20 July 2015
The following article from the BBC news service notes that BRE designers at Cardiff University have built a “Zero Carbon” house in 16 weeks, at a construction cost similar to that for social housing in the UK. The UK Government recently abolished ambitious building energy performance standards on cost grounds.
Many informed commentators and “green industry” advocates in Ireland have noted that increased performance standards, such as the passive house standard or near zero energy standard (NZEB), if carefully considered, can be achieved at minimal extra capital cost.
“Designers at Cardiff University say they have constructed the sort of house George Osborne once described as impossible.
Cardiff University say they have built a house that exports more power to the grid than it uses. And crucially they say the cost fell within the normal budget for social housing…
The house took just 16 weeks to construct and cost £1,000 per sq m* – that’s within the range for social housing of £800 to £1,000 per sq m, the designers said.
In future, they say its owners will make money from selling excess energy. The designers say it will need to import energy in the winter, but the imports will be trumped by energy exports during summer months.
John O’Brien, from BRE, told BBC News: “The chancellor’s reason for dropping the Code for Sustainable Homes and then the zero carbon homes commitment was because these could not be achieved while still coming in at £1,000/m2 [Blog note €1,560/m2]. These homes show that is flawed.”
He said it didn’t need to cost more to build zero carbon homes – and it was even possible to deliver homes at this cost that would provide an income for owners. The Code for Sustainable Homes allowed councils to demand that builders meet high environmental standards on energy, water, materials, waste and pollution…
Professor Phil Jones, who led the project, said: “Using the latest technology, innovation and design, it is indeed possible to build a zero carbon house at low costs, creating long-term benefits for both the economy and the environment.
“The cost of our carbon-positive house was similar to that of the social housing benchmark, making it an affordable option for house builders. We hope that this can be replicated in other areas…””
Ministers Paudie Coffey and Alan Kelly came in for widespread criticism when they wrote to Local Authorities urging resistance to increased building performance standards. Perceived by many commentators as being influenced by vested interests, the (possibly unfair) interpretation by the media was that Government was endorsing the “build ’em cheap stack ’em high” speculative development approach for development plans.
We note there is currently no export tariff to the grid in Ireland. Micro-generators of electricity such as domestic PV arrays (noted in the article) get no income from generating energy and exporting to the national grid at present. This pricing arrangement adopted by the current Government remains a disincentive for innovative residential developments such as the one described in the above article.
*(Blog Note:) £1,000 = €1,440: There is no breakdown published on the building costs and it is unclear how this would equate with costs in Ireland and whether costs such as VAT, development levies, Irish Water connection fee, statutory regulatory charges and professional fees are included. The claim is noted that the construction cost is “similar to that for social housing in the UK” which is the comparison being made in the article.
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