An external insulation contract in Preston, run under a government energy saving scheme five years ago went horribly wrong. Up to 390 homes were affected with water penetration, mould and damp.
Four years on the problems, some of them severe, have only been rectified for some of the affected households. Occupants, many elderly and on low incomes, have in some cases reportedly been forced to pay for repairs themselves.
Although the story was well-known to many directly involved with retrofit policy-making, the story had hardly been told outside those circles, but with the help of Preston Council and some of the other people involved, I wrote an article for Passive House Plus, which also features a number of Preston Council’s photographs showing just how extensive the damage was to some of the affected homes. It can be read here: Disastrous Preston retrofit scheme remains unresolved
I did get to visit the area after that article was published, and have since given a couple of talks on what I saw. You can view/download the slides to the one given at an event in April 2018 (organised by Community Energy England and Carbon Co-op): Lessons from Preston – when retrofit goes wrong
Like everyone, I was horrified by the events of June 14, 2017. I felt additionally anguished because I had written so often about poor standards and corner cutting in construction, without ever imagining the consequences would be so devastating. But we knew, didn’t we, that risks were – and still are – being taken.
I wrote a long piece for Passive House Plus looking at the background to the catastrophe: in particular, examining how such highly combustible cladding might have come to be used. That article is here: Grenfell Tower – how did it happen?
I also wrote a follow-up piece on the concerns of many fire experts that too much information about product testing was being kept secret due to commercial confidentiality – and that that the information that was kept secret, might have led to better design choices had it been available. The story also contained calls for combustible materials to be banned entirely from tall buildings as they are in several other countries. A further news item reported Dame Judith’s shock at the lack of accountability and the obvious opportunities for corner-cutting in mainstream construction
And I contributed to some of the very thorough coverage of the subject in Inside Housing magazine – you can read the relevant articles here and here (you may need to create an account to read these if you are not an IH subscriber).
UK’s largest passive building opens to 2,400 students and staff
University of Leicester – the new Centre for Medicine
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 on how to meet the rigorous low energy standard on such a large, complicated building. December 2016
South London scheme delivers better health for residents
The original houses, with the new build homes beyond
A sensitive development of social housing in Lambeth combines three new passive houses with six low energy flats carefully constructed inside an old Victorian terrace. With the emphasis on good indoor air quality, residents are already reporting improvements in health & well-being since moving from their old accommodation. Oct 2106
The colourful timber -built external cladding in place on the block at Parkview
Post-war social housing blocks are often seen as both ugly and uncomfortable. They frequently suffer from high energy bills, damp and mould. But three ambitious renovation projects show the answer doesn’t always lie in demolition. Oct 2015
Sensitive passive retrofit transforms Victorian North London home
The all-new, Victorian-feel facade of this deep deep retrofit
Upgrading a historic home to the passive house standard typically means leaving the façade untouched to preserve the building’s historic appearance, but the team behind this fully passive retrofit in Kensal Green took a totally different approach. Oct 2016
Safeguarding historic documents and other artefacts requires super-stable environmental conditions. This has usually been achieved by using masses of expensive and energy-hogging heating and cooling plant, but a new approach for Herefordshire Council used the passive house approach to conserve energy, money — and the county’s precious historical archives. Nov 2015
The team behind a series of passive house schools in Wolverhampton have used the lessons learned from in-depth monitoring of the first two buildings to make the third even better — and cheaper to build. Oct 2015
Ledbury passive house embraces warmth, wood & light
The ‘modern organic’ style of the Ledbury Passive House
For the builder and his client, aiming for the passive house standard was just one part of an environmentally conscious approach that put natural, healthy materials to the fore.
The style of the house inside and out is what the owner calls ‘modern organic’ – white paint and render, and lots of natural wood. The carpentry is beautifully finished, with charming bespoke touches. Not everyone expects a passive house to be like this…Nov 2015