Entire social housing estates found to be energy inefficient

Entire social housing schemes across Ireland are energy inefficient and some are in desperate need of being upgraded, a new survey has found.

A two-year project, entitled 'Advanced Ventilation Approaches for Social Housing' (AVASH), recently concluded the country’s first energy performance audit of existing social housing stock.

Lead by sustainable design consultancy company Delap & Waller EcoCo Ltd, the EU-funded project audited existing social housing schemes in counties Meath, Kildare and Dublin. The schemes featured included family dwellings and dwellings for the elderly and the disabled.

Some 50% of Ireland’s 1.5 million dwellings were built prior to the introduction of Building Regulations in Ireland in 1979. Energy consumption in Irish homes is about 40% higher than the European average and Irish homes are responsible for a staggering 11.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

It is hoped that the audit will establish best ventilation strategies for existing social housing in order to achieve occupant health and comfort, maximum energy efficiency and significant reductions in energy bills for householders.

Seminars will take place at the Lifetime Lab in Cork (2pm, May 22) and at Cultivate in Dublin (June 3, 7pm).

All data collected during the audit will be presented to social housing providers who are considering upgrading their social housing stock by performing energy intelligent retrofitting of individual dwellings and entire schemes.

“A dramatic improvement of the energy performance of the existing housing stock is therefore essential if we want to make any dent into our greenhouse gases emission targets”, explained Jay Stuart, managing director of DWEcoCo Ltd.

While welcoming the Government’s Budget commitment to commencing or acquiring 9,000 social housing units in 2008, Stuart expressed concern that many would not be completed with maximum energy efficiency in mind.

“Unfortunately most dwellings due for completion in 2008 will be constructed to the minimum energy efficiency standards of the Building Regulations,” he said.

“Energy savings for householders and greatly reduced carbon emissions can be achieved by going that step further without incurring large additional costs. In particular the current Part F of the Building Regulations dealing with ventilation is out of date and in conflict with the new Part L.

“The industry requires the knowledge and tools which we will offer to social housing providers and construction professionals through our project findings and public information campaign.”

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