Thanks for all the Passivhaus comments, and apologies for the group response. I Think my comments have been misleading and, perhaps, deliberately provocative. I think too, that you’re right – Passivhaus works and is perhaps THE appropriate standard for UK new build – certainly while there’s not a real alternative. I do believe my piece raised a key point though, though, but I think it is the margin of the conversation, not the main part and perhaps a distraction.
One off new builds in rural locations are not the main part of the conversation – the main conversation, of course, is what we aspire to do with housebuilding generally – and certainly I do believe Passivhaus approach is a good one here – particularly when the alternative is greater heating demand or primary energy use. The Code for Sustainable Homes has proved to be hollow – focussing on the wrong issue of theoretical carbon emissions, not actual energy use. So, categorically, I agree wholeheartedly with Passivhaus that the standard must be about energy demand.
So – I’m with you here, and I’ve only really had one key point (it’s a a fringe point, really) which concerns more particular buildings which have a more complex relationship with a site or use (the houses I’ve talked about). Yes, these buildings need to focus on actual energy use too, but I’m not convinced that heat recovery whole house ventilation systems would have been appropriate. That was my rather clumsy ‘one size fits all’ comment. But even so, all of those houses used core Passivhaus principles of orientation, insulation and efficient envelope, so I’ve never been a non-believer. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter too much if these houses aren’t certified.
There’s another point of not being convinced of using the Passivhaus standard in warmer climates – I’m a big believer in natural ventilation and thermal mass, still. But again I’m happy to be proven wrong.
Finally, I think it is this point – of wondering if natural ventilation (with thermal mass, of course) can still have a place in the UK – for some of the year (and the whole symbiosis with site thing) that has made me waver whether full Passivhaus certification is always appropriate. Maybe it is, and the answer, of course, is that the occupier has free reign to operate a building accordingly when he or she sees fit, and not when they don’t…
I suspect too, that my previous post was also provoked by the seemingly hallowed-and-beyond-reproach nature of Passivhaus, and I’m a big believer in prodding, poking, and turning inside out.
The big focus, though, has to be on raising the standard of the 95% of housing from the volume house builders that has zero design aspiration – Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon, Barratt, David Wilson – you know who they are – and, with this, if a first step was convincing them to begin adopting Passivhaus, it would be a great start, irrespective of ultimately whether Passivhaus is flawed in dealing with the particular or not.
Keep up the debate.