(from Hattie Hartmann’s blog at the Architects Journal -blog.emap.com/footprint)

Architype reports from Monday’s PassivHaus conference

Posted on October 14th, 2010 by sustainability

Guest blogger Jonathan Hines of Architype

I am critical of the UK’s current ‘zero-carbon’ targets. Carbon-based targets allow poorly designed buildings to consume too much energy and offset with expensive on-site renewable generation. Instead at Architype we simply design buildings to use less energy. Rather than relying on expensive and often inefficient techno-fixes, we seek to make the architecture itself do the hard work in saving energy. Using less energy guarantees that less carbon is emitted. Reducing energy consumption achieves costs savings from day one, and throughout the life of the building. These are the principles that underlie ‘Passivhaus.’

Passivhaus is based on achieving optimum building comfort within a specific, and very low, energy target. The Passivhaus standard is designed to create buildings that are comfortable and energy efficient. The combination of an air-tight, super-insulated building fabric and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery reduces energy requirements by up to 85% and provides a draught-free environment with excellent air quality.
I was therefore delighted to attend the UK Passivhaus Conference at Islington Town Hall on Monday 11th October. This was an impressively organised and very well attended event - promoting and exploring how Passivhaus could work in the UK. It included case studies, site visits, workshops, debate, an exhibition of Passivhaus products and numerous networking opportunities.

It ranged from inspirational case studies illustrating some of the first UK Passivhaus projects to highly technical discussions about weather date and certification, from informal networking to the formal launch of the Passivhaus Trust, from rickshaw tours around local passivhaus projects to a keynote speech from Chris Huhne Secretary of State, from an exhibition of suppliers to the launch of a new film.

Alexis Rowell, director of the conference, launched the day with an overview of Passivhaus. The first presentation was the showing of ’Ice Challenge 2010,’ a film of UEL students building two small structures, one to building regs and the other to Passivhaus, followed by the monitoring of the melting of a block of ice in each. No surprises in the result, but a lovely illustration of the energy benefit of Passivhaus.

The video link keynote speech by Wolfgang Feist from Germany suffered from some technical problems over Skype, but enabled the audience to hear firsthand the founder of Passivhaus and the Passivhaus Institute.

A series of case study presentations illustrated the real life experience of a number of the first Passivhaus projects in the UK, New build, residential – Denby Dale, Yorkshire by Bill Butcher, Green Building Store, New build, social housing – Ebbw Vale, Wales by Justin Bere, bere:architects, New build, office – Disability Essex office building by Andy Simmonds, Simmonds-Mills Architects, and retrofit residential – Victorian houses in west London by Edward Borgstein, Green Tomato Energy.Lunch was provided by Waterhouse Restaurant, one of London’s greenest restaurants. It is a social enterprise created and owned by Shoredith Trust and provides opportunities for local people, who might not otherwise get them, to access careers in food.

The afternoon offered a choice of visits to local live projects (new build and retrofit housing, and a community centre), or more technical workshops (on certification, thermal bridging, fabric moisture, UK weather data, and using PHPP).

Stephen’s Coleman’s Aubert House, N1