Tuesday, 21 January 2014

PassivHaus in Cambridge

60 UK pounds - your annual fuel bill. It’s for this reason that there was a hive of activity just over a week ago, around the Passivhaus that Jon Seaman of Integrity Build was building for a client .

Situated off the ring road and set back from the front of the other houses, the building plot was on a former derelict small orchard. A crowd of architects, councillors and the curious professionals were being taken on a fascinating and informative tour of the building, mid-construction.

The message to take away was that constructing a new Passivhaus now only cost slightly more than a conventional build for a single project. And if you were dealing with a larger project, such as a new estate, the pricing was now about equal. The supply chains were much more mature, but regrettably it was still cheaper to buy and import from abroad.

Then it was on a quick dash to try and beat Cambridge traffic and gets to the TTP building on the Melbourn Science Park. It was the first major Cambridge Cleantech event of the year - and very well attended.

The main talks were by Prof Doug Crawford-Brown of Cambridge Retrofit, looking at how Passivhaus standards can be incorporated into more historic buildings; and Andrew Miller of PRP Environmental, looking at solutions services and products that deliver on targets. The usual spotlight pitches followed.

The key message that I came away with, was the Cambridge was adopting some very ambitious energy-saving targets for its housing. What’s more, these could be easily achieved by targeted Passivhaus construction and retrofitting. Reductions in energy usage by up to 60% for the area could be achieved with new construction and even with retrofit, a 40% reduction was possible.

But the most important aspect of any energy efficiency construction projects was the need for education, education, education! You could build fantastically energy efficient homes, but if the occupants didn’t know how to manage them, you might make no savings or even spend more energy than before.

The networking was good too - and I met the man who insured the Loch Ness Monster - but that's another story!