London's Ecobuild has just concluded for another year and Ben Adam-Smith shares his experience of the event. In this episode he chats to four people he met there – Janet Cotterell from Passivhaus Homes, Jon Bootland from the Passivhaus Trust, Jo Gooding from the UK Cohousing Network and Robert Stern from Litmus Films.
The Ecobuild exhibition took place at London's ExCeL between 5th – 7th March and played host to over 800 speakers. This episode is therefore just scratching the surface of a huge event and is really only representative of the sessions Ben attended.
Short Interview with Janet Cotterell
Janet is co-author of The Passivhaus Handbook. [We interviewed Adam Dadeby, the other co-author, in episode 5.] Part of Janet's seminar at Ecobuild talked about her own Victorian semi-detached home, which has a Passivhaus standard extension. This article in the Telegraph goes into more detail about the property. Ben was keen to understand how the house works as a whole, because the old part hasn't had a complete retrofit.
Janet explains that she made a few improvements before moving into the house, such as highly insulating the floor and dealing with the air tightness on the ground floor. Once living in the house, this kind of work would've been too disruptive to carry out.
Do It Once and Get it Right
Janet is carrying out a phased retrofit of the property and so it was really important to have everything thought out properly. She does not want to block herself off from the possibility of reaching the EnerPHit standard at a later date.
The Passivhaus Extension Has Reduced Draughts Through The Whole House
Wanting to do things properly, the new extension was highly insulated to Passivhaus standards. There are no doors separating it from the rest of the house, which was a very conscious decision because it's not got MVHR. Janet describes the Passivhaus extension as still maintaining its own climate, despite opening into the leaky old building. This also reduces draughts in the old building because there needs to be and entry and exit point for air to be drawn through the house.
Short Interview with Jon Bootland
Jon Bootland is Chief Executive of the Passivhaus Trust. He explains how Passivhaus in the UK has made steady progress from just one building being certified in 2007/2008 to 150 at the end of 2012. By the end of the 2013, there are expected to be a further 500 buildings certified. Jon says it is still niche but taking off quite quickly.
A packed seminar hosted by the Passivhaus Trust
Passivhaus is Being Adopted into Building Regulations in Some Parts of Europe
Jon outlines recent changes in parts of Germany, Austria and Belgium, which are adopting the Passivhaus standard into their regulations (by 2015 and 2016). He says the UK would not be ready to do something like this and needs to develop supply chains, train more designers as well as gain further experience. This is about taking it slowly and getting it right, not rushing it and making a mess of things.
Certification is About Quality Assurance
Not only does Passivhaus deliver a very high quality home with very low running costs but it's the whole quality-assured process, using certified designers, certified products, and you can use certified people on site.
Choose Someone with Passivhaus Experience
If you are looking to create a Passivhaus, Jon believes the most crucial thing is to pick someone who’s done one before. The approach to the planning and layout the site is very different, so somebody who has already been through the process is invaluable. Find out more from the Passivhaus Trust and take a look through their list of members to see who has done the kind of project you might be looking to do.
Short Interview with Jo Gooding
Jo is coordinator of the UK Cohousing Network. She explains that the origins of cohousing can be traced back 150 years in England through Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities movement. The first cohousing community was set up in Sweden in the 1960s, after a group of parents looked into how they might raise their children together while also maintaining privacy, too.
Cohousing is in its Infancy in the UK
Currently in England there are 15 built cohousing communities, with 45 communities in development around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. About 60% are intergenerational communities, while the other 40% are senior cohousing communities. They vary in size from about 20 to 40.
Community Engagement Paramount to Energy Efficiency
Jo explains that you can have excellent building fabrics, the best technology, etc., but without the mechanisms for people to structure and create systems to be able to reduce, reuse, recycle a big part is missing. Peer support and education can really make a difference and that's where the communities come into their own.
At Community Level Things Become Much More Viable
From car-pooling to renewable energy schemes, there are many benefits of working together as a community.
Interest in Cohousing is Growing
Jo says that interest in cohousing is increasing as people want better places to live, somewhere affordable, secure tenure but also to fulfil a growing need for mutuality in support.
Find out more about cohousing and check out two projects in the UK:
LILAC – Low Impact Living Affordable Community
Short Interview with Robert Stern
Robert Stern is a filmmaker who wants to create a documentary on woodsman Ben Law. Ben was featured in one of the best-loved episodes of Grand Designs when he built his house in the woods in West Sussex. Now Robert wants to create a film about Ben Law's Woodland Year and he running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the project. While numerous broadcasters have approached Ben to try to do something like this he has turned them down. He feels confident that Robert would reflect his work in the woods as it is, not adding unnecessary glitz or reality show tendencies.
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