'Radical Sustainability: A New Paradigm' - Interface

interface‘Transparency is Clarity'
Time to cut the ‘greenwash’ and cut the ‘tick-box’ of EPCs.

Kelly Grainger, Head of Sustainability for Interface, kicked off the event with a call for industry to move away from the ‘eco-friendly’ labels that are ‘designed to mislead’ and to enact radical sustainability. It can be done, as Interface’s mission zero can testify to. Interface as a global leader in carpet tile manufacturing, has built a business case for redirecting their business model to become driven by sustainable performance. From innovative bio-fuel materials to community led projecst of up-cycling disused fishing nets, Interface are drastically reassessing their supply chain. Or as Grainger states, there is a need to ‘cannibalize’ the business norm, just as insulation companies cannibalize the energy supplier, so too must all organisations seek to work competitiviely and out of the paradigm.

David Clarke of Cundall continued Grainger’s challenge to greenwash and miscommunication in considering EPCs and the UK’s current obsession on ratings and gold stars rather than real sustainable developments. In particular Clarke argued that for London to move forward in regards to true sustainability there needs to be a far clearer message on what the EPCs are measuring and availability to this data. Currently there is a complete lack of data performance information available for study. Evaluation must be taken once the buildings have been in occupation for more than two years, NOT based on predicted design calculations. To this end, Clarke advocates that Display Energy Certificates (although DECs are certainly not the only measurement of a building's sustainability) should become mandatory to both the private and public sector. In short, are we measuring the right things? Are we asking the right questions of our buildings and occupants? No. Taking the example of the currently popular use of using cooking oil as a sustainable energy source for buildings, Clarke calculates that as a ‘finate’ recyclable source in London, cooking oil would be far better utilized in car/truck fueling than for a building CHP.

Pamela Bate of Hopkins Architects provided a suitably practical note to the argument, showcasing both exemplar Hopkins Architects designs nationally but also onsite at the events venue The Wellcome Trust Gibbs building. Following the presentations and Q&A, Hopkins Architects and Cundall Engineering took the audience on a site visit of the Wellcome Trust Gibbs building.

'Why Choose Passivhaus?' - Passivhaus Trust and bere:architects

Mildmay Community Centre by bere:archtiectsTanisha Raffiuddin from Passivhaus Trust argued that the Passivhaus standard is a great way to solve the performance gap in all categories of properties. Ruffiuddin and Marion Baeli of Paul Davis + Partners Architects dispelled several myths about passivhaus: that you should not open windows in a passiv-house, that it costs a lot to retrofit an existing house to the passivhaus standard, and that passivhaus might not meet its targets. While the full passivhaus retrofit guarantees high air quality and strengthens building materials, halfway options can cause moisture, bacteria and carbon dioxide to accumulate and threaten the health of both residents and the building in the long run. Justin Bere of bere:architects presented results from a number of passivhaus projects, including public spaces, to demonstrate that certified Passiv-houses consistently meet their targets in terms of air temperature and quality.

Baeli addressed the issue of the massive stock of Victorian houses in the UK, which need retrofitting in order to lower both energy bills and carbon emissions. Illustrating her talk with results from a housing project, she showed that a passivhaus retrofit can bring annual energy bills from over £2000 down to £770.

Finally, Bruce Tofield of East Anglia University made a case for the financial viability of passivhaus: it increases property value and guarantees better health for residents. In order to make it a more popular retrofit and new build option, however, we need to address problems in the UK supply chain. A good example to follow, according to all participants, is that of Germany, where overall energy reduction targets, education and uptake by the public have made passivhaus a popular option.

The evening ended with a tour of the venue, Midlmay Community Centre, led by Justin Bere.

Slides from the event are available for dowload here.