Better Buildings

Oakmeadow Primary

Oakmeadow Primary School. First Passive House School in UK

Every time a new building is designed and built it should be an opportunity to improve energy efficiency. Standards are gradually improving, in some places quite dramatically. In Ireland, about a month ago, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown was the first place in the English speaking world to make Passive House standard mandatory on all new housing. Dublin has just voted to do the same. Meanwhile in UK we had the lower, but still very good Zero Carbon Homes legislation that Labour introduced, stupidly this government scrapped last year, and now the House of Lords are trying to re-instate.

One argument one often hears against these higher standards is that they increase the cost of building. However this does not have to be the case, with intelligent design and construction. Oakmeadow Primary School in Wolverhampton was built in 2011, the first Passive House standard school in Britain. It was built within the normal school budget, so no additional cost for building, yet it resulted in a reduced annual energy bill, from £85,000 to £12,000. What’s not to like?

Some cities, such as San Francisco, are now making fitting solar panels to all new buildings mandatory. Again by doing this at scale and integrating them into the buildings during construction rather than retrospectively fitting them onto existing roofs costs should be kept down.

Making houses in factories and assembling them on-site allows for greater accuracy and air-tightness and should also reduce costs. I’ve blogged before about ArchiHaus’ plans in UK and this week Jeremy Williams has blogged about Acre homes who are doing something similar in America. All great stuff, and clearly the future of construction, despite the chaos and confusion of current British government policy!

I’ve met a number of individuals recently who live in homes that not only have no energy bills, but receive an income from energy. Some even recharge electric cars as well as provide their own heating, lighting and other energy requirements and an income from selling surplus electricity. This could be a goal for the vast majority of new buildings.

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