If proof was needed of the growing popularity of the low energy Passivhaus standard in the UK then a trip to Islington town hall in north London yesterday would have helped make the case.
Well over 250 people packed out the inaugural UK Passivhaus Conference, not bad given that this is a voluntary standard that has only really started to gain ground over here in the last couple of years. That’s despite delivering around 15,000 buildings to its principles in Europe.
If most of those who attended are already converts, it’s clear that they are keen for others to see the light and for Passivhaus to enter the mainstream. Kicking things off, Alexis Rowell, founder of cuttingthecarbon and the key organiser of the conference, called on government to introduce the standard into building regulations for new build by 2016. He also proposed that the forthcoming Passivhaus retrofit standard – a slightly easier to hit target that the full blown standard – be adopted for the coalition’s forthcoming green deal.
Rowell has concerns that the green deal will lead to a pot pourri of measures that will not add up to a coherent whole, using builders who will not have to follow a measurable, energy-based route map, and that consequently it will not significantly reduce energy demand. His argument is that Passivhaus could offer a ready-made solution; though talking to many attendees clients will need convincing of costs.
Bere Architects gave an interesting take on the extra cost it takes to build to Passivhaus standards. The practice is currently completing a scheme in Ebbw Vale in Wales of two and three bedroom houses. They reckon that the payback is around 17 years at current energy prices, but this tails off significantly if energy prices begin to climb as is predicted.
The inaugural event also marked the launch of the Passivhaus Trust, an umbrella body to promote and co-ordinate the Passivhaus standard and to build on the 50 plus Passivhaus schemes that are currently underway in the UK. Judging by the enthusiasm of this event the number could be set to grow rapidly.