Finding the journey to a lower carbon footprint that works for you.

The planet isn’t waiting for us to sort our act out, and we all know we have a responsibility to do something sooner rather than later. But, with all the noise that is coming from every direction, what exactly should we do? This simple guide aims to help you understand what options are available to you in order to reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time.

  1. “Where am I now?” Current UK government sustainability standards
  2. “I’m interested in the cutting edge!” What is Passivhaus and is it realistic?
  3. “Passivhaus isn’t for me, what can I do?” Fabric-first approaches to your project.
  4. “I’m not moving or self-building, what can I do?” The benefits of a retrofit project.
  5. “I’m interested, so what now?” You and your architects vs. carbon.

 

 “Where am I now?” Current UK government sustainability standards

Right now most people live in homes that are built to building regulation standards. These standards are set by the government and are not the strictest when it comes to sustainable aspects of your home. What’s more, many people live in older houses that don’t even adhere to these standards. The credentials simply aren’t very good for the average home: approximately two thirds of energy consumption is spent on heating, with hot water coming in at a close second.

The committee on climate change released a report in 2018 that pointed out that government needs to commit to effective regulation and strict enforcement, whilst also supporting the simple, low-cost options that people can take.

Homeowners are already taking matters into their own hands around the country. They are beginning to act to make their homes more sustainable: saving money and reducing their carbon footprint at the same time.

At lapd Architects we always encourage our clients to go beyond building regulation level. We believe it is more beneficial for them in terms of cost, comfort and environmental responsibility.

I think that everyone who is embarking on a project fits into one of these three categories:

  1. “I’m interested in the cutting edge!” What is Passivhaus and is it realistic?
  2. “Passivhaus isn’t for me, what can I do?” Fabric-first approaches to your project.
  3. “I’m not moving or self-building, what can I do?” The benefits of a retrofit project.

Let’s go through each of these statements one by one, and see where you sit and what your journey could look like.

 

 “I’m interested in the cutting edge!” What is Passivhaus and is it realistic?

Passivhaus is a low energy design standard, meant to reduce your energy use to an absolute minimum. You can heat a Passivhaus home with just the occupant and appliance heat.

Passivhaus is not just an idea but a carefully regulated accreditation: your home is either Passivhaus or its not. For your home to be seen as Passivhaus standard then it will need to be tested by a qualified Passivhaus consultant. This process is much more robust than the UK’s standard regulation building control, including thermal imaging and air-tightness tests.

Your architect will work with you from an early stage to consider a multitude of factors using PHPP software. PHPP is a programme that performs complex energy calculations based on a number of different elements: shading, local climate, building fabric, number of occupants etc.

The key thing here is to work with an architect that you can trust to guide you through the whole process. To attain a Passivhaus standard everything from the concept design all the way through to delivering the build on site has to be monitored carefully.

Whilst there are more costs up-front Passivhaus is definitely not a pipe dream. With the right architect to guide you through the process and work with you to create a detailed cost plan you can achieve a Passivhaus construction that, in the end, will save you money even with the additional preliminary costs.

I’d recommend having a look at the Denby Dale development if you aren’t convinced Passivhaus is a reality. The Passivhaus trust is also a great place to go for more in depth information:

http://www.passivhaustrust.org.uk/UserFiles/File/Projects/Awards2012/Presentations/2012%20UKPHAwards_Denby%20Dale(1).pdf

https://www.building.co.uk/passivhaus-diaries-what-the-denby-dale-home-costs/3141749.article

http://www.passivhaustrust.org.uk/

 

“Passivhaus isn’t for me, what can I do?” Fabric-first approaches to your project.

The RIBA Workstages, which are the processes which all architects should follow when working with clients, have sustainability checkpoints all the way through from the very first meeting.

This means that right form the initial brief sustainable aspects have to be taken into consideration. This is because they can affect many things: head height indoors and planning consideration for external insulation to name just two.

lapd Architects take a fabric-first approach with all our clients. We talk with our clients form the very beginning about the buildings envelope and how we can get the U-values (energy efficiency) as low as possible. We guide our clients along the concept design process, helping them think about ventilation, air-tightness and insulation at the same time as functionality and aesthetics.

I believe that a fabric-first approach should be a given if you are working with an architect that understands client communication and great design. Technology and design are intertwined and a great architect can help you navigate them both at the same time.

 

“I’m not moving or self-building, what can I do?” The benefits of a retrofit project.

Not everyone has the means (or the desire) to move home. The Royal Academy of Engineering has highlighted this as an important part of the sustainable strategy for the UK:

‘The UK goal now is to achieve 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Yet buildings presently account for some 45% of carbon emissions and it has been estimated that 80% of the buildings that we will be occupying in 2050 have already been built.’

So, if you are not self-building or relocating then a retrofit project is the way to go. When we work with clients wanting extensions or refurbishments to their homes at lapd Architects this is an important part of what we offer. Whilst creating a more liveable space for you and your family we can also create a more environmentally friendly dwelling.

Even Passivhaus standard is not beyond your reach. EnerPHit is the standard issued by the Passivhaus Institute that focusses on retrofit projects. This process, however, is much harder than a new build route and has a lot of costs which are associated with it.

 

“I’m interested, so what now?” You and your architects vs. carbon

The most important first step is to book in some initial meetings with architects to get an idea of who you feel you can work with and trust to deliver your project.

At lapd Architects we offer a free initial consultation where we can meet you either at our offices or at your project site to discuss your dream home and how we can help to make it a reality. We are your guides through the whole process to make sure the finish product is what you envisioned and delivers the sustainable standards that you wanted.

If you have a solid working relationship with your architect from the beginning then your project will be a success. Make sure you set out your environmental parameters clearly at the briefing stage. You should always be the driver of what is happening, and your architect should work with you, not against you, to make sure that your vision becomes a reality.

Call us on 01865407722 or email us on enquiry@lapdarchitects.co.uk to book your free initial consultation with one of our directors or associates.

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