AECB News : Soapbox

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Soapbox Article from Gary Newman: “Stop Dragging your Feet on a Materials Standard”

With the short lives of some of our commercial buildings,  embodied emissions may make up more than half of their total lifetime impact.  Yet government has turned its face away from a sustainable materials standard, and industry are dragging their feet quite unnecessarily, argues AECB member Gary Newman, a founder of the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products. The government  recently turned down the opportunity to make a dramatic impact on the emissions of our building stock, by declining to bring in a standard for the embodied impact of new buildings. Yet the arguments advanced are weak and defeatist . In its response » Read More

Posted in AECB Latest News, Soapbox on May 2nd, 2014

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What Makes a Passivhaus?

Yes, of course you need great u-values and low air permeability to make a Passivhaus. But AECB member Alan Clarke believes that Passivhaus has something far more fundamental to teach us. Reading the Zero Carbon Hub reports on zero carbon strategies, and on the performance gap, I realise that the idea of what I now think of as Passivhaus is not what other people think. As an “extreme fabric” approach to low carbon emissions, the ZCH characterises Passivhaus in its zero carbon strategies report as having U-values 0.1-0.15, air permeability <1, low thermal bridges, plus heat recovery ventilation. Not wrong, » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on January 10th, 2014

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Don’t Let Them Put Our Environmental Standards on the Red Tape Bonfire!

The Department of Communities and Local Government has published proposals to slash the options for housing construction standards to be set above and beyond the Building Regulations. Lined up for the executioner’s bullet are the Merton Rule,  Code for Sustainable Homes, Lifetime Homes and more.  In this Soapbox James Livingstone laments the threatened loss of opportunities to drive up building standards, and urges fellow AECB members to join him in lobbying government not to throw the ecological baby out with the bureacratic bathwater. I was asked to get on a soapbox on the subject of the Housing Standards Review . » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on October 31st, 2013

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Soapbox – We must change our disgraceful approach to build quality – or wave goodbye to energy savings

Three years of experience with thermographic imaging and airtesting on all kinds of buildings have led AECB member Paul Buckingham to the depressing conclusion that almost without exception, buildings in this country are shoddily assembled and fail to meet the standards set. What is worse, the prevailing ethos seems not to be ‘how well can we build?’, but ‘how quickly and cheaply can we get these boxes ticked?’ In the latest AECB soapbox, Paul shares some of his horror stories, and calls for an enforcement regime which delivers real, as opposed to imaginary, construction standards.           » Read More

Posted in AECB Latest News, Soapbox on July 5th, 2013

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Biomass heat: facing the carbon reality

A feature in December’s issue of the CIBSE journal suggested that biomass boilers contribute to carbon reduction, but AECB members Sofie Pelsmakers and Kate de Selincourt take issue with this. They argue that since DECC itself now admits biomass is not always low carbon, we should also accept reality, and recognise that targets and subsidies for biomass increase emissions and undermine the drive for truly efficient buildings. THE December 2012 issue of the CIBSE journal ran an article highlighting several design and health and safety issues associated with the specification of biomass plant.[1] The article also made it clear that » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on January 31st, 2013

Empty Homes and Retrofit – a match made on TV?

There has been a change of heart in Liverpool, and the controversial programme that was set up to sweep away the Victorian terraces of the inner city is morphing into restoration and refurbishment of empty homes – there is even a TV show championing this new approach. Yet, as Marianne Heaslip explains here, the potential to transform the energy performance while retrofitting the fabric is being almost completely missed – and with, it a huge opportunity. 

Posted in Soapbox on November 2nd, 2012

The darkest hour is just before the dawn – the Green Deal is upon us

The new energy company obligation is likely to lead to a substantial increase in solid wall insulation installations, particularly in social housing, and the structure of the obligation puts pressure on providers to deliver this as cheaply as possible. David White warns that this pressure, combined with lack of understanding of critical issues such as thermal bridging and ventilation, could lead to wasteful or even dangerous installations.  However, if the sector takes the opportunity to share the knowledge we do have, and, crucially, to go on learning, the outlook could be a lot better. As I sit here writing this » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on October 5th, 2012

Why we should have minimum and maximum per occupant space standards in the British Passivhaus criteria

Andrew Farr has seen too many households crammed into such small spaces they are being cooked by their appliances – while others may be consuming little energy per square metre – but so many square metres! He argues that neither situation fully meets the Passivhaus ideals of comfort and low energy consumption. This is not intended to be an academic paper where I qualify everything that I want to say by citing ten different studies. Instead I am going to write purely from personal experience, having worked in the building trades both in this country and Germany, and having in » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on September 20th, 2012

Embrace BIM, it’s a great tool for sustainable design

BIM is well worth exploring says Elrond Burrell, who explains here how he and his colleagues at Architype have embraced BIM – as a key tool for innovation, collaboration and the rigorous attention to detail needed for sustainable design that really works. “BIM”, variously understood to be Building Information Model, Building Information Modelling or Building information Management, has become a buzz phrase in the UK construction industry, since last year’s Government Construction Strategy mandated fully collaborative 3D BIM as a minimum on all government projects by 2016. Before then it had been an acronym only used by early adopters in » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on July 27th, 2012

Tunnel vision in the Sustainable Building Sector: time for a new way forward!

Are we saving energy while the planet dies? Danny Lee of the Self-Sustaining Building Project argues that that saving energy is no help, if our low-energy buildings trash the planet’s ability to sustain life. In this Soapbox he makes a plea for silos to be demolished, and agendas to be widened. It now takes humanity less than nine months each year to exhaust the planet’s environmental services and this rate is shortening. This ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ is the day when human demand on the planet exceeds what it can regenerate.  It means humanity has demanded all the natural services available » Read More

Posted in Soapbox on June 1st, 2012

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