Several of us from Green Building Store attended the Conference this year. I really appreciated attending the talks, saying hello to people I had met at the AECB conference and who we work with and also meeting some new people whose names I knew, but had never met. Below is a quick overview of some of the things that I took away from the Conference.
International Progress on Adopting Passivhaus
Tomàs O’Leary from Passive House Academy gave an overview of how successful different places were being at getting Passivhaus into building regulations, with varied strategies and interesting results.
• New York has been retrofitting older houses (classic brownstone type) to the EnerPHit standard, which has had the effect of reducing the kit needed for air conditioning and heating and also enabling occupiers to reclaim their roof areas. One interesting reflection from New York’s experience was that sometimes not using the word Passivhaus, but focusing on the heating demand and other criteria, as well as comfort and other benefits, makes it easier to sell.
• Brussels is using an adapted ‘retooled’ version of their SAP which has enabled them to take building regulations to a near Passivhaus level. They considered that demanding PHPP would be too onerous and would not have been successful. However many designers do use PHPP to ensure their building works. A top-up fund was used to encourage the uptake of Passivhaus in the city, which proved very successful.
• Vancouver has now adopted Passivhaus for all newbuilds. Canada is also apparently looking at making its own version of the Passivhaus standard for national building regulations.
• Dublin’s efforts to adopt Passivhaus in one of its districts is still in its early stages and has been proving challenging thus far.
Jasper Meade from PYC spoke about the situation in Wales and said that there were proposals to have Welsh top up fund to help people build to the Passivhaus standard. The idea is that projects building to higher energy standards than the building regulations can apply for funds to make up the difference. It sounded an interesting approach and a possible opportunity for them to meet the European NZEB directive.
UK Passivhaus projects for local authorities
Lee Fordham from Architype spoke about Passivhaus dementia care home design for Exeter City Council, (St Loyes Extra Care Scheme). This was inspiring architectural design, with the layout and design of the project innovatively adapted to cater for the social and medical needs of the occupants. Rooms with visual links to public spaces in the building and the outside; corridors with thinking seats at the junctions; MVHR filters externally accessible for maintenance; circular walks outside, bringing you back to where you have started from; opportunities to engage with growing plants whether you can walk or are in a wheelchair and much more. This was a highlight for me. Passivhaus is just the foundation for great design.
The building is also designed to have natural materials (Exeter City Council’s additional Bau Biologie requirement) and has also been designed to cope with 2080 climate change data. One interesting aside in the talk was that Lee commented Passivhaus is cheaper than the previous Code for Sustainable Homes Code 4 because there are less reports and bolt-ons required.
Tomas Gartner from Gale & Snowden also spoke about a Bristol Council infill site Passivhaus pilot project and ways the project had sought to minimise trades and rationalise the building fabric to make it easy to deliver. The airtightness strategy of having the airtight layer on the inside with wet plaster makes it easy to check.
The cost of Passivhaus
Overall comments on cost across the conference indicate very differing experiences. Norwich has found that Passivhaus has cost 17% more to build but they have only managed to get a 5% uplift in sale cost at their Rayne Park project. Nottingham’s pilot Passivhaus project had cost 21% over building regulations. Tomas Gartner said that he thought that the tendency for local authorities to undertake small pilot developments, which had the unfortunate effect of creating the impression of higher costs, when this was due to the small scale of the projects. Obviously, the cost of materials will come down in cost with economies of scale and mass purchasing.
Tomas Gartner also suggested that designing a standard approach to the buildings (including the materials and detailing), and accepting that some orientations and forms of houses would meet Passivhaus standard and some would not, was a reasonable and pragmatic approach to delivering high quality housing and would still mean that they would all still be really good buildings to live in.
Things to watch for the future
There were interesting presentations on indoor air quality and the (positive) impact of Passivhaus on occupants’ health and wellbeing. Clearly this is an area where more research and monitoring is needed. I would also have liked to have attended the talks on embodied carbon and the use of natural materials. There were too many interesting choices!
The importance of visiting a Passivhaus
Lastly, there was also much emphasis on the importance of getting policy makers out of their offices into Passivhaus buildings so that they can feel for themselves what it means. Let’s hope they will be talking the opportunity to visit Passivhaus homes and buildings during the forthcoming Passivhaus Open Days 10-12 November!
Links to UKPHC17 presentations – coming soon
Camilla Govan, Business Development Manager (Operations), Green Building Store