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Housing: Passivhaus retrofits cut social housing bills by 80 per cent

Professor Lubo Jankovic from Birmingham City University and Ron Beattie from Beattie Passive, handover the building to Birmingham City Council

A pilot scheme to improve the energy efficiency of social housing in Britain has seen energy consumption slashed by more than 80 per cent.

The Retrofit Plus project – a collaboration between Beattie Passive, Birmingham City University, InteSys Ltd and iZDesign – was designed to investigate how upgrades to low-income housing could impact on gas and electricity bills, with a view to help pull people out of energy poverty.

Last year Birmingham City Council handed two semi-detached houses over to the project team for upgrades. This involved fitting the houses with Beattie Passive’s TCosy Deep Retrofit system, a prefabricated insulated panel system that is wrapped around the entire structure.

New triple glazed windows, doors and a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system were also installed to bring the homes up to the exacting Passivhaus standard. The upgrades have also been complemented by sensors and building controls that can automatically regulate the houses’ temperatures as well as learning and reacting to residents’ patterns of use.

Responses from residents have been overwhelmingly positive, with one commenting that they needed no heating even when temperatures dropped below freezing outside, and another remarking on the improved indoor environment quality – “The house feels like home now – no damp, no dust, no noise.”

Beattie Passive chief executive Ron Beattie said the project had brought his company’s innovation forward by developing it into an offsite manufactured panel.
“This has greatly increased the speed of works and with further innovations we expect to see the process become quicker and more affordable,” he said.

Professor Lubo Jankovic, head of the Zero Carbon Lab at Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture and Design, said the project had potential to be scaled up UK-wide.

“Our experience from this project shows that there is a behaviour change with occupants with increased internal temperatures and fewer warm clothes needed in winter,” he said. “This approach improves health and wellbeing of occupants and positively changes their lives.”

Improving the energy efficiency of social housing seems to be a growth area. Just last week in Australia, a group of architects and investors banded together to create social housing as Passive House standards for no extra cost.

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