This year, a tight knit group of AECB members met in Sheffield for the Annual Conference – Sheffield University were hosts.
After a brief introduction, Prof. Fionn Stevenson, the esteemed building performance researcher and educator, offered a warm welcome to the city with more trees per person than any other city in the UK.
Peter Wilkinson went on to set the scene. The AEBC he noted is changing. It is strengthening its views and seeking to engage with political changes and there have been increased ties to organisations such as CIAT.
The Passivhaus Trust, an offshoot of the AECB, has continued to galvanise people’s interest and the AECB Silver Standard has also made some significant advances. This year alone there were 75 AECB Silver homes that were certified.
The Low Energy Buildings Database has continued to develop and grow. Peter also noted that there is a desire to have more female trustees on the board (so if you are an AECB member and you feel inclined to join the board please make yourself known.)
The Carbonlite Retrofit Standard (CLR) took centre stage. The training programme that will be used to support CLR is a bridge between ‘make do’ and best practice retrofit. It is about creating an adequate level of understanding rather than creating another tier of experts. In this case, so that manufacturer’s data can be interpreted and challenged when appropriate, adequate understanding means being numerically literate. By creating the foundational knowledge that building professionals need, it is possible to avoid long term unintended consequences that could have costly implications. Expect to hear much more about this in coming months.
Highlights of the event included practical lessons in airtightness by Paul Jennings from ALDAS. This packed-to-the-walls workshop demonstrated a range of construction technologies and airtightness solutions, and used blower door fans so help determine the leaks.
Another popular talk was delivered by Nick Grant of Elemental Solutions. His subject was value engineering and it was delivered in Nick’s typical no nonsense style. Decisively separating the wheat from the chaff, he demonstrated how a true understanding of value enables quality standards to be raised, value to be increased and investment costs to be optimised or cut.
Helen Brown from Encraft and Paul Jennings gave a presentation about a retrofit at Wilmcote House, Portsmouth. The occupants of the existing building suffer from high bills and condensation. A conditions report revealed that 80% of the windows needed to be replaced. The move to retrofit the building to EnerPHit standards was the brainchild of architect Mark Elton (now from Sustainable By Design.) Initial strategic PHPP models were simplified. The more detailed studies that have now been undertaken by Helen Brown have demonstrated that in practice, the project cannot be certified because the primary energy demand cannot be reduced below the required threshold. Nonetheless, the fabric upgrade continues to target EnerPHit standards of performance. Ventilation and overheating risks are being given very careful attention.
At the close of the day there was the World Café. Here, themed tables were established with a couple of expert hosts. The remaining members were free to join or leave the themed discussions as and when they chose. This latest addition to the conference proved very successful so expect to see more of the World Café in the future.
Catrin Maby started the second day with a talk titled “From Frozen Bodied to Warm Homes.” This a retrospective of her career offered insight into her crusade to enrich people’s lives by finding ways of taking them out of fuel poverty and providing healthier homes. Along the way, Maby grew the Severn Wye Energy Agency from 2 to 45 people.
This talk was quickly followed by a tour de force that was delivered by services engineer Alan Clarke and accompanied by Andrew Farr (Green Building Store). Starting from the basics about how much fresh air is required to provide good indoor air quality they left no stone unturned when testing and challenging common assumptions about ventilation. Along the way, the audience discovered that internal moisture gains appear to be about half that predicted by design standards, in a limited number of UK test cases humidity recovery appears to work, humidity recovery may not be suitable for small dwellings, properly designed and commissioned MVHR systems cascade ventilation is surprisingly robust.
I also had the honour of presenting at the conference this year. The presentation explored the feedback from occupants that live in two Certified Passivhaus projects that I designed. The Racecourse Estate (25 units) and Steel Farm, a bespoke home (see Passivhaus Plus issue 10 and www.PassivhausSecrets.co.uk). The biggest lesson from the presentation and that I learned from this research exercise, is that architects and engineers need to think more like anthropologists and less like designers. – only then can unintended consequences be avoided.
For more details about the conference and to download presentations click here.