The CIF object to passive house, but do they have a clue what it is?

The head of the Construction Industry Federation has warned against local authorities mandating the passive house standard, while not appearing to understand what passive houses are. Interviewed on RTE 1's Today with Seán O'Rourke yesterday, Construction Industry Federation director general Tom Parlon mistakently claimed that passive houses require rainwater harvesting systems and solar photovoltaic systems "and a lot of different expensive extras".

Talking about proposals by local authorities to set higher standards than building regulations for housing, Parlon said:

"It's a little bit like buying a car. You can buy a car with leather seats, automatic transmission, air conditioning if you can afford it. But you can buy a perfectly workable car less than that. One suggestion about one local authority is that they might be seeking only passive houses. Now this is the highest level of energy efficiency and would include rainwater harvesting and photovoltaics and a lot of different expensive extras. And clearly people can't afford to do that."

Parlon went on to talk about proposals on densities and garden sizes, and mentioned he talks about €50,000 being added to the cost of a house. When Sean O'Rourke asked him what would add €50,000 Parlson said: "Well I'm not sure exactly what building a passive house is, but it is very, very substantial extra cost in terms of building one up to the current national minimum requirements which are very, very substantial at the moment for Ireland."

The new issue of Passive House Plus magazine includes several examples which contradict this claim, including a block-built passive house in Co Kildare estimated by builder Pat Doran Construction - a CIF member - to have cost €20,000 less to build than the department’s own suggested specification from its regulatory impact analysis on the 2011 changes to Part L of building regulations.

>Cork-based builder Magner Homes, who tend to use traditional cavity wall construction, state that passive houses cost no more than those constructed to the current building regulations and have built four passive houses for under €100 per sq ft - the sort of sum that houses were typically built for towards the peak of the boom, when building regulations made very modest demands.

Indeed, CIF member Michael Bennett & Sons is currently offering 1160 sq ft three-bed semi-ds built to the passive house standard in Enniscorthy for an asking price of €170,000. The timber frame homes will have an estimated combined annual space heating and hot water cost of just €200.

I would urge the CIF to engage with us, study up on what passive houses actually are, and what they're actually costing to build in Ireland at present, before adding further confusion to the public discourse.

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 13:13

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