The local authority Passivhaus revolution

Chayley Collis, Coordinator of Zero Carbon Yorkshire Buildings Group

When trying to tackle the massive challenge  of getting Yorkshire to Zero Carbon as quickly as possible, the Zero Carbon Yorkshire Buildings working group has decided that one of its key aims should be “Promotion of Passivhaus low energy building standard” including to local authorities and housing associations within Yorkshire.

The logic behind this is that, given the lack of central Government guidance on low energy building (after the abandonment of the Zero Carbon target) we need to look to our local government for leadership. Even though current planning rules hamper the ability of councils to impose anything above the standard building regulations  on developers, they do still have control over what is built on council land and where they are clients.  The ZCY Building group believes that if local authorities in Yorkshire start to support and encourage Passivhaus  this will have a ‘domino effect’ in the region and beyond and is a way for Yorkshire to prepare for the low carbon economy and the urgently-needed transition away from fossil fuels.

Late in 2016, we held a half-day seminar in Leeds on Passivhaus for local authorities and housing associations, jointly with the Passivhaus Trust. It was very well attended with over 35 attendees from local authorities and housing associations across Yorkshire.

Jon Bootland Passivhaus Trust

Speakers on the day included:

Jon Bootland, Chief Executive of the Passivhaus Trust

Nigel Banks from Keepmoat speaking about Keepmoat’s Passivhaus projects for housing associations

Andrew Conway from Hamson Barron Smith speaking about Norwich City Council Passivhaus developments

Emma Osmundsen from Exeter Council explaining why Exeter Council is supporting Passivhaus

Andrew Cooper, Kirklees councillor and Green Party Energy spokesperson. Kirklees Council’s Passivhaus plans + the Green Party’s Passivhaus Flatpack campaign

Alex Sobel, Leeds Councillor speaking about Leeds City Council’s Passivhaus developments to date and plans to promote Passivhaus more widely

Below are some of my personal thoughts and reflections in response to the seminar.

 

Why Passivhaus?

 

Andrew Cooper, Green Party Councillor, Kirklees Council

Andrew Cooper, Green Party Councillor, Kirklees Council

 

Climate change

There is so much policy focus on finding new energy sources and achieving self-sufficiency and independence that we ignore the ‘hidden fuel’ of energy efficiency. Passivhaus has a 25 year track record of delivering  heating energy savings of up to 90% (in comparison with typical UK housing stock). If we built all new buildings in Yorkshire (and the UK) to Passivhaus think of all the energy we would not need to source in the first place.  Obviously retrofitting our existing building stock is even more of a challenge but if we can start to skill up our construction industry and infrastructure to build to the high standards required of Passivhaus then we will be preparing the region for the skills and knowledge needed for retrofit. And it is clearly bonkers to be building new homes and buildings in Yorkshire today that will subsequently need retrofitting  to meet the requirements needed to meet our Paris Climate Agreement and Climate Change Act commitments.

Fuel poverty

Just over 10% of all households in Yorkshire are deemed to be experiencing fuel poverty.  Passivhaus typically cuts space heating needs by up to 90% and so for local authorities and housing associations building new houses, Passivhaus should be  an obvious match.

Reducing risk

Jon Bootland from the Passivhaus Trust discussed risk management and how Passivhaus can really help LAs and HAs deliver high quality buildings that perform as intended. The three key challenges facing house builders at the moment are energy use, ventilation/ indoor air quality and thermal comfort/overheating. Passivhaus addresses all of these and removes the performance gap from building to new low energy standards.

Saving money

Emma Osmundsen from Exeter Council presented the business case for Passivhaus very persuasively. She showed how the Council had managed to deliver two Passivhaus projects with 0% uplift on cost and that on the other two projects, where there had been a slight Passivhaus premium, the annual payback on the projects more than covered the difference. She also pointed out the other economic benefits for the council including reduced rent arrears and boost to the local economy.

The Zero Carbon Yorkshire Buildings working group is keen to build on the interest generated by the seminar. If you are a Yorkshire  LA/ HA interested in exploring Passivhaus, please get in touch by email and we will add you to our mailing list for any future Passivhaus events in Yorkshire.

www.zerocarbonyorkshire.org/working-groups/low-carbon-buildings/

More information on Passivhaus Trust’s Passivhaus Social campaign: www.passivhaustrust.org.uk/competitions_and_campaigns/passivhaus-for-local-authorities/