Building a green dream

IT’S not that long ago since the rare passive house _ a “green’’ building making maximum use of energy efficiencies _ would grab headlines in Ireland and be highlighted in a freaky kind of style as the way of the future.

But, a growing number of buildings are now being confirmed passive, including dwelling houses, offices and new schools in counties Meath and Wicklow. A nursing home extension in Celbridge, Co Kildare, is the first healthcare facility to be certified, while Ireland’s first social housing cluster to receive the distinction is in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. Furthermore, there’s been a call from the Passive House Association of Ireland (PHAI) to adapt the passive house standard as a national standard. Such a move would, according to the association’s chairman, Martin Murray, promote Ireland’s role in energy leadership as well as creating and retaining jobs in an energy-based economy.

Legislating for sustainable design and construction is necessary to protect the low energy building expertise and talent that has been developed here over the past few years, he stressed. Mr Murray believes we could develop an international reputation for being an energy world leader, which would enable the country to make a significant mark on the international stage. However, other EU countries are ahead of us, with the city of Brussels, for example, aiming to make passive house standard the regional benchmark from 2015, following of 18 years of progression towards low energy design. Solar energy, or district heating systems fuelled by wood chippings, would surely grab home-owners in Ireland who have been faced with massive heating bills, especially for oil, in recent years. After all, the main purpose of the passive standard is that buildings meeting it use a tiny amount of energy for space heating. Passive House Plus magazine also reports the expense of building to the passive standard is coming down, with architects and designers starting to aim for the same cost as conventional build in some cases.

And the message from advocates is: anyone thinking of building should consider going for the passive standard, or near it.


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