UK blogs - passivehouseplus.ie

Lifting retrofit out of its silo

There has been a sleuth of recent reports on how to retrofit Britain’s existing homes, but we must think deeper than the practical matter of reducing energy and carbon, to how we create beautiful places to live, writes Peter Rickaby.

How do breather membranes work?

How do underlays manage to let water vapour through while keeping the rain out? Toby Cambray delves into the physics…

Let’s get decarbonisation done

While there is much debate about whether we should prioritise retrofitting homes or installing heat pumps, the climate crisis means we may not have a choice but to do both as fast as possible, writes Toby Cambray.

The Saskatchewan House, 1977

In his latest column on the history of low energy building during the 20th century, Dr Marc Ó Riain looks back at the Saskatchewan House, which was built in Canada in 1977, and established the principle of prioritising energy demand reduction over active systems.

How will we decarbonise heating? stars

Insulating our homes is critical and must be our first priority, but how do we get the rest of the way to zero carbon? Dr Peter Rickaby investigates the options…

Why the Green Homes Grant failed

The Green Homes Grant scheme failed because politicians failed to heed more than a decade of lessons about how to do retrofit well, writes Dr Peter Rickaby, and now there will be an even bigger hill to climb.

On the 3D printing of buildings

Building physics expert Toby Cambray finds himself unconvinced by the merits of a new home in the Netherlands that has been 3D printed with concrete.

Measuring humidity, the old school way

A chance purchase on eBay leads buildings physics expert Toby Cambray to admire the aesthetics and mechanics of old scientific instruments.

Shooting the moon

The concept of building back better and greener, popular early in the pandemic, is now in danger of being abandoned in the rush to return to ‘normal’ — but we always have the power to shape what normal is, writes Dr Peter Rickaby.

Is Enerphit the key to decarbonising existing homes?

With increasing attention turning to cutting carbon emissions from existing homes to meet carbon reduction targets, Duncan Smith, housing asset and energy strategy manager at Renfrewshire County Council in Scotland, argues that approaches which improve comfort and dramatically reduce energy bills must be front and centre.

Do your walls behave like a Jaffa Cake?

Toby Cambray writes on the many lessons that the inimitable biscuit cake can teach us about how building materials deal with moisture.

COP 26 & the future of the Glasgow tenements

Duncan Smith reflects on the social and architectural significance of Glasgow's tenement flats, and their potential place in a zero carbon future, as the city prepares to host COP 26. 

The condensation myth

Condensation within the structure of buildings is a lot more complex than condensation in a sweaty pub on a Friday night, writes building physics expert Toby Cambray.

Will we really build back better?

As governments rush to jump-start their economies, there is a danger that important lessons for how to retrofit homes will be lost in the rush to build. But there is a better way, writes Dr Peter Rickaby.

The world’s first ‘zero energy’ house

Returning to his regular series on the evolution of sustainable building during the 20th century, Dr Marc Ó Riain takes a look at the first serious attempt to build a house with net zero energy use.

The science of filters

How do ventilation filters work, and can they help to protect us against Covid-19? Toby Cambray weighs in on the physics of a subject that is more complex and interesting than you might expect.

Are we the virus?

Taking a temporary detour from his series of columns on the history of sustainable building and renewable energy, Dr Marc Ó Riain takes a look at Covid-19 from the perspective of Gaia theory, and at the relationship between collapsing ecosystems and the emergence of new infectious diseases.

Getting to net zero carbon

The UK government has committed to a legally binding target of being “net zero carbon” by 2050. Peter Rickaby ponders the steps needed to get there, and what the goal means for our homes, offices and other buildings.

Environmental activism - tracing the roots of today's climate activism

While the green wave visible at ballot boxes and street marches in 2019 reflects an apparent escalation in public consciousness on the need for urgent, decisive environmental action, the roots of today’s environmental consciousness stretch back over half a century, explains Dr Marc Ó Riain.

How humanity can save itself from itself

We are in the grip of a global emergency. The science is clear, and thousands of lives have already been lost. The public are demanding firm and bold leadership, but a laissez-faire attitude on the part of western governments has delayed and watered down our response, with calamitous consequences.

Culture shock & knowledge transfer

What are the consequences for the built environment, and the climate, of the lack of communication between research and industry, asks Dr Peter Rickaby – and what can be done about it?

The first oil crisis

In the latest instalment of his series on the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy in the 20th century, Dr Marc Ó Riain reports on the seismic impact caused by the 1973 oil crisis.

Is it too late for sustainability?

Despite the urgency with which radical action is required to transform our built environment, Dr Peter Rickaby says he has never been more optimistic about the possibility of change.

The schism in solar energy

In his latest column on the evolution of solar energy, Dr Marc Ó Riain looks at how the design approaches of architects and engineers diverged in the middle of the century.

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