Irish government in row over passivhaus eco building regulations

Local authority pushes for standard with high levels of insulation and ventilation, but Irish government says measure would slow construction of new homes

The Guardian, 17 June, 2015

The Irish government is fighting plans by a local authority in Dublin to make the super energy-efficient passivhaus standard mandatory for new buildings.

In a submission to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council, the Department of Environment said introducing the standard would slow the construction of new homes.

Ireland’s building industry is experiencing a tentative recovery for the first time since the country’s property bubble began to collapse in 2007. The government is eager to accelerate house building in the capital, which has experienced a serious housing shortage.

The passivhaus standard, developed by European physicists in the 1990s, requires high levels of insulation, draught-proofing and ventilation. It is designed to eliminate the need for traditional central heating systems and to drastically cut carbon emissions.

Read More

Priory Hall is not an exception

Priory Hall is no exception — a history of poor regulation and enforcement has left many of us living in shoddy homes, argues Lenny Antonelli

 Village magazine, May 2012

The government has launched a public consultation on building control following the high profile evacuation of the Priory Hall development in north Dublin due to fire safety defects.

But the proposed changes are nothing more than a paper exercise that will do little to boost the number of on site building inspections.

The new rules demand the submission of "certificates of compliance" confirming a project meets the legal requirements of the building regulations. Drawings showing how a building complies will also have to be lodged. But it speaks volumes that such basic measures aren't already in place.

Following Priory Hall, environment minister Phil Hogan said the fact Dublin City Council took the case to court "is a clear indication the Building Control Act is robust" (1). But if the act was robust, 240 people wouldn't have moved into a faulty building. And the government wouldn't be fixing the act six months later.

Read More

Half of new homes fail energy efficiency rules

By Lenny Antonelli & Jeff Colley

The Sunday Times (Irish edition), 20 May, 2012

More than half of new Irish homes fail to meet energy efficiency and carbon emissions regulations, according to new figures. The number of new homes meeting the rules has also declined dramatically since 2005, according to data released by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

The figures show 50% of homes fail to meet energy performance rules, 40% fail to meet carbon emission standards, and 39% don't generate enough renewable energy to meet regulations.

The data, which contains a record of the energy performance of every new home given a building energy rating (BER) assessment, was obtained by the green building magazine Construct Ireland.

Of the 3,595 BER assessments carried out on houses built to the 2008 version of Part L of the building regulations, which deals with insulation and energy, 1,946 — or 54% — fail at least one of the three main standards.

This marked a dramatic increase from the 21% of homes built to the 2005 regulations that failed to meet its main requirements. Part L was updated again last far, but few homes have been built to this new version.

Environment minister Phil Hogan recently published a new draft Building Control Act following the high profile evacuation of the Priory Hall development in north Dublin due to fire safety defects. The new rules require the submission of "certificates of compliance" for the design and construction of buildings.

However in a lengthy submission former president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland Eoin O'Cofaigh heavily criticised the proposals. He said the regulations would "criminalise" architects for the failure of local authorities to inspect buildings, and for the failure of other contractors on site. Local authorities currently have a target to inspect just 12-15% of new buildings.

Mr O'Cofaigh, a former member for the Building Regulations Advisory Body, said the proposals were the "21st century equivalent of hanging children for stealing sheep."

Last year Construct Irelandrevealed that an unpublished survey of Irish housing built between 1997 and 2002 commissioned by the SEAI found that none of the houses examined complied fully with energy efficiency regulations. Over 90% of of homes with oil boilers failed to comply with rules on reducing the risk of fire spread and pollution from oil tanks, while over 40% failed to meet ventilation standards.

Infra red photography of housing conducted as part of the survey found that 19 out of 20 houses had gaps in insulation, in contravention of the regulations, that were not revealed by basic visual inspections. This suggest the number of homes failing to meet insulation standards today could be higher than the latest SEAI data indicates, as BER assessors typically assume on-paper specifications are correct if they can't access insulation.

SEAI is planning to release a public research tool to enable users to study the BER data it has collected. The next issue of Construct Ireland magazine will contain further analysis of the latest figures. The Department of Environment did not respond to a request for comment from The Sunday Times in time for print.

This is the original version of the story we submitted as opposed to the final version that appeared in the Sunday Times, as their edit is not available online.