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ow that life is beginning to return to normal (although you may be employing a very ‘mixed’ strategy in terms of your work location), it’s time to once again confront another, bigger picture. The climate change agenda, unlike hopefully Covid, is not going to retreat

to a dormant threat – it’s going to slowly intensify as we approach the seemingly mythical zero deadline in 2050.

We may all be feeling ‘crisis fatigue,’ because we have been in a state of crisis of some kind for so long, meaning that dynamic action may seem hard to generate, on a consistent basis. But that is what is needed – in terms of the numbers of interventions to our building stock old and new in order to make the difference.

And Passivhaus may well be the answer, or at least the standard which pulls up the rest of the industry behind it. It’s a ‘no-brainer’ for the converts but also an increasing cohort of agnostic professionals, and clients, who know that buildings’ energy use, in a fossil-fuel-free future, is the elephant in the room that must be at least, sedated, if not altogether captured.

Passivhaus’ higher insulation and generally more robust construction approach means a cost uplift of between 1.1 and 4.3 per cent. This is a difficult pill to swallow for some clients in the current situation, particularly in areas like retail, although arguably as ‘open’ buildings they’ll never really be a true fit for Passivhaus. But with a focus on reducing whole life costs such as bills for owners, and addressing the Future Homes Standard, not to mention the Government’s new interim 78 per cent carbon reduction target in 2035, it seems a cost we should bear. The point is, will the Government underwrite projects, perhaps in volume housebuilding or precarious sectors like retail, to back up its goals?

Air quality is another issue that is increasingly in focus, and Passivhaus requires you to recover not only heat but to ventilate with fresh air, so unlike other low energy measures, air quality is ‘baked in.’ Plus there’s also the scope to export green energy to the national grid, which many Passivhaus owners are already enjoying.

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Take-up is still disappointingly low in the UK however, compared with other countries, despite the established benefits and the capital wealth we possess. Our White Paper report on page 25 looks at the reasons for this, according to the architects we surveyed, but also at a range of other factors which make Passivhaus a wise, but sometimes challenging choice for future construction. Our survey also shows that it could help restore architects’ roles to a more central voice in projects, because every aspect of the design is taken into account as crucial to the overall performance, and this needs professional scrutiny and control throughout.

The map to zero carbon – Passivhaus – exists, whether or not you choose to follow it all the way to the destination.

James Parker Editor


NATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE INNOVATION CENTRE, WARWICK Cullinan Studio’s design for the University of Warwick’s cutting-edge research facility for future vehicles combines collaboration with privacy

KING’S COLLEGE SCHOOL SPORTS CENTRE, WIMBLEDON A new sports complex that features an award-winning timber roof

ON THE COVER... Designed by Cullinan Studio, the National Automotive Innovation Centre at the University of Warwick has one of the world’s largest engineered timber roofs, and has picked up several awards since its completion. Cover image © Hufton+Crow For the full report on this project, go to page 37


ADF MAY 2021

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