Our urban environment is ripe for optimisation
Property technology is whizzing with ‘optimisation’ yet the reality of delivering efficiencies or improvements are not always as direct as s
PassivHaus has grown in popularity in the UK with increasing numbers of private residences and schools completed over the past years, as well as two major efforts exceeding 100 units by local authorities, Camden and Norwich City. Launched in the early 90’s Passivhaus promises highly efficient buildings with far reaching benefits across the building life-cycle. Why is market adoption slow and only until recently being considered at a significant scale in the UK?
A roundtable led by the ULI Sustainability and Residential Council’s provided first hand insights from Norwich Council, Grosvenor, Lendlease, Bridges Investment Fund and urban environment leaders into why adopting Passivhaus or ‘Deep Retrofit’ standards has limits within the current market but may have a greater influence in the near future. Interestingly the reason for each of the organisations to adopt Passivhaus or Deep Retrofits were due to considerations for the long-term environmental impacts from the built environment, plus a recognition that the schemes should create a long-term benefit for investment, occupiers and society.
(Please note the term Passivhaus also recognises the term Deep Retrofits)
Key findings from the Passivhaus Roundtable include:
Without a significant range of market examples or cost benefits insights, each organisation undertook Passivhaus to test its value with some fascinating results. Interestingly Norwich and Lendlease undertook Passivhaus in the early phases for new developments, while Bridges Investment Fund is delivering a second Passivhaus scheme to take forward learnings from an earlier development of an aged care home. Grosvenor on the other hand undertook a different approach which focused on applying Deep Retrofits of three different standards (see case studies below) across existing dwelling, to further assess the true benefits.
A lack of industry knowledge, skills, available materials and planning limitations were identified as common challenges for each organisation. Most notably the current planning system often does not recognise Passivhaus use of non-conventional insulation, ventilation or heating methods, within the planning codes and as such require further engagement with Planning Departments to gain building permission. In addition a lack of skills or materials often led to delays and as such each organisation recognise the greatest benefits are created when Passivhaus are adopted at the earliest concept or design phases.
To further overcome market barriers Norwich City Council have taken a regional approach which addresses the supply chain challenge, by providing training to upskill the construction sector, which in turn will provide a far-reaching benefit to the delivery of efficient homes in the region. In addition, by delivering Passivhaus at scale they are also directly improving the supply chain, creating long-term financial protection for low-income residents, improved rental yields and demonstrating leadership, which may further benefit the region.
Unlocking long-term benefits
To further prove the business case each organisation recognises the wider influences their schemes are having on the market, which include; reduced maintenance costs due to less heating appliances; improved indoor air quality; increased quality of market offering and long-term carbon reductions implications. However, evidence is limited as many of these factors are yet to be fully measured but indicate that a maturing Passivhaus market could further unlock the delivery of more efficient homes across the UK if wider benefits are recognised.
Beyond the benefits of the build, a major barrier is scale and the related lack of market knowledge or supply chain inefficiencies. Through leadership from the case studies presented it is inspiring to see organisations testing and incentivising the market, which in turn could further develop skills to deliver Passivhaus at scale. An increase in skills, locally available and viable Passivhaus products will in turn further incentivise the market in the UK and may indicate a greater uptake of Passivhaus in the near future.
International examples of large scale Passivhaus schemes do exist however like the UK examples many of these are still to mature. Examples include 1400 Alberni in Vancouver, the tallest Passivhuas scheme in the world, a 26 storey student development in New York and ‘Bolueta’ a 171 apartment complex in Bilboa (further details here) may also incentivise global investment in Passivhaus, which may further unlock the market.
Within a UK context the roundtable recognised the following market barriers that could further unlock the delivery of more efficient buildings and these include:
Even though Passivhaus has existed for decades the roundtable highlighted that Passivhaus at scale is in its early phase, both globally and in the UK. Leadership by Norwich, Bridges Fund Management, Grosvenor and LendLease should demonstrate that the delivery of more efficient homes is of interest to society and as such should further incentivise developers and investors to support such schemes. However, without policy recognising the lasting benefits for occupier health, carbon and skills across the development fields, there is a risk Passivhaus will remain niche.
Please find the Case Studies from the Passivhaus Roundtable and related slides with further links to resources below.
Norwich City Council are leading one of UK’s largest Passivhaus developments delivering 227 units ranging from social housing to private rented schemes. Delivering their first scheme in May 2017 the council is driven to deliver social, health and reduced operational costs for lasting community benefits. Through their schemes the Council are driven to:
Elephant Park is xxx development just south of Central London where Lendlease are developing xxx dwellings and through each phase are testing innovative solutions. One of these themes is Passivhaus which they are adopting to 15 terrace homes known as ‘Future Home’. In combination the scheme is also part of the C40 Climate Positive Development Programme which includes 18 international real-world projects that aim to deliver a ‘green print’ for future development. Some of the insights include:
Rather than applying a single certification Grosvenor focused on testing 3 retrofit case studies to better understand the varying outcomes from a ‘Deep Retrofit, Bream Outstanding and Passivhaus to support their goal of achieving a 50% carbon emission reduction by 2023. Learnings from the retrofit programme and case studies included:
Bridges Sustainable Property Fund undertook their first Passivhuas development in 2010 with Juniper House a care home in Brackley, Northamptonshire. Building on learnings from Juniper House, Bridges Fund Management are now embarking on a second Passivhaus scheme in Bristol and insights from their experiences include:
Further information view the links below
A special thank you to George Tyler, Director, Ekistics Capital and Committee Member of the ULI UK Sustainability Council for bringing this roundtable to ULI
Author: Robert de Jong, Programme Director, ULI UK