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 in June. 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 considered to be significantly energy inefficient. To address this, the Government has set out ambitious targets in the National Development Plan that will require 45,000 homes per year to achieve a minimum of B3 energy rating.
Chief Executive of the SEAI, Jim Gannon, opened the conference, providing some insights from SEAI’s Deep Retrofit Pilot scheme which has been running for over a year. The aim of this scheme is 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 wellbeing 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 addressed 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. O’Leary runs a practical training course where participants are taught on site how to properly make a building airtight.
Elena Cattani, a researcher with 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. Elena 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. Elena spoke about 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. Cattani presented case studies of buildings in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Brussels, some of which have had 2000m2 added to their capacity.
Peter Rickaby from the UK discussed the importance of quality, based on his knowledge of situations like Grenfell Tower. Rickaby 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. Rickaby 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 simpler 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.
Given the significant investment cost of deep retrofit, the question of finance was also dealt with by Jan Bleyl from the International Energy Agency. He presented a life cycle cost benefit analysis and discussed the multiple benefits such as increased comfort and wellbeing that go beyond the crude calculation of the investment payback. Bleyl provided a detailed insight on the financial evaluation concepts and also the need to bridge the “language gap” to investors. Bleyl referred to his research Building Deep Energy Retrofit: Using Dynamic Cash Flow Analysis and Multiple Benefits to Convince Investors which provides more insights.
In his closing Jim Gannon acknowledging the scale of effort required to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. He reiterated the importance of having all key players working together and through collective action, the challenges will be easier to overcome. Videos and speaker presentations from the day are available online, visit www.seai.ie.