Passive pioneers on the CREST of breakthrough

A major milestone was reached last week (Thursday 30th July) in the progression of the Passive House standard in Northern Ireland with the inaugural meeting of the Northern Passive House Chapter being held at CREST in Enniskillen.

Organised by South West College in association with the Passive House Association of Ireland, the Northern Passive House Chapter has been set up to facilitate networking amongst professional with an interest in Passive House, to share knowledge regarding the standard and to encourage its wider adoption in the region. It is one of three Chapters that have been set up on the island of Ireland with the other two being in Cork and Waterford. It is the first Chapter to have been set up in Northern Ireland and will serve the whole of the North including the border counties of Ireland. A group of 20 people attended the meeting including architects, builders, window suppliers and academics.

The Passive House standard has been embraced by a significant number of building professionals in Ireland and is on the cusp of being mainstreamed in some areas. For example, Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown Council is seeking to make the standard mandatory for all new dwellings. In Northern Ireland, adoption of the standard has been slower with a few notable exceptions among some pioneering architects and builders.


Willie Moffitt presenting the first Passive House dwelling to be built in Northern Ireland


Northern Chapter chairperson Paul McAlister said, “In recent times, Northern Ireland has been behind the Republic in terms of its adoption of high standards of energy efficiency and it is time to catch up”.

One of Northern Ireland’s ‘passive pioneers’, Willie Moffitt of Moffitt and Robinson Construction, gave an interesting presentation at the meeting regarding a house he built near Omagh which was the first Passive House certified dwelling to be built in Northern Ireland.

He said, “At first, I set out to build a house that was low energy concentrating on the building fabric and making sure it was very well insulated. During a visit to the site by Tomas O’Leary of MosArt, we realised that I’d only need to add some additional insulation and make minor modifications to the design to achieve the Passive House standard. I was taking a common sense approach to building a house using thermal bridge free materials, insulating it very well, making it airtight and ensuring ventilation was controlled and comfortable – and that in a nutshell is what the Passive House standard is all about.”

The heating costs of the house that Willie built are incredibly low. The main heating is provided using solar thermal panels which are usually used just for producing hot water. In this case Willie made adjustments to the system so that it would provide both space heating in addition to hot water. A wood burning stove is also used but such is the efficiency of the insulation, a single load of logs can provide heat for the house for a couple of days. Further heating comes from cooking, from the occupants and from the positioning and size of the windows which enable heat gains from the sun. No oil or gas is used for heating.

Future meetings of the Chapter will generally be held in the CREST Passive Pavilion which as the name suggests is itself a Passive House designed building. It was agreed that meetings will occasionally be held at other locations to make it easier for people to participate. Tim Stokes CREST Manager at South West College and secretary of the Chapter said, “We want to be inclusive to encourage people to join the Chapter and attend meetings so all will be welcome and we may hold meetings in other areas to enable people across the region to get involved”.

Dr Shane Colclough, Chairperson of the Passive House Association of Ireland who is leading research into Passive Housing at the University of Ulster said, “It’s great that we now have another Passive House Chapter set up on the island of Ireland. Interest in Passive House is growing exponentially and this bodes well for people who want to live in houses that are comfortable and cheap to run. Building professionals who adopt the standard will also benefit by establishing a reputation for quality”.

The next step on the journey for South West College, the Passive House Association of Ireland and the Northern Passive House Chapter will be the “Northern See the light Passive House Conference” to be held at CREST on 24th September 2015. This important conference is expected to attract architects, builders, academics and policy makers from across the region.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the Northern Passive House Chapter or the conference should contact Tim Stokes on 028 6634 2301.