Technical Briefing – Ecological Building Systems

Pictured L-R: Paul McAlister, Michael Hanratty, Maurice Falvey, Niall Crosson, Gary O’Sullivan, Emmet Nee

On the 10th of October Patron Member Ecological Building Systems hosted at their training centre in Athboy the PHAI technical briefing on the topic of Ventilation and Air Quality. The event was very well attended, which goes to show there is a desire to learn and become informed on the issues discussed.

The event was opened by PHAI Chair and Passivhaus Architect Paul McAlister, who reiterated the goals of the PHAI to educate and bring Passivhaus to the whole of Ireland both North and South.

After the opening speech, Niall Crosson from Ecological Building Systems delivered the first presentation on the theme of: Putting People First, Airtightness and Indoor Air Quality. The presentation provided an overview of the basic principles of airtightness, and referred to numerous publications with conflicting views as to the benefits and health implications of low energy buildings. While energy efficiency is very important it must not be to the detriment of comfort and a healthy living environment. Reducing the risk of mould and maintaining a healthy living environment has been proven to be attained in airtight buildings with controlled ventilation. It’s been also highlighted that while ventilation is crucial it is essential to become more aware of the materials we use to construct.

Niall Crosson, Technical Group Manager at Ecological Building Systems

Maurice Falvey, Director of Nilan Ireland, followed Niall’s speech with a presentation titled: Ventilation, Air heating and Cooling in Low Energy Passivhaus/nZEB buildings. Among the many points in his presentation Maurice highlighted the ability of his ventilation system to contribute to both heating and cooling a building. A highlight in his presentation was the monitored indoor air quality in the recently completed Madeira Oaks project, where CO2 levels remained almost permanently below 1000ppm, whereas in conventional naturally ventilated buildings these levels are often far exceeded. What is impressive about Madeira Oaks is that this housing scheme was completed with no additional building fabric costs compared to conventional buildings to TGD Part L.

Maurice Falvey, Director of Nilan Ireland

Maurice was followed by Gary O’Sullivan of NSAI. Gary presented: Airtightness testing and Thermal modelling standards. Gary highlighted that there will be a steep uptake in demand for NSAI registered blower door testers with the latest review to TGD Part L for Non Domestic Buildings targeting NZEB, with much more onerous levels of airtightness required. Gary Also highlighted the significant influence the default thermal bridging factors can have on overall building performance when one carries out a BER assessment, all the more reason for seeking to attain better thermal bridging factors compared to the defaults employed in TGD Part L.

Gary O’Sullivan from NSAI

Following on Gary’s technical presentation, it was time to view a more practical presentation from Emmet Nee of Long Life Structures titled: Fabric First case study – through the contractor’s eyes.
Emmet presented the first Passivhaus he built in 2010. Emmet opened up by comparing how a builder approached a standard build in the past compared to a Passivhaus building. He shared many of the real challenges which occur on site. He also highlighted the benefits of using GUTEX woodfibre board on the outside of the house. Despite never using it before, as a carpenter working with GUTEX was second nature and he has been using woodfibre board insulation since.

Emmet Nee of Long Life Structures

Last but by no means least, Michael Hanratty, MD of Irish Home Energy Rating delivered the presentation: The road to NZEB in Ireland.
Michael outlined the significant changes to TGD Part L which are fast approaching to attain NZEB. This will see an improvement in performance in the region of 60% over 2008 TGD Part L. There will be major improvements in backstop U values, airtightness, thermal bridging, window performance, lighting, controls and renewables to name a few. Michael went on to describe the Episcope/Tabula project. The overall strategic objective of the Episcope project was to make the energy refurbishment processes in the European housing sector transparent and effective. This helps ensure that the climate protections targets will actually be attained and that corrective or enhancement actions can be taken in due time if needed. The data and information Michael has to hand in relation to the energy performance of existing houses are incredible: Ireland needs to spend at least €1 billion per year from now to 2050 to meet our 80% reduction targets, which highlight the crucial role that Passivhaus/Enerphit and nZEB must play.

Michael Hanratty, MD of Irish Home Energy Rating

The PHAI would like to thank once more all the speakers, and especially its Patron Members Ecological Building Systems for hosting the event and Nilan, for being part of it.
More information about training and events coming up with Ecological Building Systems can be viewed here.