PROCEEDINGS OF ‘SEE THE LIGHT’
10th Anniversary Conference
(The event is the leading Conference dealing with sustainability and low energy design within the built environment in Ireland)
(14th September 2012)
(Photographs are available)
Passive House Low Energy Design is thriving despite the difficulties of the Irish Construction Industry. This is good news.
In particular Passive House Low Energy Design is creating jobs in Ireland and could create more, in both services and manufacturing.
The current low energy legislative controls (DEAP and BER) are in need of upgrade and refinement. In doing so the ‘
Passive House Association of Ireland’ (PHAI) asks that Passive House, an internationally recognised standard, be adapted as the national standard, making Ireland, in effect the first sovereign state to do so.
Global warming and all of its implications is accelerating, Ireland has the potential to be a world leader in Passive House Design creating for itself prestige, exports and jobs, whilst at the same time meeting its Kyoto Protocol targets. This is a win-win situation.
The Passive House Association of Ireland calls on the Government to follow the example of Brussels, in adapting this standard, and to support and/or instigate a series of passive house exemplary buildings across the country in this regard immediately.
SEE THE LIGHT
(14th September 2012)
The 10th annual ‘See the Light’ Conference took place on Friday last the 14th of September at the City West Convention Centre in Saggart, Co Dublin. The event continues to be the leading Conference dealing with sustainability and low energy design within the built environment in Ireland. This year the conference was organised and promoted by the ‘Passive House Association of Ireland’ (PHAI) and speakers spoke under the conference theme of ‘10 more years of Active Sustainability and Passive House Design’. The conference was supported by the RIAI, the Passive House Academy and by the organisers of the Self Build Exhibition which ran concurrently with the conference.
In his introduction Martin Murray, Architect and Chairman of the PHAI spoke of the urgent need to act and legislate for heightened sustainable design and construction immediately, both to reflect Ireland’s real need in this regard, but to also protect and retain in Ireland the broad range of construction expertise and talent which has been developed within the country over previous years. He noted that the development of the ‘See The Light’ conference from its inception in 2002 through to 2012 directly paralleled also the development of the Passive House design concept over this period in Ireland. Ireland now leads the English speaking world in regards to experience and know how in passive design. Furthermore he stated that ‘there would be a significant benefit to Ireland were the country to adapt the passive house standard as a national standard, both in regard to promoting Ireland’s role in energy leadership and in creating and retaining jobs in an energy based economy’.
To echo this specific point and set the agenda for the day, Dr Paul Butler of Enterprise Ireland’s Shannon office spoke of the need to recognise and address Ireland’s significant exposure within the hydrocarbons market place. As peak oil has come and gone, as the politics of oil producing countries become increasing embroiled in civil war and civil unrest, we need as a country to strengthen our efforts towards reducing our annual energy importation bill of 6.5 billion euro for oil, coal and gas. The move toward an international low energy design platform such as ‘passive house’ would allow for a great reduction in building energy use and a growth in research and development pertaining to this. He highlighted the availability of research grants and/or innovation vouchers and suggested that one way forward within Ireland would be through the development of ‘passive house clusters’ across the country, including both services and manufacturing, as a way of promoting the public’s understanding of the issues involved in such design strategies.
A template for achieving exactly this was provided by the guest keynote speaker Ms Joke Dockx an engineer from Brussels, who spoke of that region’s progress in making passive house the key low energy standard for that region from 2015. Ms. Dockx of the Brussels Environment & Energy Department emphasised that this administrative decision was part of an ongoing progression toward low energy design which was now almost 18 years old.
One of the features of her presentation was the use of ‘exemplary buildings’ within the Brussels region to promote and prove the legitimacy of the passive house standard to both the general public and also to contractors and developers. The active selection of these projects derived from a yearly competition which was adjudicated upon across a range of objectives, with the selected projects financed with an average public grant of 100€ per m2. It was noteworthy that Brussels faces many challenges in promoting this strategy; a large proportion of buildings in the city centre are of conservation status, urban in nature and multiuse, issues that would arise were a similar scheme to be implemented say in Dublin, a city of similar size; and yet the passive project is accepted and has proved greatly influential in attracting visitors from across the world to see the progress on the ground. A further presentation in the morning session by Tomas O Leary of the Passive House Academy further reflected this possibility, as he spoke of his company’s efforts to promote passive house design in the United States, from their base in Wicklow, and the service and product benefits to be gained were Ireland to be seen as a country with developed expertise in this area. He reflected on the fact that passive standard windows are now being exported from Ireland to the USA, and that the market is growing.
A feature of the day was the quality and variety of technical presentations. These ranged from an excellent educational based refurbishment project based at the Cork Institute of Technology; the energy sensitive urban planning of Reddy Architecture and a presentation from the Department of Education and Skills on their two new passive house Primary Schools located within the commuter belts of Wicklow and Meath.. A particular feature of these latter two buildings was the fact that their original design was not intended to be passive but that this standard had been easily achieved due to their original low energy design reflecting compact plan, good orientation and appropriate fenestration. The morning session ended with a description of what is available in education terms around the country to promote passive house expertise and knowledge. The FÁS training centre in Finglas has created the world’s first ‘passive house educational facility for trades-persons’, while at the University of Ulster in Belfast, Dr. Shane Colclough described the passive house laboratory which allows manufacturers and construction professionals to calibrate and test passive house equipment, products and software. Its artificial solar array can replicate any sunny day of the year in Ireland in energy terms.
Undoubtedly the most interesting session of the day for practitioners, followed lunch where the whole ‘Designer’s Dilemma’ of using PHPP and DEAP to facilitate building design intentions was discussed. It is clear from these presentations that the current Building Regulations are not yet close to passive house standards and that they will continue to be stymied in this regard due to the continued acceptance of poor air tightness standards, (usually reflecting poor workmanship and design integration), poor software data sheets and correlations, and an over reliance on renewables to achieve ostensible high ‘A’ ratings for poor ‘low energy’ buildings. In this regard the anomaly of very low energy buildings specifically having to ‘over supply’ themselves with renewables so as to meet DEAP requirements was discussed in detail and with some level of disbelief by the delegates.
A presentation from self builder, Francis Clauson, an IT specialist and PHPP enthusiast, (and soon to be passive house owner), reflecting his experiences of dealing with both DEAP and PHPP, attracted significant favourable comment.
There was huge enthusiasm in response to his question as to whether an integrated piece of software, linking all data entry, for both DEAP and Passive House programmes would be attractive to the market place. However it was also suggested from the audience that linking BIM with PHPP would be, in the long term, of greater benefit.
What constituted an extraordinary insight for many of the conference delegates was the lack of varied or specific climate data available to underpin the current DEAP and BER calculations. (These are based on one climate station located in Dublin airport). John Morehead Architect spoke of the many and varied climate zones in Ireland which can give rise to a variety of energy use profiles for a building depending on location, and how the BER software is simply neither location nor orientation sensitive; which seemed an extraordinary characteristic of what is proposed to be a facilitator of national energy policy. It was emphasised that BER’s are by their nature an indicative certificate only and lack the complexity and accuracy of PHPP in assessing the manner by which a building uses energy. It was pointed out also that a public consultation document will be issued by SEAI in 2013 to reflect an update of the DEAP process.
The final session of the afternoon was an invigorating ‘PechaKucha’ (20 by 20) series of Case Studies of six completed passive house projects, ranging from private and social housing throughout the island, (both North and South), to a train drivers canteen and changing facility completed by Irish Rail and a Dublin Nursing Home. The technical detailing of the projects, the achieved on-site construction finishes, and the perceivable standards and comforts of the completed projects was spectacular. These will hopefully form content for future nationwide evening events or ‘passive house briefings’ around the country which PHAI have initiated since 2011.
In summing up the day Martin Murray of PHAI paid thanks to the conference delegates, speakers and supporters for creating a day of tremendous insight, and reflective of great technical ability; he emphasised however that the international window of opportunity to reflect the ‘early mover’ advantage in low energy design for Ireland was small; despite our great contribution to date to the development of passive house design within the English speaking world. Both DEAP and BER as a means of developing low energy design in Ireland were undoubtedly beneficial, but could never serve more than the moribund Irish property market. By contrast, through the internationally recognised passive house design methodology, Ireland could generate real job creation, create better low energy buildings with real scientific technical underpinnings and develop an international reputation for being an energy world leader.
The benefits to Ireland, as a Sovereign State, to be the first to make passive house it’s national, low energy design standard, would enable the country to make a significant mark on the international stage; he encouraged all present to pursue this matter with all of their elected representatives. A full programme of passive house events was also referenced during the day and to follow these refer to www.phai .ie
Martin Murray MRIAI Chairperson Passive House Association of Ireland
Passive House Association of Ireland, 63 Lower Mount Street, (1st Floor), Dublin 2 01 674 5773 www.phai.ie and firstname.lastname@example.org