Least cost, most benefit from jumping straight to Passive House performance Instead NZ chooses a step change approach

13 April 2023 by Jason Quinn

Something I learned from my dad growing up was to do something right … so you only had to do it once. When you do a half-arsed job, you often have to do it over again.

I was reminded of this when Jonathan Holmes (VIA Architects) recently pointed out a great technical paper from the UK. It dates back from 2019 but is just as relevant now. The paper comes out of Ulster University. (The authors focused on Northern Ireland as the worst case scenario, having the least stringent building regulations of any of the countries that make up the UK.) 

The authors argue it makes better financial sense to jump straight to building to the Passive House standard in one step. Better to just do it than lock-in low performance and higher carbon emissions for the life of the building.

You can check out the discussion on Jonathan’s Linked In post. I’m publishing this post here so I can find the technical paper reference in future. Jonathan also linked a great podcast on the same topic by the lead author. 

Here are some of the key points from the abstract from the paper, Cost Optimal UK Deployment of the Passive House Standard.

“The Passivhaus [Passive House] standard has been in existence for over 25 years and has been demonstrated to offer a tried and tested method of achieving low energy/nZEB at no extra cost in some jurisdictions.

“It was found that extra costs (compared with building to the minimum building regulations) include increased airtightness and insulation levels, a heat recovery and ventilation system and higher performing windows and doors. Cost reductions are achieved in the elimination of the traditional heating system, chimney stack and reduced site overheads.

“A major policy related finding is that upgrading NI dwellings standards to the PH standard rather than a standard equivalent to the minimum English building regulations (at a cost of £3,104), is a more attractive option as it would result in additional annual space heating energy consumption reductions of 79% for an extra once off expenditure of £1,984, with simple payback less than six years. This highlights the opportunity of avoiding locking in energy loss … avoiding potentially expensive retrofit costs in the future.”

Colclough, S., & McWilliams, M. (2019). Cost Optimal UK Deployment of the Passive House Standard. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’19) [261].

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