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The Eco Architect

Sustainable architecture is already the ethical choice.
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After the International Passivhaus Conference in Darmstadt, 2016, I had the privilege of meeting Wolfgang Feist, the co-founder of the Passivhaus concept. I wanted to gauge from him his view on the role of Passivhaus in tackling climate change and fuel poverty.

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Ireland has a 15-year history of campaigning for Passivhaus adoption and recent events have propelled the standard to the forefront of industry debate.

Last year, the County Councillors of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown voted 35 to 4 in favour of adopting Passivhaus for all new buildings in the Development Plan for the region. This will have a hugely positive impact on their future building stock in terms of energy performance, health standards and comfort levels. It is a momentous achievement and puts the county shoulder-to-shoulder with other progressive regions such as Brussels, Oslo and parts of Germany and Austria.

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Heidelberg-Bahnstadt in Germany is a new mixed-use district located just 60km south of the first ever Passivhaus construction in Darmstadt. The district covers 116 hectares and will house approximately 6,500 people, all of whom will have a healthy home, which will be affordable to run chiefly thanks to the Passivhaus standard being adopted as a universal construction method.

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I no longer feel the need to loudly extol the virtues of Passivhaus. Whilst they are far-reaching in terms of energy, health and comfort, these are not the factors that make the sale for budget-driven projects. The question on the lips of those holding the purse strings is “what does it cost?”. This is the case for any project, Passivhaus or not.

The workshop, Delivering Cost Effective Passive House in Ireland, presented the opportunity to reconcile sustainable solutions with the realities of a capitalist industry.

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The earth’s climate has changed before, but this amazing cartoon by XKCD offers a shocking reality check. Scroll down through the last 22,000 years and watch the gentle fluctuations of temperature. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well.

Our predecessors didn’t know how their actions would affect the planet. We do. We need to take “immediate, massive action to limit climate change.” Zero Carbon Buildings could play a big role in jogging us off our current path of self-destruction.

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At home with… Joanna Lindley – Housing June/July 2016

I have been interviewed for the ‘At home with…’ feature of Housing magazine, a monthly publication for housing professionals. The article, written by Mark Cantrell, delves into the mission and methods behind my research Fellowship with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

“Lindley has no doubt that it [Passivhaus] forms part of the UK’s solution for delivering lower cost, better performing, more sustainable homes.” – Mark Cantrell

You can read the full article in the June/July 2016 digital edition of Housing, here: At home with… Joanna Lindley.

Sustainable architecture is sometimes tarnished with accusations of being boxy or samey. This slideshow of residential Passivhaus projects in Germany counters such unjustified accusations. Passivhaus is purely a performance standard and need not inhibit the creativity of its designers – these beautiful buildings provide the proof.

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Using sustainable design and construction solutions is often, by a happy coincidence, more affordable than ‘regular’ building techniques. This is due to the efficiencies and optimisations required to make a successful low energy building. Affordable Passivhaus construction was a running theme throughout the lectures at the International Passivhaus Conference this year, with delegates enthusiastically sharing their ideas.

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Last month, I began the travels for my Churchill Fellowship by making a pilgrimage to Darmstadt in Germany, the birthplace of the Passivhaus standard. I gathered with fellow ‘Passivhausers’ from around the world for the 20th International Passivhaus Conference and to celebrate the impressive milestone of 25 years of Passivhaus. Technology, techniques, awareness and enthusiasm for the standard have evolved dramatically since the prototype house was constructed, but the reliable physics underlying the system remains largely unchanged.

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I have been awarded a 2016 Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to learn from international examples how Passivhaus, the rigorous design and construction standard, can be elevated from daunting to desirable here in the UK.

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