Tag Archives: eco homes

on passivhaus challenges

Su Butcher  has posted an excellent and very useful comment on PassivHaus  being about saving energy over on her blog, Just Practicing.  I did comment there in brief but here is a more detailed response.

Relationship with Code 6 and Carbon Definition  As was reported from the Zero Hub consultation Passiv Haus is the aspirational target of the UK zero carbon definition, not only for domestic but for a wider scope of building.  

Challenges  The PassivHaus challenges are not just within in design. (With all the eco-kit, materials, knowledge and lessons from PassivHaus in use out there, the ‘design’ of passivhaus is now arguably just a process to repeat)

Challenges lie, in my view, in three areas:

Construction. Construction of PassivHaus will require a far higher level of quality and fit than we are used to (at least in the UK) .  Research at Leeds Met is showing that the retro investigation and remedial work to fix or improve on failed air tightness tests can be prohibitively expensive and may well become commonplace.

I am excited and impressed that one of my clients, a Lancashire house building contractor are building /eco- refurbing one of their own properties to learn and understand the new issues involved in PassivHaus  (they are also doing the same to CSH6  + I hope to get a case study together soon)

End Users – the challenge here is to engage with the hearts and minds of potential PassivHaus dwellers. Ask anyone (esp with a family) if they would want to live in a PH and most often the response would be no.  And that is on the house ‘image’ – there is also the life style of living in a sealed box with minimal user ventilation that needs addressing.  This may apply to all modern eco-homes in what Greer refers to unforgivingly vertical houses not being designed for practical family life. (And does anyone else have the Peter Seger song Little Boxes playing in the mind when looking at / reviewing / visiting modern new eco homes?)

Existing Stock – Here the challenge is to move the PassivHaus  debate and design considerations away from new build home to PassivHaus eco renewal, and away from just homes to commercial, industrial and public buildings. 

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news on eco homes

More news on the eco homes / eco towns devolpment

In Ireland:

ALL new homes built from 2013 onwards will have to be carbon neutral and emit no harmful greenhouse gases, the Irish Independent has learned.

Solar panels, woodchip burners, wind turbines and triple-glazing windows will become standard features on new housing under ambitious plans outlined by Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday.

Mr Gormley plans to change the building regulations so that “passive” housing becomes the Irish norm. Tougher regulations will also apply to office blocks and other developments.

and from Green Building in Cornwall

Swan Country Homes recently won a national competition with it’s design for a zero carbon Urban Village for Restormel Borough Council as part of the Urban Village Phase 2 in St Austell, Cornwall. Planning permission has been granted and construction is underway.

The scheme which will encourage inclusive community living will provide affordable homes that have low environmental impact by minimising harmful carbon emissions. The development will comprise 19 units, 6 lifetime houses and 13 one and two bedroom apartments plus an area of community space.

wanted … eco home builder

I have for a while now been exploring Second Life’s contribution to the built environment – on themes of collaboration, education and usability.

One of these ideas is to create a UK Level 6 Eco Home within second life to use as an educational device. A meeting a month or so ago with Pam Broviak (Public Works Director for the City of LaSalle, Illinois) has led to a collaborative project forming an International Eco-Code Park within Second Life. The Public Work island already contains a US Code House, demonstrating how such virtual builds can be used effectively.

Read more over on Pam’s Public Works blog

The island also contains a brilliant bridge tour built by TEEX enabling you to view all risks and hazards of concrete bridge construction. Read a review in the latest, hot of the press, copy of GridWorks

So a plot of land has been cleared, signs put in place, across the street from the US Code House to build a UK level 6 eco home. Perhaps a Dunster (level 7) home or Hanham Hall home? (Location on Public Works)

We are now seeking support from designers and SL builders to help on this exciting project. If you are a SL builder, educator or would like to fund and support this project please do get in touch. (or IM Brand Woodin or Pam Renoir from within Second Life)

When complete, or indeed even in construction, the international eco-code park will enable educational tours and visits from colleges and universities, on site workshops and discussions along with the show casing of real world eco solutions and material. It is even anticipated the homes could be used to give building code assessors more awareness and depth to training – as the existing TEEX bridge and Code house do already.

If you do not have a Second Life – join up through our dedicated Public Work registration site – you will arrive in Second Life at the Public Works Island and meet other built environment professionals there who will assist with any questions.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Worlds greenest city and eco home?

Is the German city of Freiburg, the  worlds greenest Eco City? Is the Passiv Haus the most effective and efficient Eco-Home? If so why are we not learning for eco-homes and eco-towns in the UK ?

Also, more on Eco Cities at Eco City 2008

on learning from eco-challenges …

What can we learn from the fact that bidders are pulling out of the next carbon-challenge project at Peterborough? (Shortlisted bidders flee from EP flagship project)

Could it be English Partnerships are using a traditional, cost based procurement route? Even with PQQ and other ability or capability ‘gates’ selection may still be based on cost. This could lead to the all too familiar high price of low cost syndrome, but as long as cost remains the main selection paradigm we are not going to think differently about sustainability, carbon zero, social responsibility and all things green.

What an opportunity we are missing. Eco challenge projects must do the same for our industry as Building Down Barriers did for partnering, collaboration and supply chain management a decade or so ago.

Why cannot the builders, designers and others be selected on improvement criteria (- ability and solutions in reducing carbons to zero, in design and in the construction process) and of improvement in cost – yes reducing cost at the same time through waste and improvement initiatives.

The oft quoted 30% waste (time, materials, energy, value, effort) in construction could more than pay for carbon zero and sustainability improvements.

We have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate and to learn that we can get close to zero carbon, level 6 and all that without adding costs to the overall project – if combined with basic and proven improvement approaches.

The alternative? continue with business as usual from a construction perspective, with the exception of integrating some natty designs and product solutions, and continue to moan about the costs …

is the code for sustainable homes working

Building Design asks the question is the code working and carries two viewpoints. Andy von Bradsky sees it as credible tool that will evolve and allow us to lead the field in zero carbon futures, whereas Mark Brinkley sees it as a graveyard of intentions.

The article finishes with a what do you think prompt…

I couldn’t resist replying, and include my post to that page below

Code level 6 is, as I have mentioned more than once, the wrong tool for the wrong job.

Why?

It doesn’t pick up on the wider sustainable communities issues, the triple bottom line and CSR issues that contribute to sustainable homes/developments, ie the eco-home within the context of an eco-place.

More importantly it does not address the construction process as Mark illustrates, allowing business as usual for the builders, other than integrating or assembly new bits of building kit. (I was not surprised to hear that the Hanham Hall project will not be monitoring or attempting to improve the carbon footprint of the construction process)

I also question whether we (the UK) are indeed leading the field in zero carbon futures. Are we not just waiting to be led by legislation, and then complaining when its too hard, too expensive, too different ? (as illustrated by bidders pulling out of the next eco-challenge project at Peterborough). I sense elsewhere they are just getting on and doing it – because it makes good sense, commercially, for image, and for the planet.

Time for a re-think on this one. But then thats what targets are for – to learn and improve.

Postscript:

Jonathan Poritt’s view point on this is well worth a read – as he says, Continue reading