The Association for Environment Conscious Building
Was founded in 1989 and by 2000 had reached a membership of over 1000. In 2006 it became a not-for-profit limited company, AECB Ltd. Since then, it has continued to thrive providing news, support, building standards on green building to a membership that continues to grow.
AECB : The story so far
The Association for Environment Conscious Building was founded in 1989 by Keith and Sally Hall with a quarterly newsletter sent to members.
Subscription rates were introduced and the first issue of the AECB’s Products and Services Directory was published.
The first issue of ‘Building for a Future’ in magazine format was produced.
The Greener Building products and services directory, written by Keith Hall and Peter Warm, was published. It was launched by Professor Chris Baines.
The first Annual General Meeting, attended by 67 members, was held at the Earth Centre, in Birmingham. Professor Chris Baines became its President and the first Steering Committee was appointed, chaired by Peter Warm.
Andy Simmonds won the design competition for the AECB’s first logo.
The AECB website was created by Keith Hall – www.aecb.net. The second AGM was held at the Bishopswood Centre, Worcestershire.
The AECB Charter was written and adopted at the AGM held at the Pit Hill Community Centre, Bradford. This event included workshops, talks and a social event. The AECB also contributed to the Greenpeace publication, ‘Building the Future; a guide to building without PVC’.
The fourth AGM was held at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth. The first AECB Year Book, Directory of Members was written and published. Unit One, Dyfi Eco Parc was the first recipient of SPEC (the AECB’s Sustainable Projects Endorsement Certificate).
Keith and Sally Hall received the 1997 Schumacher Award for their work in establishing the Association and for “working to transform society in the Schumacher tradition”.
The fifth AGM was at Construction Resources, London and it attracted a record attendance of 100 members. The AECB joined the body to advise on the greening of the Heathrow Terminal 5 building. The Members’ Directory was re-named ‘The Real Green Building Book’.
The AECB and RICS held a joint conference, ‘Sustaining our Heritage – the way forward for energy efficient historic buildings’, which was held in London. The sixth AGM took place at the Earth Balance Centre, Northumberland. The Association first registered its own domain name ‘aecb.net’.
Membership exceeds 1000 for the first time. The seventh AGM was held at The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge. Distribution of The Real Green Building Book topped 5000 copies. The association joined SETCO, later to become The Phone Co-op.
The AECB collaborated with BRE on its web-based project “Sustainability – getting the SME’s questions answered”. The Pestalozzi Children’s Village trust near Hastings was the venue for the eighth AGM.
The preliminary work commenced to change the legal status of the AECB to a Company Limited by Guarantee, replacing the steering committee with a board of trustees. The ninth AGM was held at the National Botanic Garden, Wales. Peter Warm stood down as Chair. Mark Gorgolewski took over and for a period was joint Chair with Lucy Pedler before Mark moved abroad.
The tenth AGM was held at The Earth Centre, Doncaster. Andrew Simmonds was appointed Chair. It was agreed that the Green Building Press would publish Building for a Future independently under contract to the AECB. The first AECB training initiative was established.
The new website was launched. The AECB’s training initiative was formalised and named SussEd – Sustainable Skills and Education. The eleventh AGM was held at The Weald and Downland Museum.
The AECB’s first Executive Officer, Andy Simmonds, was appointed as a paid post and Chris Herring became Chair. The Association became a Company Limited by Guarantee and the steering committee members were appointed as directors. The twelfth AGM was held at SCAT (Somerset College of Arts and Technology) in Taunton, Somerset, where the Genesis Project was under construction.
The AECB was officially transferred to the new not for profit limited company, AECB Ltd. The 2006 conference and AGM was held in the new Genesis Centre, Taunton, Somerset.
December 2006 saw the Government launch its target of ‘zero carbon homes’ by 2016. Shortly after this, during 2007, the AECB inaugurated its Carbonlite Programme – a crash course in energy efficient, low carbon design and building. The CLP was a key development for the AECB and was built on the expertise of members, and supported members in building truly low energy buildings. Its aim was to reach a wide audience (particularly within the design and construction industries) to offer advice for clients and developers, as well as for occupiers. The Carbon Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation were its main funders. The CLP comprises energy standards, a description of principles and methodologies for calculating heat loss and emissions, a comprehensive training programme, a web-site with a forum and a database of buildings with measured energy results (www.carbonlite.net).
The AECB also became an active participant in the PASS-NET project, which worked in well with CLP. PASS-NET was a three-year European programme which aimed to promote low energy and low carbon buildings within Europe. This project continued to create valuable and productive relationships with international partner organisations in other European countries, all working to promote sustainable low energy buildings across Europe.
AECB regional groups were set up to provide the opportunity for members to meet and network with others. The website on-line forum allowed members to discuss key issues in sustainable construction and was well used by its members. The AECB’s ‘member’s profile’ feature also went live this year on the website, allowing members to enhance their listings with additional information and photographs.
The 2007 conference and AGM was held at the Rivergreen Centre, Durham.
This period saw the completion of the majority of the initial phase of the Carbonlite Programme. The outcome was a training programme and some key tools based on international best practice, particularly the German Passivhaus methodology.
The programme continued to gain momentum, resulting in increasing ‘carbon literacy’ within the industry, and importantly, it started to influence policy makers. Over 200 individuals attended CLP training courses, key documents were downloaded thousands of times, and Carbonlite had an undoubted influence on the form of the proposed new Building Regulations for 2010, 2013 and beyond.
The AECB launched the CLP at Ecobuild at a sell-out session, and ran ‘ask the expert’ stand at the Home Building and Renovating Shows. It also had stands at the Glastonbury Festival, Greener Homes and Buildings and several smaller regional events.
This period also witnessed an expansion of the regional groups network, enabling committed members to meet together regularly for informal information exchange, events and social activities.
A large amount of work this year went into the highly successful Carbonlite programme, helping to take the UK forward in truly effective measures to address carbon emissions from new and refurbished buildings. An increasing number of projects started using the Carbonlite guidance in their development and detail design stages.
The 2008 conference and AGM was held at the University of East Anglia and in November 2008 the AECB hosted the first ever public talk in the UK by Dr Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passivhaus Institut in Germany.
Four well-attended Passivhaus Planning Package courses were organized and a visit to Belgium set up for 2009, partly supported through European funding as part of the PASS-NET project.
Preparatory work continued towards the establishment of an organisation that would promote the Passivhaus standard within the UK, as a wholly owned subsidiary company of the AECB.
The Board agreed to use the name ‘AECB, the sustainable building association’ for all promotional purposes.
The AECB Water Standards and the widely acclaimed Carbonlite Passivhaus / Gold Detailed Design Guidance were published. The very popular Belgium visit organised under PASS-NET took place in May, enabling delegates to see a number of Passivhaus buildings in action, first hand.
2009’s conference and agm was the most successful to date. Working closely with Oxford Brooks University, there was an excellent range of workshops and Dr Wolfgang Feist gave a series of seminars on Passivhaus . He also led a valuable discussion and exchange of ideas afterwards. He was filmed in conversation with Peter Warm (the AECB’s first Chair) – probably the first time that film of Dr Feist has been available on U-tube, certainly in English. (see the videos ). The event was sold out and the feedback was very positive.
The AECB provided technical support to the Technology Strategy Board’s Retrofit for the Future competition. The competition awarded £150,000 to each winning scheme to carry out a low-energy refurbishment project. The AECB worked with the TSB on upgrading the AECB buildings’ database in order that design and monitoring data from all the winning projects could be uploaded. The AECB assisted with the definition of the 80% CO2 reduction target, and advised on how competition participants should model their schemes to establish least cost options on a common basis.
Preparatory work continued towards the establishment of an organisation that would promote the Passivhaus standard within the UK, as a wholly owned subsidiary company of the AECB.
2009 closed with a packed one-day conference on Passivhaus Schools in London, supported by PASS-NET.
In 2010, AECB established the Passivhaus Trust, a not-for-profit initiative with the key aim of promoting the reduction of energy use and carbon emissions from new and refurbished buildings. The Trust (www.passivhaustrust.org.uk) was set up to provide leadership in the UK for the adoption of the Passivhaus standard and methodology. The Trust has its own board and staff team, but will retain close working links with AECB and with other key organisations.
New courses continued to be developed and run under the CarbonLite programme by the AECB’s delivery partner, Warm, including a new module on ‘Delivering Airtight Buildings’.
The Low Energy Buildings Database was re-launched with additional graphical displays and search functions, and the first design data from Retrofit for the Future (RfF) projects began to be loaded alongside project data form AECB members’ new build and refurbishment projects.
As part of the AECB’s involvement with RfF, four short films of low-energy retrofits were produced, and published on www.aecb.net.
More new AECB local groups were formed, including two in Scotland.
The AECB celebrated its 21st birthday at the 2010 annual members’ conference (another sell out), held in October in the stunning new Welsh Institute for Sustainable Education at CAT, with AECB founders Keith and Sally Hall as guests of honour.
The 2011 Conference was held in September and was branded Moving In and Moving On. This was chosen to coincide with the completion of many of the Retrofit for the Future projects funded by the Technology Strategy Board and looked at aspects of renovation and retrofit. Also addressed were issues such as community involvement, materials and usability.
During 2011,the key involvement of AECB with the Technology Strategy Board in the Retrofit for the Future Programme demonstrated just how respected AECB is for its core expertise in this field. Involvement continues through the on-going work on the low energy database, established through the RFF programme, which is playing an important role, recognised by BRE, EST and the National Refurbishment Centre. The AECB also published Less is More key strategy paper, which was previewed at the conference.
The Technology Strategy Board agreed to fund further development of the AECB database to enhance its functionality, searchability and ability to share lessons learnt from the 87 Retrofit for the Future projects, and a further 33 low energy projects.
During July, we were pleased to welcome Gill Rivers as Business Operations Manager and Debbie Mauger was also appointed as Local Groups Co-ordinator.
2011 also saw the official launch of our AECB news platform on our website which allows us to share news items and events including local group news/events, member news and AECB articles. This also coincided with the introduction of our own Facebook Page.
The new news platform also allowed us to introduce an exciting new concept – Soapbox. This allows our members to make a short and concise case for something they are passionate about and to share their expertise with fellow members and the wider AECB audience.
In December, the AECB won a water industry award at SWIG (The Sustainable Water Industry Group). The standard is used by designers in both domestic and non-domestic buildings, to optimise the efficient and effective use of water and energy.
The AECB gave presentations and offered advice in the Ask the Experts area at both the Homebuilding and Renovating Show and Grand Designs Live which demonstrated that there is a huge demand for independent advice on a range of green building issues.
The 2012 Annual Members’ Conference was held in June at the new Academic Buiding of Goldsmith’s College, London and was branded “Never Mind the Greenwash”. The two day Conference coincided with a visit to the UK by Wolfgang Feist from the German Passivhaus Institute and a joint event was held on the Saturday with the Passivhaus Trust for members of the public. The conference also featured an evening debate under the heading ‘Sustainability is more than just Energy’. This packed session began with contributions from a panel, with AECB’s Chief Executive, Andy Simmonds and long-standing AECB members Neil May of Natural Building Products and Pat Borer from the Centre for Alternative Technology.
In 2012 a Herefordshire based property development company, were very proud to have been awarded the Silver Certification from the AECB, the first development in the UK to receive this. The building is designed to offer its occupants a 75-80% reduction in heating bills compared to standard homes. AECB Silver Certification is a self-certification scheme open to building projects that meet the AECB Silver Standard design and performance criteria. The AECB self certification route has been developed whereby the self certifier (typically the building’s energy consultant) takes responsibility for certification and for underwriting the Silver Standard claim.
During 2012 the AECB entered into a new contract with the Passivhaus Institute to sell the 2012 Passive House Planning Package software (PHPP). PHPP is a design tool for use by building architects and designers. Based on dynamic thermal simulations validated by data gathered from hundreds of low-energy buildings, PHPP is the software to use to calculate energy use and CO₂ emissions. PHPP’s level of sophistication enables it to take into account a wide range of variable characteristics which affect heat loss and subsequent energy use, allowing for a superior fit between predicted energy use and real-world performance. Suitable for both residential and many non-residential applications, PHPP is supported by the AECB CLP courses (run by Warm Associates) to help you members get the most from this software.
In 2013 the AECB started development of a CarbonLite Retrofit (CLR) programme that would be both independent and complementary to the Green Deal. CLR, a web based educational course, intends to explain and illustrate, in plain English, applied building physics relating to heat and moisture, in a retrofit context. As part of the development work a broad literature review was undertaken to assess the current level of understanding of both the building physics and real and potential risks associated with various retrofit solutions. The anticipated launch of the web based educational course would be summer 2015.
In February 2013 AECB were proud to launch the redeveloped website which has undergone extensive work to create a modern, fresh, user friendly site for both members and non members. The website was further updated in July 2013 with the launch of the new AECB logo and identity which was rolled out on all stationery, literature and marketing material.
The 2013 AECB Conference was held at the Norcroft Centre, University of Bradford with the theme “healthy buildings & sustainable water”. The Conference focused on what it is like living and working in well designed and healthy sustainable buildings, as well as designing and building them, and also thinking about water – the theme of 2012’s weather! Lothar Moll, who described himself as a construction ecologist, was one of the guest speakers at the Conference. Lothar became a pioneer of the biological and ecological movement in Germany, establishing the first ecological Builders Merchant, and the first information resource about biological and ecological building methods.
2014 marked the 25th Anniversary of the AECB and once again a merry band of professionals, self builders and other members gathered for its Conference. The event was held at the University of Bristol’s Wills Hall Campus on 11th and 12th July. Once again the AECB conference team worked their magic to create the foundations for a hugely successful event. The main themes for the event were retrofit including the launch of the AECB’s CarbonLite Retrofit programme (with the pilot phase to commence shortly) and timber. As well as the usual range of activities a coach trip to the Ashley Vale self-build scheme was also included, the majority of the homes having been constructed from timber frame.
At the 2014 AGM we saw stalwarts Neill Lewis (the AECB’s longest serving Committee member then Trustee) and Nick Grant both step down. This left some rather large shoes to be filled – Phil Newbold and Mark Siddall volunteered and were duly elected.
The start of 2015 saw AECB Chair, Peter Wilkinson meet with the MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and Shadow Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, County and District Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Pendle, Azhar AliMr Reynolds to let them know more about the AECB and the impending CarbonLite Retrofit Course. Also discussed was the Government’s revised Zero Carbon Homes and the AECB’s Silver Standard.
The CarbonLite retrofit course (CLR), the culmination of several years work and investment, was trialled using several AECB members as pilot volunteers. This is a training programme that will be used to build a bridge between ‘make do’ and best practice retrofit. Following on from the trial a very successful first cohort was organised which attracted 42 students. The course continues to be refined and reviews are excellent.
The annual conference was held at Sheffield University and CLR took centre stage. The 2 day conference was well attended and included practical sessions, workshops, talks and presentations as well as the World Café hosted by experts on different themes. On the day following the conference, Green Building Store organised an AECB Pedalhaus cycling tour of four of its Passivhaus and low energy retrofit projects and due to the popularity of these tours, more were arranged by other group leaders during the year.
This year sadly saw the the end of the paper copy Green Building Magazine for members. The editor had decided to cease publishing the magazine and it was offered to the AECB but the Board did not feel they could take it over for various reasons. Instead Passive House Plus became the official partner magazine of the AECB. This had been offered free of charge to members for over a year but the partnership made this a more formal deal with a contract to supply future copies at a set price per member. It was also agreed to use this magazine as the main marketing tool with adverts and text. As well as receiving each new issue in print form, members were given digital access to the magazine which includes image galleries of plans and construction details of most of the buildings featured. Green Building Magazine had been an important member benefit for over 25 years, almost since the AECB’s inception. In a statement, AECB chief executive (Andy Simmonds), chair (Peter Wilkinson) and vice-chair (Fran Bradshaw) said: “Green Building Magazine, and formerly Building for a Future, have for over 25 years inspired and informed a wide range of construction professionals and others interested in promoting the sustainability of buildings and the construction sector. There can be no doubt that the magazine has had a real influence on many people over the years of its publication.
In July, following the shocking announcement from the Government to scrap the 2016 Zero Carbon Homes target, the AECB added its voice to widespread criticism within the construction sector. The AECB called for help from members to contact and meet up with their local constituency MPs to urge the government to reconsider.
The year commenced with a joint PHT and AECB event – a light-hearted but factual debate about which ventilation strategies are most appropriate for low energy buildings.
In March we were excited to officially launch our CarbonLite Retrofit Training Course which is studied on-line under guidance of experienced tutors. We were pleased to welcome our first cohort of 42 students in April and a further cohort in October. Students have provided valuable feedback to help refine the course even further but have also been keen to recommend the course to others. By the end of the year students were satisfactorily completing the course and arrangements were in place for the next course to run in April 2017.
During 2016 we submitted evidence to the House of Commons select committees on the following topics;
Science and technology – smart meters
Energy and climate change – what could change the energy sector?
Home energy efficiency
Energy and climate change
Leaving the EU; implications for UK climate policy inquiry
The economics of UK energy policy
The usual highlight of the year was the AECB annual conference held in July. This year the venue was ‘Britain’s greenest building” – The Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia. Unlike previous years, delegates were treated to off-site visits as part of the programme.
Eddy Walker, one of our first members, left a £10,000 legacy to the AECB in 2010 after he sadly died at the age of 59. Students and young professionals were invited to apply for the Eddy Walker Award in April in order to win a free place on the CarbonLite Retrofit Training Course. They were asked to submit an essay on ‘How would undertaking the CLR training help you to develop your career or business?’ Winners were announced at the Conference and were Adam Harper and Helen Richards.
The AECB continued to provide the Carbonlite Courses with Warm. Just before the close of the year we were pleased to partner Tim Martel as he launched his Retrofit Economics Analysis and Lifetime costing, or ‘REALcosting’ course. This is an Excel based spreadsheet which fills in PHPP (Passivhaus Planning Package) energy calculations for you. Online training is also available as part of the package and this will start in 2017.
Following the referendum, at the end of July, we signed a joint statement from the construction and property sector on the continued importance of sustainability in the wake of the referendum. The letter was published by the Financial Times.
CarbonLite retrofit training course (CLR)
Students continue to study and give excellent feedback on our CarbonLite retrofit course which is accessed online. A new area of our website is now in place to feature our graduates and they are also searchable in our Members Directory. The Passivhaus Insitute agreed that CarbonLite retrofit graduates were entitled to 35 credit points on successful completion of the course towards renewal of their Passivhaus Designer/Consultant qualification.
Taking into account feedback from students, the course has naturally evolved and at the end of the year, we announced some changes - mainly that students can start the course at any time without the need to be in a cohort and also that the associated webinars from 2018 will be sold separately to the course. The webinars becoming optional gives more flexibility so students can join at any time and pass the course when they have completed the quizzes.
Retrofit Economics Analysis and Lifetime costing, 'REALcosting' training is run on behalf of the AECB by Tim Martel, it's specifically for retrofits only. About a dozen AECB members have taken advantage of this since its launch in January 17.
Silver Standard (now re-named to the AECB Building Standard)
the Silver standard has been renamed the AECB Building Standard. Six building projects were certified during this period. Members can download the standards free of charge and certificates are awarded for those projects that meet the standards when the details have been uploaded on to the Low Energy Buildings Database. Articles about the AECB Building Standard appeared in the Passive House Plus magazine and also in Period Living magazine during 2017.
These popular, well attended courses continue to be run on behalf of the AECB by Warm . The Certified Passivhaus Designer training course guides delegates through various modules to achieve certified Passivhaus Designer or Consultant status, thereby giving delegates the confidence to tackle UK Passivhaus Projects. The online Thermal Bridging Course is also available. The AECB receives a flat rate percentage of course income received.
Passive House Plus Magazine
AECB members receive this magazine as part of their membership as it is our official partner magazine. Published bi-monthly, two pages were allocated to the AECB during 2017 where we continue to spread the word about what we do and the benefits of being a member. Articles have included subjects such as the AECB Building Standard and the CarbonLite retrofit course
Evidence to Select Committees and responses
The AECB has submitted the following evidence to Parliament during this report period;
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee – Heat in Buildings and A Smart, Flexible Energy System.
Prior to the General Election, we invited guest blogger Mike Hannis to interpret each party’s stance on building, energy and climate policy. These blogs proved very popular.
In February the AECB combined forces with the Passivhaus Trust, National Energy Foundation, Sustainable Development Foundation, Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance and the Retrofit Academy to respond to the Each Home Counts report on Retrofit.
A period of sustained growth
The AECB continues to grow and by 2023 has a membership of over 2,000.
Reports and thought leadership
The AECB launches the "Post-fossil fuel report" which looks at the UK policy of reaching ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2050. This document outlines moving towards a future in which buildings would be constructed, and materials manufactured, with ‘net zero’ GHG emissions. Co-written by David Olivier and AECB CEO Andy Simmonds, it proves a popular read and is downloaded from the AECB shop every month since.
Confident in finding its own voice, the AECB launches its own magazine "Setting the Standard". With articles and analysis from industry experts and AECB members, the magazine reaches beyond the membership to its 5,000+ newsletter subscribers. The first AECB podcast it also broadcast.
PHPP and AECB software
An online shop is launched which sells discounted software, training courses and more. The AECB is the sole vendor for PHPP and designPH in the UK and opens sales of the PHI software to a wider audience.
In 2022, the AECB launches its own PHPP plug in, PHribbon which is available exclusively in the online shop. A stand alone AECB Carbon Calculator is also launched along with training sessions in its use.
Social media presence
Twitter and Linkedin subscribers continue to grow and the AECB Youtube channel is also launched.