Preston Retrofit Disaster

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

 

Uni teaching block launches large Passivhaus in the UK

Case studies for Passive House Plus: new build

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

 

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A healthy retrofit scheme for London residents

Retrofit case studies for Passive House Plus

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

 

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Community deep retrofit

Working with design consultancy URBED, Manchester-based community energy group Carbon Co-op has pioneered a way of supporting ‘able-to-pay’ homeowners to invest in making their homes warmer and more comfortable – while reducing their energy use by around half.

By upgrading the fabric of homes and adding PV panels, cuts of 40-60% or more were made in  energy consumption and emissions and £1,000/year was knocked off bills, at a level of capital spending that homeowners were willing and able to invest.

As well as dramatically reduced energy bills, homeowners who participated in the project say:

–        Their homes are warmer, including first thing in the morning.
–        They feel less damp and the air feels fresher.
–        Homes are less draughty.
–        Homes are cooler in summer when it’s hot.

Customer research showed that the project’s success resulted from the combination of a community base with expert technical advice and supervision, along with a modest financial incentive (in this case a zero-interest loan).

By bringing a group of householders and their homes together under one umbrella, important elements such as site crew training and the detailing of insulation installation could be shared, while specifications were individualised to each home in line with the needs of the building and the wishes of the owners.

This combination gave customers the confidence to invest, and enabled them to transform the performance of their homes.

I visited the project and spent time with the project team – and met some of the co-op members: a great bunch of people and an impressive project. The report I wrote for them is on their website here: Carbon Coop – Powering Down Together, with a shorter summary here Powering Down Together – summary

Timber building case studies

A series of around 30 illustrated case studies of buildings constructed with home-grown UK, and in particular, Welsh timber. Some lovely buildings, ranging from very simple roundwood constructions and solid traditional oak frames, through to much more contemporary styles and high-peformance Passivahaus buildings.

View the case studies here: Homegrown timber in construction: case studies

Produced for Woodknowledge Wales

Archive keeps its cool the Passivhaus way

Hereford archive chooses passive preservation

Hereford County Archive

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

 

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‘Icebox’ modern house gets cosy makeover

1960s ‘icebox’ transformed into warm and bright eco home

Generous insulation behind timber boards on this 60s retrofit

 

A deep retrofit of this 1960s block-built home turned it into a modern ultra low-energy home that emphasises wood, light and natural materials. Aug 2016

 

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Passive school learning refines the design

Building a better passive school

Wilkinson School, Wolverhampton

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

 

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Natural materials make a warm, homely Passivhaus

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

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