Getting straight to it, there are a number of barriers that stop a range of would-be clients adopting passivhaus– from home owner to housing association savvy clients, the list is probably as long as the type of client.
- Dwindling number of SME’s:
With the number of SME’s reduced by up to 80% in the last 25 years, it’s no wonder the industry as a whole is suffering from a shortage of homes. Planning and regulatory systems, as well as access to finance have all been cited as deterring reasons for smaller companies. The majority of the circa 150,000 homes/annum in the UK has come from the larger house builders. But, it is a long way from the circa 300,000 homes/annum needed to meet the governments 2020 1million home target.
- The obvious one – Cost:
This has probably been talked to death, but there’s no getting away from the initial cost of a passivhaus development. Yes, it may cost 5-15% more (MVHR system, more materials, higher insulated windows), but if we are all so hung up on the initial value that we fail to see the broader picture (and the massive reduction in those energy bills), then we have indeed missed the point! We complain about rise in energy, noise pollution from our neighbours, freezing winters due to poorly insulated homes, yet, we cannot bring ourselves to taking the decision to pursue a passivhaus? If a one-bed flat can pay £52/annum for their passivhaus energy bills (without PV’s on roofs), its an obvious choice no? Especially with councils charging higher rent rates due to their funding cuts.
- Market demand:
Build, and they will come. With an increased consumer demand for Passivhaus standards and sustainable homes, the time is now. There has been a 25% increase in market share for prefabrication buildings (MMC), structures and building elements which means that the current 2% pre-fabrication share of the construction industry is set to rise quickly. In 3 years, the UK market has moved from 100 passivhaus projects (2012) to 1000 passivhaus projects in 2015.
Developers who choose to create tenure-blind schemes are therefore in the strongest positions because, with changing markets, due to the increase in general market demand for Passivhaus, homes can be distributed between market sale/rent and affordable with minimal risk to themselves when it comes time to sell.
Passivhaus gives a real opportunity to take on better quality, and better-designed projects that don’t mean housing associations for example are out of pocket should the market demand vary.
- Lack of Experience:
Yes, we are coming through a point in time where passivhaus is still not the norm. But, only 10 years ago, “Passivahus” was not a word many in the UK knew much about. Now, there are more passivhaus certified Architects, Contractors, and Manufacturers in the UK than ever before – with more in the pipe-line. That’s right, we don’t have to hop across the pond to Germany to source windows and MVHR systems for our passivhaus. Will some research need to be done? Yes. Will some translations need to be undertaken? Yes. But again, our benefits far outweigh the costs.
Not all is lost, with some developers (private and public) now seeing the light, what can we expect? The market will now thrive in a new, growing market as they push the envelope with design, we all get better quality homes. (Octavia’s Sulgrave Gardens, London – pictured).
Exciting times ahead!