Existing buildings are often the neglected Cinderellas of the green construction world. Less glamorous and less visible than new buildings, they are also easier to overlook in their potential for massive carbon reductions. Anthony Gormley writes: “The carbon crisis calls for a re-examination of our faith in the technological basis of Western progress. A change in belief is a cultural change; art and artists are implicated.”1 Architects and builders even more so. The carbon emissions from the buildings we design today will have implications for decades, or perhaps even centuries into the future. This article, by John Christophers, describes the recently completed ‘zero carbon’, part-retrofit house in Birmingham. The first part summarizes technical aspects of the project, before going on to describe the architectural design and materials.
This is an eight page article. First published in June 2010
Readers of The Autonomous House book2 will understand that defining a sustainability standard is not easy. We could have done a Passivhaus – possibly even a UK first. We respect the rigorous work that has been done by Dr Wolfgang Feist on energy usage and thermal bridging. Although our final scheme meets or exceeds many of these measures, we felt a Passvhaus badge was a step too far for us. A large amount of time would have been required to input very detailed computer data, doubled up because of the existing construction; there is the cost of registering the scheme and some of the requirements felt too prescriptive. Passivhaus measures only energy use and does not look at other issues in the larger sustainability picture.
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