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Drastic action needed to raise construction standards say researchers

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Today’s houses use more energy than previously expected according to study

Current construction standards will leave a legacy of health problems, high energy bills and excessive carbon emissions, researchers at the University of East Anglia have warned.

A four-year research project has found that buildings frequently use more energy than predicted due to construction defects caused by lack of communication between designers and builders.

According to the Delivering a low-energy building report, houses built today are likely to leave Britain unable to meet climate change targets and could create health problems due to poor interior air quality.

Passivhaus homes Wimbish Green Essex

Passivhaus homes Wimbish Green Essex

Researchers at the university’s Adapt Low Carbon Group have called on the construction industry to adopt Passivahus standards in a bid to reduce energy requirements by up to 90%.

Report author and Adapt associate Bruce Tofield said: “There is huge concern everywhere about the lack of investment in housing and the housing shortage. But this report highlights another housing crisis which is less visible today but could be equally damaging over time.

“Building as we do today could create a disastrous legacy spanning many decades of higher bills, poorer health, and the country unable to meet climate change targets.

“The good news is that both housing crises can be solved with great benefit both to individuals and to the economy. We need to build new homes – but we also need to do it right.”

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Readers' comments (8)

  • zecks_marquise

    firstly, we need to stop with the green paint

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  • Munter Roe

    The targets set are impossible to attain unless we all huddle up at night under the clouds in a sleeping bag.

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  • Munter Roe

    Global warming is a con.

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  • Well said Munter.
    Houses relying on sticky tape to keep them air tight are not sustainable as the sticky tape is not accessible when the glue fails!
    Forcing mechanical ventilation on home owners is ridiculous. Who wants fans running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year -filters require replacing one or two times a year and the fan motors will burn out probably every two years, not to mention the heat loss despite the so called heat exchange units. All good for job creation but not sustainable.

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  • Munter Roe

    You said it Clive. They want home owners to pay a fortune to stop draughts and then to pay another fortune to create a mechanical draught that requires ongoing maintenance. One word. MADNESS.

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  • Hi I have bought 4 houses in my 55 years on this earth., these were in the years 1984,1990, 1992 and 2009.
    1985 The 1st house was a 19th century terrace in New Malden. It had solid 9" brick walls and single glazing. The total running costs of the property were very low as we fitted a draught lobby to the front door and insulated the roof and the ground floor. (It now has upvc double glazing and the original sustainable 19th century front door!)
    1990 The 2nd house in Leeds West Yorkshire was a typical semi detached built in the 1930`s but with bay windows front and back. Fortunately it did not come with swirly carpets. We only stayed a couple of years whilst we waited to sell the first house and buy the 3rd house a wrecked detached WWI cavity wall construction in Leeds again. If my memory serves me right the only upgrade we did was to increase the loft insulation thickness.
    1992 The 3rd house we did the home made green deal, with insulated ground floor slab, insulated roof and insulated internal face of external walls including through the floor zone. We also specified K glass in timber windows based upon the original sections but with much deeper shoulders to house the dg units. Given the choice of having trickle vent everywhere and loads of mechanical extracts t maintain. I decided that a whole how ventilation system supplied by Wickes was the thing to do. I expected that it would have a 10 year payback period and passed it on to new owners after 17 years. Maintenance was minimal and the original heat exchanger and motors turned out to maintenance free if perhaps not totally efficient. We had the benefits of no condensation on the internal face of windows and ran the system on a plug in timer for breakfast lunch and evening times based upon anticipating moisture and ventilation loads. Cold bridges were all but eliminated by wrapping the internal insulation/plasterboard around all reveals, heads and cills.
    2009 The 4th house was a spec built property that is twice the size of the 3rd but with approximately the same running cost after the house builder correcting defects over 3 years. Many of the defects were not directly remedied but alternative horse trades of low energy lighting and draught lobbies etc... have contributed to bring the property as it stands into line with the reported results of the sales EPC.
    I now have numerous extract fans to maintain and replace in time and find that trickle vents are really a bit of a hit and miss spec. I do however agree that to aim to achieve passive house build standards on none passive house spec might actually get the current wave of house builders to achieve the NHBC and Building Regs requirements that they presently pay lip service to on paper, but do very little on site to ensure that it is achieved. The first round of accredited details were laughable and things have hardly moved on in construction since then. In short houses need to be built better cost more to build and thus the residual land value needs to be less!
    In summary control of ventilation becomes more important the more we insulate out properties and the Passihaus Standards might not be a bad place to start eve if you end up using trickle vents and extract fans in the final product. You can always cut them in afterwards! The biggest madness is flueless gas fires that require a 5inch circular hole in the wall that is always open to vent! This was conveniently missed of the SAP calculation for our EPC! Now a big hole in the wall like that is Madness, but not closing off all those leaky junctions is just the same as having these Swiss cheese hole all over the building fabric. Now that is "MADNESS"
    OWLarchitecture.com

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  • Munter Roe

    Living in polluted sealed indoor environment is MADNESS. Hard to beat some ventilation as the older generation would have you know.

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  • MR I notice that your logo/image is a man smoking.

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