Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation Systems, Design Workshop and Certification Procedures

To finish up the module this semester, I would like to thank David McHugh from ProAir, who gave a very informative talk on mechanical heat recovery ventilation systems to the M.Sc. class and Year 4 of the B.Sc. in Architectural Technology. Passipedia again provides an excellent starting point when examining the ventilation and heating requirements of a passive house. Some key points when considering the design and installation of a mechanical heat recovery ventilation systems are: 75% minimum efficiency requirement; total ventilation electricity demand to be not greater than 0.4Wh/m3; uncertified (by the Passive Institute) HRV system must take 12% off the product efficiency figure. The latest video produced by Energy Quarter on HRV systems in passive houses seems to have been taken down off YouTube but I will post it as soon as it becomes available.

Also, many thanks to Cathal Spellman of for coming in and hosting the design workshop where the students had the opportunity to discuss their project proposals. Cathal gave a clear outline of the reasons he decided to branch into the area of passive house and how this has created some new business for the company.

Finally, some information on the procedures for applying for certification are provided by the wonderful resource that is Passipedia.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Week 10 Pecha Kucha and Poster Presentation for next week

In preparation for both the Pecha Kucha session and your poster presentation, have a look at the following resources: NUI, Galway have put together a nice site providing design tips for poster presentations including some useful videos; Colin Purrington's section on poster design has a number of good tips and links; the Cornell Centre for Materials Research have some good points in this presentation although I would not worry about picking a software program as PowerPoint should do fine. Have a look at the following videos for some useful guidance but remember that we want an A0 poster in portrait not landscape.

For the Pecha Kucha, remember what I said in class...practice makes perfect. Have a look at the homepage to browse through some of the resources available. We might even video you next week if you are really good. The main aim is to have a bit of fun but also to avoid 'Death by PowerPoint' as the following videos demonstrate.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Week 9 Blog Assignment 2 - Case Studies

This week, the students were assigned their second blog assignment, which is to provide a critical review of a passive house built anywhere in the world. We have a number of case studies from last years class including:
So this year, the students will produce another set of passive house case studies. The passive house database is a good starting point.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week 8 Passive House Windows and Doors Prezi

Here is the Prezi version of today's lecture. Check Moodle for details on a virtual webinar that is taking place this evening on 'Designing Plant for Passive House', which should be worth a look.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 8 Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation Systems Pre-Lecture Resources

Unfortunately, David McHugh of ProAir will not be able to make it in this week but is hoping to make it in next week. This will give us an opportunity to go through the basics of passive windows and doors and heat recovery ventilation systems in class. Have a look at my previous post to refresh your memory on passive windows and doors. Last week, we did mention blower door testing during Tom O'Dwyer's guest lecture. Passipedia has an excellent section on ventilation and why it recommends the exhaust fan system. Michael Hayes of RVR Technology provides a nice introduction to mechanical heat recovery ventilation systems in the videos below.

And check out Bill Butcher's discussion the their selected ventilation system on the Denby Dale Project.
We will have the opportunity to listen to another guest speaker on Tuesday because Aidan Malone will be giving a talk to the 4th-year architectural students on the design and sustainability strategy of the GMIT library in 1041 at 12.30 followed by a tour of the library and we have been invited to tag along.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Week 7 Airtightness Post Guest Lecture Resources

Many thanks to Tom O'Dwyer (in the photographs below) from SIGA who gave an excellent talk and demonstration of airtightness considerations when using different construction methods and materials to the M.Sc. students and final-year Architecture students.

Please refer to my previous blog post for some more detailed information on airtightness and SIGA products. Have a look at this article which discusses the importance of airtightness from a Passive House point of view. The Energy Saving Trust in the UK have produced nice guidelines on improving airtightness in dwellings that is worth a look and of course our own Department of the Environment, Local Community and Government has produced a document on air infiltration and thermal bridging as a supplement to the Building Regulations. Gavin O'Shea of GreenBuild has also produced an excellent document on blower door testing for passive houses. See below the video shown in class on how to carry out a blower door test.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Week 7 Passive House Airtightness and Windows Pre-Lecture Resources

I am really looking forward to having two guest lectures in this week: Tom O'Dwyer from SIGA and Thomas O'Reilly from SmartWin. SIGA have a host of resources on their website including a dedicated YouTube channel. I especially like the comic they produced 'Building Damage Horror..and how to prevent it'. They have also developed a 'construction feature' section where you can click into different applications that will link the product information to installation videos. SIGA were recently involved in the construction of the Irish Rail Train Drivers Building in Portlaoise. SmartWin have recently received their passive certification for their window products. For more information on Passive Windows check out Passipedia and the videos developed by Energyquarter in Ireland and the Green Building Store in the UK.

The 3D detail was produced by Gerard Nicholson as part of a REVIT Summer Competition in GMIT.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Week 6 Site Visit to Timbertech Homes and Ecological Building Systems

Yesterday, we had a fantastic day out visiting a Timbertech Homes development in Straffan, Co. Kildare and Ecological Building Systems in Athboy, Co. Meath. Fergal O'Malley of Timbertech Homes gave us an excellent talk and tour of a timber frame house development consisting of 3 different house types (photographs 1 & 2). He highlighted the main considerations that were taken into account when aiming for low energy construction on a competitive budget.

Photographs 1 and 2  Fergal O'Malley giving his talk to the M.Sc. Environmental System students

 Fergal was ably assisted by Peter Smyth of Ecological Building Systems who came out to the site to discuss the importance of airtightness on site and discuss some of the airtight details that were used on this project (Photographs 3, 4 and 5).

Photographs 3, 4, 5  Airtightness detailing on Timbertech Homes Development

This site visit was followed up by a visit to Ecological Building Systems new training centre, which is a fantastic addition to the knowledge base in Ireland. The centre is still under construction and is due for its official launch in the new year but we got a sneak preview. Niall Crossan, as always (photograph 6) gave us and excellent overview of the different materials and building systems currently available, particularly focusing on airtightness, thermal performance and the control of moisture both in new building and refurbishment projects.

Photograph 6  Niall Crossan of Ecological Building Systems giving his talk to the M.Sc. students

The learning centre has an excellent array of large (photographs 7 and 8) and small detail sections (photographs 9 and 10) as well as a fully kitted house to demonstrate a preliminary airtightness test using the Wincon apparatus (photographs 11 and 12). 

Photographs 7 and 8 showing the large detail sections on show in the Ecological Building Systems Training Centre

Photographs 9 and 10 showing the small detail sections on show in the Ecological Building Systems Training Centre

Photographs 11 and 12 showing the Wincon House

All-in-all, it was a great day out for all the students. Many thanks to Fergal, Peter and Niall for all their help.

Monday, November 7, 2011

International Passive House Open Days 2011

This week is International Passive House Open Day week, where passive houses across the world open their doors to the general public. I am delighted to report that there are a number of houses open around Ireland. Cyril Mannion of Passive House Builders is hosting an open day on Saturday the 12th of November at two of his projects, in Athenry and Salthill. Both are well worth a look.

Week 6 Airtightness and Thermal Imaging Pre-Lecture Resources

In preparation to our site visit to Timbertech Homes Ltd. and Ecological Building Systems on Wednesday, please have a look at the previous posts on airtightness from earlier in the module and from last year's visit by Peter Smyth of Ecological Building Systems. Also, Passipedia has a nice concise section on airtight construction. This article also gives a detailed overview of airtight construction and testing and don't forget the guidelines issued by the Department of the Environment, Communities and Local Government. Energyquarter have also put together a nice two-minute video of the basic principles involved starring Niall Crossan of Ecological Building Systems.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Week 5 External Walls and Roof Systems Post-Lecture Resources

Here the Prezi version of the lecture today. Enjoy!

Week 5 External Walls and Roof Systems Post-Lecture Resources

Today, we looked at a number of different systems both for external wall and roof systems. The excellent series of videos from the Green Building Store in the UK again provided an excellent comparative viewpoint using traditional construction methods.

The following 3D images of the external walls and roof details (developed by Gerard Nicholson) of the Denby Dale Passive House provide a nice summary.

We also had a look at alternative solutions such as Insulated Concrete Formwork and Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) and what role they might play in the design and construction of a passive house. And just when you thought that external insulation was the solution to all your passive problems, Niall Crossan of Ecological Building Systems highlights some issues to watch out for.

Week 5 Blog Assignment 1

The first blog assignment will involve a critical review of an assigned paper in the area of Passive House Design and Construction. The following is the allocation:
1. Henrick Kolberg    
A Case Study on the Effects of Thermal Mass and Climate Change

2. Eimear Hassett 
Traditional, State of the Art, and Future Thermal Building Insulation Materials

3. Diarmuid O' Ceidigh
Impact of Thermal Bypass

4. Jan Gottsche      
Energy Saving Analysis on Thermal Mass Walls

5. John Carroll       
CEPHEUS Measurement Report on 100 Houses

6. Shay Walsh            
Achievable Concepts for Low Carbon Buildings

7. Kevin Cunningham
Primary Energy Implication of Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation System

I will post the blog post brief and rubric on Moodle.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 5 External Walls and Roof Systems Pre-Lecture Resources

This week we will have a look at a number of different thermal envelope options available, concentrating on external wall and roof systems. I refer to again to Energy Quarter's excellent video on the thermal envelope that was in the pre-lecture resources for week 3. The Passive House Institute also provide some useful guidance on thermal insulation requirements on different systems. Below is a video from the RTE programme 'About the House' hosted by Duncan Stewart, which highlights the use of recycled cellulose insulation in a timber frame house in Sligo.

Duncan has featured recycled cellulose insulation in a number of episodes.

Another system used in passive house design and construction is external wall insulation. Here Duncan (again!) looks at external insulation in a refurbishment project.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week 4 Foundation Systems Post-Lecture Resources

In today's class, we looked at a number of different systems available for foundations, rising walls and ground floors. have produced an excellent video on this highlighting the importance of thermal bridge free design.

Some of the products mentioned by Tomas O'Leary to minimse thermal bridging included an aerated low U Value block e.g.  Quinnlite block (as used by Viking Homes). Another interesting element was for the insulated cantilevered solution for balcony construction. Foamglass was also introduced as a viable thermal break alternative to a standard block rising wall construction. We then looked at the Denby Dale project in the UK, which used traditional construction techniques to achieve the passive standard.

The 3D model was developed by Gerard Nicholson as part of an architectural competition we held in the Department of Building and Civil Engineering over the summer (2011).

Week 4 Foundation Systems Lecture

Following on from today's class, please find the presentation in Prezi for your viewing pleasure!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week 4 Foundation Systems Pre-Lecture Resources

This week we are going to have a look at the different foundation systems on offer for a passive house approach. Interestingly, the recent revision of the Part L 2011 for residential buildings has reduced the elemental u-values for ground floors as outlined in Table1.

Table 1 Maximum elemental U-value (taken from Technical Guidance Document Part L 2011)

Where the source of space heating is underfloor heating, then a U-value of 0.15W/m2K should be satisfactory (Section from Part L 2011). From a thermal bridge viewpoint, Part L recommends referring to the Acceptable Construction Details and the guidance on limiting thermal bridging and air infiltration provided by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. A number of companies have developed some innovative solutions to providing a foundation with little or no thermal bridging, good air-tightness and good overall energy performance. Viking House and KORE have developed the passive slab which can deliver a U-value of 0.08W/m2K. Passive House Builders have developed their own solution (click into foundation to see detail) which has been successfully used on certified passive houses both in Athenry and Oranmore in County Galway. Aeroboard also provide the Supergrund system for passive house construction.

We will have a look at these systems as well as a few others on offer this week in class.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Launch of the PassiveHousePlans website

Cathal Spellman of E. Spellman and Associates has just launched their new website dedicated to their bespoke passive house designs providing construction costs and proposed heating cost per annum.

Week 3 The Building Fabric Post Lecture Resources

In today's class, we looked at the importance of the area:volume ratio and compactness and how this has a considerable influence on the heating energy demand of buildings. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) have produced a useful tool to calculate your area:volume ratios. To supplement our class discussion on passive solar design principles the SEAI have produced a useful guide Solar Homes Catch the Sun and the Low Carbon Homes Programme in the UK have produced a guide on Passive Solar Estate Layouts. The passipedia resource provides some more information on the thermal insulation building fabric and airtight layers that are required in a passive house.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week 3 Passive House Thermal Envelope Pre-Lecture Resources

This week, we will focus on appropriate thermal envelope design and construction options for a passive house. Passipedia, the excellent passive house wiki provides an overview of the important concept of energy balance.

Passive Development Ltd. provides a nice short overview presentation on the passive house principles in the following short video.

EnergyQuarter and Tomas O'Leary have produced an excellent series of videos including this one on thermal envelope.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week 2 Principles of Passive House

Week 2 dealt with an introduction to the principles of Passive House and its design and energy requirements. This was done in parallel with a critical analysis of the recently revised Technical Guidance Document Part L 2011. The lecture below outlines the approach we took, where the students had to prepare a 'cheat sheet' for Part L, which will act as a summary sheet throughout the module.

We also decided to bring the 'inner architect' out of the students by starting the design process in sketching a ground floor and first floor plan for a two-storey house. The design and specification is totally up the student and this will act as a learning platform where we can critically analyse different options available in designing and constructing a passive house. Here are some examples of the initial sketches.

Week 2 Setting up a Blog

For those of you who did not get your blog set up in class, have a look at this short video.

Try to have the blog set up for next week and also your Twitter account and send me a tweet @SitePass when you have done so. Next week, we will look at some sample blog posts that were submitted last year as part of their assessment.

M.Sc. class setting up module blogs and Twitter accounts

In week 2, the class are settung up their own individual blogs and Twitter accounts for future asssessments i.e. blog submissions, and as a learning resource. We are using 'Blogger' to set up the blogs and they will be all linked to the module blog 'SitePass'. The aim of the Twitter accounts (@SitePass) is to set up a community of practice outside the classroom. The 'Plain English' series provides a good starting point when trying to understand the use of blogs and Twitter.