There’s a nice summary of the current state of PassivHaus building in the UK on The Ecologist website. I was interested to read the reasons that Chris Herring, director of the Green Building Store was quoted as giving for the slow take-up of this approach to building design and construction in the UK:
Chris Herring … puts it down to a combination of factors: suspicion of European ideas, the language barrier, the lack of a publicly funded body to promote best practice in construction in the UK since the privatisation of BRE, and the fact that the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes has gone in a different direction (with a focus on renewables).
I’d like to add some further comment to that…
Personally, PassivHaus is a swings-and-roundabouts proposition – low bills and the satisfaction of ‘doing your bit for the planet’, weighed against a sterile and cold (in the sense of formal and aloof) interior. I like a ‘life giving’ open fire and all that it entails; I even enjoy chopping wood and laying the fire (probably because I don’t have to do it everyday). Sating the primal attraction to fire is a pleasure, one that I fear I may miss in a PassivHaus. So PassivHaus with a fireplace may suit me, but is that a compromise too far?
The other issue is builders. From experience builders, like most of us, prefer to remain in their comfort zone, using tried and tested techniques and materials. Whilst not demanding a massive shift in either aspect of building, PassivHaus construction is different enough to worry some and put off others. It is seemingly fashionable amongst the Grand Designs set to bring in foreign seemingly super efficient teams of builders who come ready made with the appropriate skills for PassivHaus, that’s not something I would do (and nor should YOU!). Our local builders need support and opportunity to develop the necessary skills. As developers, renovators and convertors we need to provide the opportunity (And I’m not sure that BRE can’t still provide the necessary support but I’ve not had enough contact with BRE to comment in any meaningful way). In short, it has to be an evolution toward PassivHaus standards rather than a big bang … and the evidence of the houses mentioned in the Guardian article suggest that evolution is underway.