. We didn’t eat for a week — it was that serious.”
It took three weeks for Morehead and his team to put the mistake right. Intensive research was carried out to try to find out what was putting the data out of sync. Readings put the house at a temperature that was far cooler than first anticipated. There was also less radiation, which can have a big impact on passive-house technology.
“It turned out there was a fault in the way the climate data was being generated,” says Morehead. “It operated on peak-data information — the extremes rather than the averages. To make the house passive again, we had to tweak the specifications. We did this with the help of a local climatologist, but it was three weeks before we were back on an even keel.”
The result, though, is an impressive and unusual contemporary house in a lovely setting with striking views. It is the home of Sally and John O’Leary and their three children. The couple approached Morehead about building an energy-efficient home in August 2008, and work began the following year. They had been refused planning permission to build a previous modern design on the site.
The refusal was based on context rather than aesthetics, and the fact it would be built on a sloping site that ran into the Owenabue estuary was also a concern.
Around that time a neighbouring house was being developed, so it was important for both the O’Learys and their new neighbour to maintain privacy and preserve views, as well as to keep the planners on side.
“Our brief was to design a four-bedroom family home and to be as ecologically friendly as possible while sticking to a budget,” says Morehead. “Our clients were interested in an energy-efficient home and one that would bring the outside space in, merging into the interior.
“The family also wanted natural finishes and a design that was relatively simple. There had to be a focus on food and cooking because that is what they love to do.”
Morehead came up with the modern yet simple passive house in Carrigaline, which was completed in April this year. It has almost 2,600 sq ft of living space over two floors. The home is at the cutting edge of passive-house design, and is one of six certified passive homes in Ireland. A name plate by the front door proudly displays its Certified European Passive House status.
The project did not begin with the intention of building a passive house. “It was originally intended to be an A-rated passive solar project and the decision was made to seek passive-house certification as late as the tender stage,” says Morehead.
Passive house certification is a quality-assured energy-performance and comfort rating that demands stringent control of both the design and construction process.
To make the most of the views and to accommodate the sloping site, the living area was put upstairs. It overlooks the estuary and contains a central winter garden, which enhances the notion of bringing the outdoor space in.
The area has become a multipurpose room, whose use changes with the weather and the seasons. “It is a busy spot, encouraging participation in activities by young children at the principle accommodation level, irrespective of weather,” says Morehead.
“The room is fully insulated from the remaining accommodation, so it can become an outdoor space without compromising the rest of the house or thermal envelope,” he adds.
“Both the expansive glass wall from this room to the hall and the screen to the deck fold away to make a versatile indoor/outdoor space penetrating deep into the bowels of the dwelling.”
Particular care was taken to ensure the home was as airtight and insulated as possible. A cement substitute made from the by-product of the iron and steel industry was used instead of conventional concrete, a decision that saved more than 16 tonnes of CO2. The walls were clad in panels of fibre-cement. It is a low-maintenance material, a consideration that was important in the coastal setting.
Because so much of the work was undertaken during the recession, Morehead and the O’Learys hired local tradesmen and builders when they could.
The upper walls and roof were made from closed wall timber-frames, also manufactured locally. “This construction had exemplary insulation and airtight characteristics,” says Morehead.
“These walls also assist with moisture transfer during periods of high humidity. The upper walls were covered with a rain screen of a carefully selected and detailed untreated Austrian larch cladding.”
To achieve a home that maximises heat gain, Morehead sought out technology to minimise heat loss. Triple-glazed windows with low-iron glass increase transmission of solar heat. The air temperature is controlled to such an extent that no internal surface temperature within the house deviates by more than 4C, even if it’s -10C outside.
The kitchen is an important feature for the O’Learys, who had stressed that they were keen cooks, and it has been given a linear corner window that not only frames views of the river, but also maintains privacy by preventing it from being overlooked by the neighbouring house. The room has direct access to the multipurpose area and the upper garden.
On the upper level there is also a guest bedroom, laundry, study and family room.
The brief had also asked that the needs of a growing family were taken into account. The house should adapt to the children as they grow. To meet this request, the children’s bedrooms surround a large, open multipurpose play area.
The kitchen, along with the living and winter garden areas, has an innovative infrared heating system that Morehead developed himself and is now patenting. “The infra-red emitters heat the occupant, not the air,” he says. “Therefore a level of individual comfort control can be enjoyed independently.
“As with the sun’s energy, 40% of which is infrared, the occupant and indeed any warm-blooded creature, absorbs and responds to this energy through their skin and their inbuilt circulatory system. Heat is then distributed evenly and at a pace to suit the comfort criteria of the body.”
Solar water heating comes courtesy of tubes at roof level and rain water is used for both sanitary and gardening use. While Morehead is coy about the overall cost of the build, he is keen to press home the savings that can be made on home heating, especially at a time when energy companies are raising prices.
“You can heat a home like this for just €150 to €200 a year,” says Morehead. “You are independent of all the price hikes and can live with consistent comfort levels.
“The project confirms that a carefully tuned passive solar design can meet the passive-house standards cost effectively.”
Many people appear confused about how PassivHaus and the code for sustainable homes can run in parallel, 'Does one compliment the other?’
To obtain the definitive answer, we need to remember that us that Passivhaus focuses on building fabric and performance without the use of renewable technology. Typically a PassivHaus will achieve code energy rating of level 4 or 5. This means that it is an ideal methodology for achieving the higher level of the overall code rating, whilst also minimising the cost of renewables.
Principles And Performance
The term 'PassivHaus' refers to a specific construction standard for buildings which have excellent comfort conditions in both winter and summer. These principles can be applied not only to the residential sector but also to commercial, industrial and public buildings. For houses, it is claimed that this is the world's leading standard in energy efficient construction. They are designed and built using a step-by-step approach with efficient components and a whole house ventilation system to achieve exceptionally low running costs to create something which is comfortable, healthy and sustainable.
There's an interesting article in Green Building Magazine www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk written by Justin Bere about a talk given in London by Wolfgang Feist who founded the German PassivHaus Institute in Darmstadt.
The fundamental objective of PassivHaus design is unambiguously to cut energy consumption and to provide accurate design tools to measure the expected energy consumption in a clear, accurate, numerical way. Germans really don't have time for vagueness and are aware of the requirements set out in UK Building Regulations. However many of our Code level features are incorporated, no one can circumnavigate the essential requirement to produce a building designed to use less than 15kWh/m2/annum supplementary heat and no more than 120 kWh/m2/annum primary energy [total of heating, lighting, hot water, appliances and any cooling). No box ticking wood chip boiler - nothing will let the PassivHaus architect, developer or builder circumnavigates this fundamental, verifiable bottom-line requirement for PassivHaus certification.
The simple techniques necessary to achieve PassivHaus design are: Insulation [typically 30cm thick]; PassivHaus windows [airtight, triple glazed with thoroughly insulated frames achieving an overall U-value of 0.8 including the frame]; Airtight construction [max 0.6 air changes/hr under 50 pascals pressure] with very efficient mechanical heat recovery ventilation. Assuming that these three main performance targets are met, together with detailing to eliminate cold bridging and numerous other detailed requirements prescribed by the PHPP software, it is possible to eliminate the need for a boiler and the need for radiators or underfloor heating.
Comparing certain other UK building codes with the PassivHaus approach highlights difficulties in the UK codes that have been introduced in relative haste. By contrast the PassivHaus code has passed the test of time and Dr Feist is very careful to ensure that it remains truly robust. It is the very robust nature of the concept and the software that led the RIBA in a sustainability review to originally describe PassivHaus as 'The emerging European Standard.' Now there are about 17,000 buildings have been constructed worldwide, typically achieve an energy saving of 90% compared to existing housing principles.
The NHBC Foundation and Zero Carbon Hub have published 'A practical guide to building airtight dwellings'. It brings together the experiences of those who have already got to grips with air tightness for the benefits of designers and builders who have not. It provides solutions for common air leakage paths. Clearly, changes in the Building Regulations have now made air tightness an issue which cannot be ignored.
The Denby Dale Project
Typically, PassivHaus buildings are built using timber-frame construction or blockwork wall with external render. Green Building Store has succeeded in adapting the PassivHaus approach to British traditional building methods - by creating the first certified PassivHaus in the UK to use traditional cavity wall construction. Earlier this year the Denby Dale PassivHaus project in West Yorkshire received its official PassivHaus certification.
The project - built by Green Building Store's construction division Green Building Company - has pioneered the combination of low energy PassivHaus methodology with standard British cavity wall construction and building materials. Bill Butcher, Director of Green Building Store, said, "We chose cavity wall construction because most British builders are familiar with the technique and materials could be sourced easily from any builders' merchant. Cavity wall also met Yorkshire planning requirements for stone exteriors and was affordable for our clients. In addition, masonry construction, including cavity wall, offers a 'cave effect' which acts as a thermal mass, helping to keep temperatures stable in winter and summer".
It requires minimal heating - using 90% less energy for space heating than the UK average; £141 K build cost for the 118m2 three-bed detached house. Green Building Store's technical film 'PassivHaus low energy building in the UK' for building professionals is freely downloadable from www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk. The 60 minute film covers all stages of construction of the Denby Dale project.
What are the challenges?
Achieving the required level of air tightness, minimising the risk through good design and specification.
Is it costly to build?
European experience suggests an extra 6% is likely. There are not yet enough UK houses to make a proper comparison, although BRE is advising on a London project which has achieved PassivHaus for the same cost as a typical social housing one.
Are PassivHaus products widely available?
Yes but windows have at present time to be imported; they have generally been the reason for higher costs.
Will adopting PassivHaus facilitate compliance with buildings regs and the Code for Sustainable Homes?
Yes. If a compliant design specification is derived from PHPP [the PassivHaus Planning Package] and transposed into SAP, a 30-45% improvement in carbon emissions can be realised - without the use of heat-pump, biomass or other low carbon or renewable technology.
To help stimulate the uptake of renewable technologies in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) will provide support for wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) following the closure of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme Stream 1 grant for renewable electricity technologies in early February 2010. The following grants are available from the NIE SMART programme which is managed by NIE Energy on behalf of NIE:
|Photovoltaics||£2,000 per kWp or 30% of the relevant eligible costs, whichever is the lesser amount (Max. £10,000)|
|Wind||£900 per kWp or 30% of the relevant eligible costs, whichever is the lesser amount (Max. £4,500)|
Funding will not be available for retrospective installations – only applications submitted from the 8th March 2010 will be eligible for funding from this new grant (PV applications submitted from 19th July 2010 will be eligible for the increased grant levels).
The guidelines for support are available below:
- NIE Household Grant guidelines
- Microgeneration Certification Scheme installers
- Microgeneration Certification Scheme approved products
Please note that NIE does not guarantee or underwrite the performance of any technology and it is your responsibility to ask accredited installers (or the manufacturer) what reassurances they can provide in terms of the expected performance of the system.
Clarification on the position of MCS products which are in transition NIE Energy will consider applications from customers who are using an accredited MCS installer (whose details are listed on the MCS website) and an accredited product (even if it is just noted on the MCS website as being in ‘transition’). We have had confirmation from MCS that products which are in ‘transition’ are at some stage in the MCS certification process but we must advise customers and installers that we will be checking each application with MCS to make sure that the manufacturer of the product is actively engaged in the certification process with MCS. Applications may be refused if, after checking with MCS, it is discovered that a manufacturer is not actively pursuing the MCS certification.
It is your responsibility to check with your local authority about whether or not planning permission is required. Please note that you must have received confirmation about planning permission before submitting an application for grant funding from NIE. If you proceed without planning permission then your application will be invalid and you will not be able to claim a grant.
Please note that farmers who are on a domestic tariff with NIE Energy will be eligible to apply for the grant but farmers who are on a business tariff are not eligible.
Please download an application form here and fill it in carefully – you must sign the application form as your agreement to the terms and conditions of the grant. Link Below.
Please send your completed application form and a copy of your 2 quotes to:
Delta Hamilton NIE Energy Woodchester House 50 Newforge Lane Belfast BT9 5NW
Then please don’t start work until you have had confirmation from NIE Energy that your application has been successful.
If your application is accepted then you will then receive a grant offer letter – households who proceed with the work without having applied and received a NIE grant offer letter will not receive a grant. There will be no exceptions to this requirement.
This new NIE Household Grant is a limited offer and is available only on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Some installations will be profiled to raise awareness of the uptake of renewable energy in Northern Ireland.
All grant administration is managed by NIE Energy so if you require any further information about the grant please contact Delta Hamilton by emailing Delta.Hamilton@nieenergy.co.uk.