Licence to skill

The ever-tightening ambitions to integrate sustainability throughout Ireland’s new and existing buildings won’t be realised unless we can find smart, flexible ways to upskill the industry. Lis O’Brien of Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) explains how Digital Academy for Sustainable Built Environment (DASBE) has it cracked.

Hope springs eternal stars

What happens when one of Ireland’s most seasoned passive house builders and a renowned design-led architecture practice collaborate? They create a head turning, high density passive house scheme that showcases the aesthetic possibilities of external insulation.

Big picture - Huff'n'Puff Haus - a straw bale passive house stars

If you were choosing how to build in a bushfire-prone region of Australia, you could be forgiven for skirting over the possibility of packing your walls with straw. Talina Edwards of Envirotecture describes an extraordinary off-grid passive house which uses straw and a range of low embodied carbon building materials to blitz regulatory requirements on fire, while delivering year-round comfort levels that the neighbours can scarcely believe.

Six of one

The climate emergency demands that we minimise the energy we use to operate buildings, as well as the energy we use to construct new buildings, where new buildings are needed. A Passive House Association of Ireland-commissioned analysis may start to shed some light on the embodied carbon impact that different build methods can have.

Up to 11

In issue 38 of Passive House Plus we published an in-depth assessment comparing the build specs including five wall types to a typical Irish house. To enable the industry to fairly compare a broader range of build options, we now expand that analysis with the addition of four timber frame wall types and two insulated concrete formwork systems

Visionary vernacular

Can a low energy building be truly sustainable if it doesn’t fully consider its occupants needs? The latest offering from one of Scotland’s leading green designers uses passive house knowhow to signal the way to pragmatic, modest, occupant-centric architecture.

Adaptation sensation stars

Sometimes a building comes along that asks challenging questions. Chris Croly, building services engineering director of BDP, describes one such example – a building designed to tackle the specific energy profile of offices, while trialling an innovative, dynamically controlled approach to adaptive comfort.

Safety net

At times the need to put roofs over the heads of vulnerable people and the need to tackle climate change and unsustainable resource use can seem in direct opposition. But one new Welsh scheme shows that doesn’t have to be the case.

Phit the bill

A passive house, by its nature, requires a much smaller amount of energy than a typical home, and when its heating demand is met by electricity, and you cover it in solar PV panels, you can start to see the potential for a whole new generation of passive homes that are semi-independent of the electricity grid. This is the case for Carrstone House in Bedfordshire, which generates so much solar energy it had to be registered as a power station.

A grid of their own

A new development in County Wicklow demonstrates how typical housing estates might be turned into electricity microgrids through solar power and battery storage, with residents buying and selling renewable energy from each other, helping to insulate them from price spikes and outages.

Passive Power

A passive house, by its nature, requires a much smaller amount of energy than a typical home, and when its heating demand is met by electricity, and you cover it in solar PV panels, you can start to see the potential for a whole new generation of passive homes that are semiindependent of the electricity grid. This is the case for Carrstone House in Bedfordshire, which generates so much solar energy it had to be registered as a power station.

It's a lovely house to live in now

How do you take a painfully cold, unhealthy house and make it comfortable and affordable to heat? Five years ago, one Irish family decided enough was enough, and took decisive action to transform their period property into a cosy, healthy home where the heating system ticks along without the homeowners touching it.

Northern comfort

In trickier housing markets, the instincts of house builders have often tended towards building to the worst legal standards required – or worse. One award-winning new project in Belfast’s suburbs is showing that it doesn’t have to be this way – and that developers can thrive by pitching homes designed to ensure comfort and low bills at increasingly energy-conscious consumers.

Flat pack on track

What do you get if you cross a quantum physicist, a forensic accountant, a merchant, an engineer and a software-whizz-kid architect? A terrible punchline presumably. But as Jeff Colley discovered on a trip to Sussex, you get something not to be laughed at: a collaborative approach that may be about to unlock a scalable, highly sustainable, circular economy-proof, flat pack build approach.

Going swimmingly

The environmental journalist George Monbiot has written about how we need an era of ‘public luxury’ and ‘private sufficiency’ — as opposed to private luxury for the few — to mitigate overconsumption and climate breakdown. And it’s hard to think of a better example of public luxury than this superb new leisure centre in Exeter, which consumes just a fraction of the energy of typical facilities, and is set to be certified to a bespoke version of the passive house standard.

Hollywood star on 50 years of eco activism

Actor Ed Begley Junior is one of America’s best-known and longest-standing environmental activists. Fresh from lighting up our screens in the final season of Better Call Saul, Begley spoke to Passive House Plus about the roots of his activism, and what drives him on in the face of such adversity.

Breath of life

The skilful deep retrofit of a red-brick semi on the south side of Dublin has brought an old property into the 21st century in terms of energy performance and living space, while carefully upgrading its century-old façade with breathable materials.

From Nero to zero

The historic Roman city of York is embarking on an ambitious programme to redefine council housing for the 21st century, building 450 mixed-tenure passive houses across eight sites in the city, and unashamedly prioritising walking and cycling, and shared outdoor green spaces, over cars. It may seem too good to be true, but a cityscape whose architecture still so manifestly displays its extraordinary history is now pointing to the future of urban design.

Block buster

With emphasis in sustainable building shifting towards reducing embodied carbon, an obvious question comes into focus: is this an existential threat to the concrete industry? One passive house in Claregalway shows that – with a little help from Passive House Plus – concrete product manufacturers can make meaningful moves in the right direction.

Big picture - New Zealand rural passive home

In the first installment of a brand new photo essay feature, in which we profile passive houses and other eco-buildings from around the world, architect Joe Lyth writes about how the aesthetic of simple backcountry cabins inspired the design of his rural home on New Zealand’s North Island.

Cold Truths: Part 2

Part one of this article mini-series explained how vulnerable people are likely to respond to the energy crisis this winter. But what will happen to occupant health when people cannot afford to turn the heat on, and how will low energy buildings fare?

Cold Truths: Part 1

While most people will feel the squeeze as a consequence of the energy crisis, for vulnerable people spikes in energy prices may be a matter of life and death. In a two-part mini-series of articles in this issue, Kate de Selincourt peers into the void to see how vulnerable people may respond to high energy prices, and what the impact will be for their living conditions and their health. 

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Ecological Building Systems

Our ethos at Ecological Building Systems is to achieve 'Better Building' by adopting a 'Fabric First' approach to design.