There is nothing new about designing buildings to make best use of local or recycled materials or to require very little energy to make them habitable. We only need to look back a few centuries in the UK or at the present Third World to see sustainable buildings which had very little impact on the environment, either locally or globally, and which still met the needs of the occupants. These are the original ‘eco-homes’ but they existed in a totally different, non-globalised world for people with far less demanding and complex lifestyles

Successive Governments in the UK have failed miserably to keep pace with energy conservation legislation in other European countries which have a similar climate. Modest improvements in the Building Regulations and the introduction of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) were moves in the right direction but they were woefully inadequate and not enforced. The discredited Green Deal was a loan-based scam which achieved virtually nothing in terms of reducing energy use. If we are to achieve our stated aim of achieving zero carbon new homes by 2025, even if we could agree what that means, we are going to need stronger legislation which is more strictly enforced to have any chance of success

Having introduced feed-in tariffs (FIT) for micro-generation of electricity and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme to offer financial support for the installation of renewable heating systems, the Government has gradually reduced or removed the subsidies. This may have represented another step in the right direction towards real sustainable buildings but it diverts attention from our key challenge of reducing energy consumption and heat losses from new and existing buildings by increasing their levels of insulation and air-tightness. We need to concentrate on reducing energy demand by building better rather than trying to find ways to generate more energy. We need a ‘fabric first’ approach to the design

There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know”

Ambrose Bierce (1824-1914)

PassivHaus

Following research by Dr Wolfgang Feist, in 1991 the PassivHaus Institute in Germany was founded and developed a tried and tested, ‘fabric first’ method of constructing very sustainable buildings that provide a light, healthy and comfortable environment all year round while consuming very little energy. The principles of a PassivHaus building are simple. The building fabric has very high levels of insulation and air-tightness, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) and orientation of glazing to maximize natural solar gain

The whole business of sustainable building design has become a rather dodgy bandwagon covered in greenwash and decorated with eco-bling renewables. We aim to see through the greenwash by applying the PassivHaus principles to deliver real low-energy buildings, concentrating on a well-insulated and air-tight building that can benefit from natural solar gain and only recommending to the use of renewable technologies when energy demand from the insulated, airtight building fabric has been reduced to the absolute minimum

For more information on PassivHaus and how new bold design can help you achieve PassivHaus standards click here »

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