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‘Building standards’

English construction industry should play bigger part in EU plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions

One of the unknowns throughout the building work was how air-tight we could make Ridgeway. We were told it was more difficult with a conversion and we would be doing well if we got a 3 (m3/hr/m2 air loss at a pressure of 50 Pa).

I don’t understand the formula but the lower the number the better. English building regs for new houses is 10, while extensions and renovations do not have to be measured. At the start of the project I told Karl, the builder, that we were aiming at 1. His reaction was: “That would look good on the CV.”

The approach was to nag every tradesman who cam through the door, follow the architect’s instructions and use vast quantities of tape, expanding foam and mastic on every join and anything that looked like a hole.

The first test came out at 2.45 which comfortably meets both German and Swedish building regs. As we don’t need a further test to meet any standards I am not planning to spend the money on one. But we have identified leaks and closing those should bring the figure down to about 1. That is not quite Passivhaus but getting close.

We worked hard on plugging the gaps because air leakage would reduce the efficiency of the air-source heating and the mechanical heat recovery ventilation. Several people told me British workers could not build air tight. We have shown that they can given the right design and by ensuring that everyone working on the site was aware of the importance of blocking every possible leak.

But still major construction firms are apparently often struggling to meet even the inadequate English standard. The fact that on new estates only a sample of buildings are tested and the developer gets to choose which ones are does not help improve things.

With the news today that EU leaders have agreed a pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 improved standards in the construction industry become increasingly important. For anyone who tells me British workmen are the problem I now have the experience to respond: “Rubbish. They just need the right plans and committed managers.”






UK policies inhibit building to Passivhaus standard

UK building policy is inhibiting uptake of the Passivhaus standard, according to a new report on the lessons from Germany by the NHBC Foundation.

Worldwide 37,000 houses have been built to the German standard of which only 165 are in the UK. The report says a Passivhaus will have a  typical space heating requirement only half of that of a home built to UK building regulation standards.

It finds three areas which have made the standard popular in Germany:

Social: The German population has a strong interest in the environment and an associated inclination to take action….

Political: In addition to national regulations for the energy performance of buildings, many individual cities have chosen to set their own energy and environmental standards which mandate an even higher performance….

Financial: The cost of building a Passivhaus home in Germany is now estimated at 3 to 8% more than building a home to the building regulations (known in Germany as EnEV), and there is a variety of assistance available for financing this cost. Government and local loans are available at significantly discounted interest rates, and grants are available depending on the level of energy efficiency achieved.

The NHBC Foundation refers to suggestion that Passivehaus certification should be “deemed to satisfy” the energy component of UK building regs.

A story at Inside Housing, headed “UK unwilling to embrace high efficiency homes“, quotes Neill Smith, of the NHBC, saying:

There are lessons that we in the UK can learn from the attention to detail inherent in the Passivhaus approach in the run up to the government’s 2016 zero carbon homes target. But it is questionable whether Passivhaus is a realistic solution for the volume market at present.

The failure of the Green Deal, launched by the British government this week, to offer discounted interest rates has been one of the main criticisms. We really do need to learn from Germany.