International Passivhaus Conference 2012 – blog by Chris Herring

Chris Herring, Director, Green Building Store

It’s Thursday morning, and I am in Hanover for the 16th International Passivhaus Conference.  I first attended the international conference in 2007, when it was set in an opera house on the edge of the Bodensee in Austria.  At that time there were very few delegates from the UK, and apart from a handful of enlightened pioneers, Passivhaus was virtually unknown in the UK, and we certainly had no certified buildings.  All that has of course changed.  We now have a good number of certified buildings under our belts, including private houses, social housing, schools and offices, and a large number in the pipeline.  We also have burgeoning interest in all things Passivhaus in the UK, and we have the Passivhaus Trust, now nearly 2 years old.  And of course we held our own 2 day conference in November last year at the Barbican, with another one planned for this year.

So in the UK, Passivhaus is now very much on the map, certainly for those seriously interested in improving both the comfort and energy efficiency of buildings. At this years international conference, the UK is well represented, with a good number of presentations ranging from Jono Hynes, of Architype talking about the first UK schools, to Andy Simmonds, of Simmonds Mills talking about the first UK Passivhaus retrofit (to the new Enerphit standard), and UK policy on retrofit.

The conference actually starts tomorrow, but today I am attending a new initiative, the ‘manufacturer’s exchange’.  This is an opportunity to discuss technical issues around product delivery, with a particular focus on windows and doors, which is my particular technical interest.

What am I particularly interested in at this conference?  Well, apart from the great opportunities for networking – old friends from all over the world, and new contacts – what I am looking out for is an announcement and presentation on revised criteria for different climatic zones.  It might sound rather dry, but the Passivhaus Institut has recognised that the demands of Passivhaus construction are different in different climatic zones.  We do not necessarily need the same products to meet the comfort criteria in the relatively mild UK, as would be needed in the much colder central European climate.  The impact of any changes will be very significant for manufacturers of windows and doors, and might well over time make a big difference to the availability of suitable windows and doors for Passivhaus construction in the UK. So I shall be listening out for this with keen interest.

This year, I am primarily representing the Passivhaus Trust, as Chair and on Sunday evening I shall be proud to represent the UK and the Trust at a meeting of all organisations throughout the world which are affiliated to the International Passivhaus Association.  Passivhaus is developing fast throughout the world, and I believe it is absolutely vital that the movement is as well structured as possible, with the best possible lines of communication.  Fragmentation or duplication of the Standard is not in my view the best way for us to ensure integrity and continued quality assurance.  So I see this international work as vital to the continuation of Passivhaus as a beacon for construction throughout the world, and hope I can contribute in some small way to it.

But above all, I suppose, it will be about people, and I am looking forward to meeting old friends, and making new ones, in the next few days.

2 responses to “International Passivhaus Conference 2012 – blog by Chris Herring”

  1. Colm O hAonghusa says:

    re “We do not necessarily need the same products to meet the comfort criteria in the relatively mild UK, as would be needed in the much colder central European climate.”

    Just wondering how you would see the certification process for “PH-UK” type products?
    I understand the drive for such changes, the same issue is driving the schism between PHI and PHI-US (or whatever they call themselves now.)

    Trade association certification wont work so I wonder who will do the necessary in UK. As you know the certification needs to include the detailed installation instructions: no point in spec-ing a £20,000 3G-low emissivity etc etc sliding door unit to have it fitted with some foam and a daub of silicone here and there:)
    Kind Regards, Colm

    • Chris Herring says:

      Thanks for your comment. I can now update things now that the conference has finished.

      Just to clarify, I was not advocating any sort of break away certification at all. In fact I think it is vital that the movement does not fragment and start creating ad hoc certifications or break away groups. If this happens, the credibility of the standard will be reduced. The US example could not illustrate this more clearly. Personally I am working hard in my role as Chair of the Passivhaus Trust to encourage the international community to work together, and with PHI and not to fragment in this way.

      I knew the Institut was working on different climate zones, and I had hoped that the UK might be in a different zone from central Europe. A relaxation of the assumptions for comfort criteria might have permitted a solid frame to certify in the UK, and this would in my view have dramatically improved the supply chain at a stroke, and reduced the cost of PH suitable windows. Although there is no requirement to use certified or certifiable windows for a certified building, many specifiers will feel more confident doing so.

      However, the announcement from the Institut was for 7 climate zones, with the UK part of the ‘cool temperate’ zone along with much of central Europe. So window certification will remain unchanged for the UK. I am disappointed, but in the end all classifications of this sort will suffer from very coarse resolution, so it is just one of those things.

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