Together in Electric Dreams

The gradual decarbonisation of our electricity grids — as renewable energy is phased in, while coal and peat are phased out — coupled with the proliferation of new buildings with very limited heat demand, has some experts asking if heating our homes and offices directly with electricity is starting to make sense again. So is it time to bring back the dreaded storage heater?

18th century ruin becomes stylish low-energy home

Homeowners Anne and Patrick Jordan’s ambitious upgrade and extension project in County Kildare took the shell of an 18th century farmhouse and transformed it into an elegant family home with a striking-yet-sensitive modern extension — all while embracing a healthy and fabric-first approach to retrofit combined with clever heating system design that has brought them from a G to an A3 rating.

DIY Cork builder hits passive & NZEB with first self-build

Despite having no construction experience, self-builder Eamonn Fleming decided he could build a new family home more cheaply — and with better attention to detail — if he did it himself. And even though he didn’t set out to build a passive house, he managed to meet the standard while doing almost all of the work in conjunction with his father, while exceeding the targets of Ireland’s nearly zero energy building definition.

Norfolk straw-bale cottage aims for passive

Passive house design is often seen as belonging to the world of hi-tech construction — perhaps unfairly, seeing as it emphasises a good building fabric over bolt-on technologies. Straw-bale construction, meanwhile, is usually regarded as the preserve of only the most committed, do-it-yourself eco-builders. To some these two approaches appear to be chalk and cheese, but in fact they are inherently compatible, and more and more projects are now combining the maths-centred approach of passive house with the extensive use of natural materials. In the first of a series of case studies on passive straw-bale dwellings, Lenny Antonelli spoke to architect Fran Bradshaw of Anne Thorne Architects, who designed and built a straw-bale home for herself in Hickling, Norfolk two years ago — and aimed to meet the passive house standard while doing so, with only a single infrared electric panel as the building’s sole active heat source.

Simple and stunning Highlands passive house merges old and new

While embracing traditional farmstead design made it trickier for this new build home in the Scottish Highlands to meet the coveted passive house standard, mixing modern standards of super-insulation with vernacular farmhouse architecture ultimately led to the creation of a very special home for proprietors Jeanette and Jon Fenwick — one that picked up a coveted UK Passivhaus Award in 2016.

New build homes face emerging ventilation crisis

Despite increasing standards of insulation and airtightness, housing developers face few requirements to provide better ventilation and indoor air quality for new home buyers — beyond knocking extra holes in walls. But as reports of condensation and mould affecting new housing developments continue to surface in both the UK and Ireland, and research indicates many new homes may have poor indoor air quality, are developers finally waking up to the need for properly engineered ventilation systems?

How to prevent condensation & mould

In this first instalment of his brand new ‘Help Desk’ feature, architect and passive house designer Simon McGuinness of Dublin Institute of Technology invites questions on all aspects of passive house, retrofit and low energy building.

SuperHomes scheme: a blueprint for cost-effective deep retrofit?

For a while now, schemes that aim to encourage the mass uptake of home energy upgrades — essential for cutting carbon emissions from our building stock — have tended to fall into two camps: those that focus on shallow measures like cavity wall insulation and new boilers, and deep retrofit like the Passive House Institute’s Enerphit standard. A new Irish retrofit scheme aims to point the way forward by bridging the gap between these two extremes.

Solihull upgrade trials revolutionary retrofit approach

An exciting and innovative new deep retrofit project in Solihull has drastically cut the energy consumption of a small block of flats by smoothly and efficiently wrapping the entire structure in both insulation and ventilation ducting, delivering huge energy savings and minimal disturbance to the residents.

Deep retrofit transforms big, complex South Dublin home

At first glance, this sprawling house in Blackrock would appear to be a nightmare candidate for a deep energy upgrade — large and sprawling, and with a mix of structures built at different times and with different materials. But guided by the passive house standard, the team behind it managed to turn a G-rated energy guzzler into a healthy and very-low energy family home – complete with an A rating.

UK's largest passive building opens to 2,400 students and staff

Completed early this year, the new Centre for Medicine at the University of Leicester is by far the largest single building in the UK to meet the passive house standard — and not surprisingly, its design and construction posed tough new challenges for how to meet the rigorous low energy standard on such a large, complicated building.

Ground-breaking housing scheme captures one developer’s journey to passive

The just-finished second phase of Durkan Residential’s ambitious Silken Park scheme in south-west Dublin bridges the gap between two extremes: while phase one was built to the 2002 building regulations, phase three — which will break ground next year — will comprise 59 passive certified units.

BREEAM excellent building marries sustainability with world-class design

Although Ireland’s energy efficiency requirements for non-residential buildings fall far short of EU requirements, occasionally a progressive client will take matters into their own hands and push the envelope of sustainable design, such as Gas Networks Ireland’s award-winning Finglas offices.

International selection - issue 18

This issue features the world’s smallest certified passive house in France, and the first certified passive house on New Zealand’s South Island.

Zero Hour: Industry out of time on profound imminent NZEB changes

The construction industry is unwittingly facing the prospect of immediate, dramatic changes to how buildings are designed and constructed to comply with imminent EU energy efficiency deadlines. In the first article in our new Dispatches section – where we’ll attempt to probe and investigate in detail the burning issues arising from Ireland’s transition to sustainable building – Passive House Plus investigates.

Words: Jeff Colley & Lenny Antonelli

International selection - issue 17

This issue’s round up of the best passive house buildings from around the world features a striking timber frame home in Oregon, a public library in the north of Spain, and a tennis academy in Sweden. 

West Cork passive house raises design bar

The most celebrated architecture of the 20th century belongs firmly to the oil age, a heady mix of glass and steel and no need to have regard to comfort, given the availability of cheap fossil energy to fuel heating & cooling systems. But in the 21st century our buildings must adapt to and mitigate against climate change. That needn’t mean compromising on design, as one West Cork passive house shows 

Stylish low energy house squeezed into South Dublin garden

Built in the back garden of two architects, this simple-but-elegant brick house in Blackrock faced the twin challenges of an extremely tight site and less-than-ideal orientation, but with rigorous attention to detail it came close to passive house levels - while delivering impressively low actual heating costs. 

Chiswick Eco Lodge stitches into historic London street

For this exciting new dwelling in west London, architect Richard Dudzicki faced the challenge of designing a contemporary light-filled home while not offending the sensibilities of its Edwardian surroundings. He also had to meet the passive house standard, too.