From Niche to Normal: Better Building Conference, Dublin 2013
‘From niche to normal’ was a concept presented by Brian Motherway, CEO of SEAI, during his keynote address at the Better Building Conference held in Dublin in April 2013. This brilliantly captured the notion that improved building performance is no longer for the few or fanatics on the margins but rather must now be recognised simply as what to expect.
The conference overall covered a range of topics ranging from policies, strategies and frameworks at the EU and national levels to different approaches to energy conservation, right down to construction detailing. It was structured thematically, with distinct subjects being grouped in sets of presentations. Together these addressed sustainability and energy conservation in respect of a host of different contexts and concepts, such as, DEAP with its focus on primary energy, Passive House intent (among other things) on reducing space heating, The Living Building Challenge, water, urban environments and deep retrofitting. The emergence of support structures and mechanisms, not least the pay-as-you-save approach, were important in signalling financial means for realising the kind of improvements in performance that over the next few years are becoming normal if Ireland is to play its role in meeting European energy savings requirements by 2050.
It was interesting to note a broadening of thinking from simply energy-saving to an embracing of comfort and health in buildings, as exemplified by the approach of the Irish Green Building Council. This is particularly important in Ireland where, admittedly in accordance with EU directives, there tends to be too narrow a concern for reduced primary energy. In parallel with this issue, some flawed thinking in respect of thermal bridging and vapour movement / condensation risk was highlighted in nationally recommended construction details or draft retrofit guidelines recently issued.
Given the range and diversity of topics different interests were catered for quite well.
– Art McCormack