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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Post-war housing retrofit

How to save social housing blocks

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

 

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Victorian Passive Retrofit

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

 

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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

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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Cold is not the whole story – what the health services need to know about housing

An AECB consultation response

This document was written in response to a NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) 2014 consultation on producing guidelines for health authorities on tackling excess winter deaths and illnesses. It was written (mainly) by me, on behalf of the AECB, teaming up with Severn Wye Energy Agency and the STBA (Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance) – who also contributed information.

While at the time of this consultation the deleterious impact of cold living conditions on health were well known – prompting the consultation – poor indoor air quality was less discussed.

Yet of course, air quality can be very poor in cold homes: people will block out any draughts they can – including the intended fresh air supply from a ventilation fan or vent – especially if they are in fuel poverty. This only increases the risk of condensation and mould – already high in a dwelling with cold, uninsulated surfaces. And more and more evidence is piling up of just how bad mould in particular is for people’s health and wellbeing. Continue reading

Electric Heating – time to come in from the cold?

While there are well-established technologies to produce electricity without fossil fuels, decarbonisation of heat is struggling to get under way. Recommended strategies include expansion of low carbon networked heat and possibly the decarbonisation of gas – though these are still only happening at a scale (and with dubious carbon credentials, see PH+ Iss 15 – district heating). However, the commonest proposed means for decarbonising heat is via electrification.

Electrification of heat raises a number of questions about the ability of our power systems to produce enough low carbon electricity and their capacity to transmit it.  But it also represents something of a u-turn in building services design. Continue reading

District Heating – does it work with Passivhaus?

Cost effective district heating schemes need a nice dense energy demand. They also involve a lot of circulating hot water, which with the best will in the world, is going to involve continuous heat loss. Highly-insulated low energy buildings need very little heat – and in the summer, heat gains can be a positive menace.

So can the two work together? I explored the question a bit in this article for Passive House Plus – downloadable here as a pdf.

District Heating – does it work in Passivhaus?