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PassivHaus standard demands serious Government and building industry consideration as blueprint for more sustainable UK housing stock

Key note speech at EcoBuild will see Dr Martin Gibson, MD of Rockwool subsidiary BuildDesk, explain why he thinks urgent action is needed

Architects, builders and the UK Government should work together to embrace the German PassivHaus standards, for energy efficiency in buildings, as a ready made solution to the UK’s carbon and energy crisis.

That’s the message that Dr Martin Gibson, managing director of sustainable building consultancy BuildDesk, will be putting across in a key note speech at EcoBuild, the world’s biggest event dedicated to sustainable design, construction and the built environment.

Dr Gibson will outline BuildDesks’s experiences working with developers who are looking to adopt PassivHaus standards and explain why he believes that previous anti-PassivHaus arguments around cost and complexity of installation no longer apply.

He will say that the PassivHaus standard for super-insulated homes provides a successful blueprint for creating low energy and CO2 emission buildings in the UK and has a proven track record across European countries, including Germany, Austria and Denmark.

Dr Gibson states: “There are around 20,000 PassivHaus buildings around the world with the majority in Germany and on average they have around 80% lower energy consumption, 90% lower heating costs and offer a 95% lifetime CO2 saving compared to comparable ‘standard’ build houses. Given the Government’s stated commitment to building a more sustainable housing stock, PassivHaus surely demands greater consideration.”

Dr Gibson argues that while PassivHaus standards do require a very precise build and the elimination of gaps in walls, doors and windows, the specialist fittings to achieve this are now mass produced, meaning PassivHaus design can be achieved for as little as 8% more than the cost of a standard building.

“While many builders will baulk at the idea of adding 8% to build costs, I am confident that the price difference will continue to fall as more PassivHaus’s are built and more component and building manufacturers start making PassivHaus-standard products,” argues Dr Gibson.

“Equally, given the Government’s commitments to reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and the fact that 49% of the UK’s total energy use currently goes on heating buildings, I would urge the Government to consider some form of subsidy or grant to help builders adopt PassivHaus standards. Apart from any other consideration, the skills developed will help the UK to achieve one element of becoming a low-carbon economy, something the Government has stated it is keen to achieve to help pull the country out of recession.”

Dr Gibson will also argue that PassivHaus provides far more than just a blueprint for domestic homes, drawing on the example of a school in Schwanenstadt, Austria.

BuildDesk has developed its consultancy services to provide training and advice for builders on how to construct homes to PassivHaus standards and also the types and quantities of materials to purchase to achieve this.

Ecobuild 2009, is being held at Earls Court, London, 3rd-5th March 2009. Dr Gibson will be speaking at 11.40am on 5 March 2009 at the seminar entitled, Rule 1 Refurbishment: Insulation & Air Tightness.

Email: katie.pugh@citigatedr.co.uk


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