Ireland Needs to Progress 45,000 Homes per Year to B3 Energy Rating

SEAI Deep Retrofit Conference Discusses Plans to Upgrade Ireland’s 1 Million Energy Inefficient Homes

Over 200 building professionals, including architects, specifiers, builders, plumbers, engineers and researchers, gathered at SEAI’s second Annual Deep Retrofit Conference in the Aviva in Dublin.

The conference brought together building energy efficiency experts from Ireland and Europe to discuss solutions to upgrading Ireland’s homes.

As many as one million homes built in the last century are considered to be significantly energy inefficient. To address this, the Government has set out ambitious targets in the National Development Plan (NDP) that will require 45,000 homes per year to achieve a minimum of B3 energy rating.

Jim Gannon, Chief Executive, SEAI, opened the conference, providing some insights from SEAI’s Deep Retrofit Pilot scheme which has been running for over a year. This scheme aims to encourage homeowners to carry out significant upgrades to achieve an A3 rating. The pilot has supported over 40 upgrades in 2017, with a further 180 in progress this year. This work is helping to lower homeowner’s energy bills and, in some cases, improve health and well-being with warmer and better-ventilated homes.

However, to reach the scale required nationally challenges do exist. Challenges such as upskilling the marketplace, building consumer awareness, and addressing financing solutions. Experts at the conference discussed how some of these challenges are being managed in other countries.

Tomas O’Leary, co-founder and CEO of Passive House Academy, spoke about the work that’s happening in Ireland, in places like Waterford & Wexford Education and Training Board, to upskill tradespeople in carrying out deep energy upgrades. He talked about the shift that is needed in the construction sector to guarantee energy performance quality as bricklayers need to become thermal bridging experts, plasterers need to become air tightness experts and plumbers need to become mechanical ventilation experts.

Elena Cattani, a researcher with the Department of Architecture-Alma Mater Studiorum, discussed the opportunity that adding value can have on reducing payback on deep retrofit projects in attracting financial investments. She also spoke of the need for greater densification policies and the need to provide a range of technical solutions to overcome the social risks and barriers and referred to the opportunity to renew and as far as possible to refabricate efficient new envelopes for existing buildings. The solutions could include façade renovation but also, volumetric extensions or the creation of entire new prefabricated dwellings. Elena Cattani presented case studies of buildings in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Brussels, some of which have had 2,000 sq m added to their capacity.

Peter Rickaby of the UK based Retrofit Academy discussed the importance of quality, based on his knowledge of situations like Grenfell Tower. He stressed the importance or risk mitigation. With reference to the “Each Home Counts” review, he highlighted the importance of risk management and the project management delivery of a quality retrofit project. He also pointed to the principles of focusing on materials, workmanship and process, making the retrofit standards accessible online and the importance of combining technical standards with guidance. He also spoke about PAS 2035 Measures Interaction Matrix as a means to identify risk, and he communicated the importance of ventilation with the message of ‘No insulation without ventilation!’

Providing insight from the homeowner perspective, architect Dermot Bannon talked about his experience in managing major upgrades for homeowners. He discussed the drivers behind investment decisions by homeowners and how the process is much more straightforward when a homeowner is bought into a complete, whole house solution on energy efficiency. He advised that clear, simple communication is a must when managing these projects. Often homeowners just need to understand how an energy efficient technology will work and how the upfront investment will result in higher savings and improved comfort in the longer term.

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