Passivhaus - rescuing people from cold, damp conditions and fuel poverty

passivhaus-tea-cosy-effect
1. White and yellow areas show massive heat loss across the terrace. Purple shows the tea cosy effect of a passivhaus retrofit.

Cold Weather and the Elderly: As the cold weather bites, vulnerable and elderly people are the ones who will suffer the most, and they are the least able to fight the cold, damp conditions.

Rising Energy Prices: With rising energy prices, more and more people are slipping into fuel poverty.

Heat or Eat: The Marmot Report of May 2011 highlighted that it is at times like this that ‘Heat or Eat’ becomes a real life choice for thousands of people. At the very time when calorie intake should increase, vulnerable and elderly people in our community are actually reducing their calorie intake because they chose heating over eating.

Excess Winter Deaths – one of the worst in Europe: The cold weather brings Excess Winter Deaths (EWDs) due to cold housing. The UK has one of the highest rates of EWD in Europe; worse than Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Austria, Italy, and Greece.

Causes of Death: 40% of winter EWDs are from circulatory diseases and 33% from respiratory diseases.

Energy Saving Trust Calculations: The EST estimated £3000 - £5000 is needed for minor improvements of loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, a modern gas condensing boiler and double glazing. The EST estimates ignore the much higher cost of insulating the huge number of solid wall houses across the UK.

University College London Research: Research based on 80,000 homes from the EST database with minor improvements, indicates that the minor improvements achieved little or no energy savings or reduced bills. Houses were so cold before improvement, that insulation simply enables occupants to raise room temperatures to decent levels, without saving energy.

Conclusion: To save energy, reduce bills, protect people from fuel poverty, reduce Excess Winter Deaths and reduce CO2 emissions there is no escaping the fact that deep energy saving retrofits of the Passivhaus methodology are needed. At a time of national austerity, a deep energy saving retrofit programme will create jobs now that will reduce spending on fuel imports now and long into the future, and reduce the pressure on the National Health Service. This is also simply the decent thing to do. Who could possibly object to seeing a percentage of banking profits and bonuses going into a Green Investment Bank and being used wisely and carefully in such a good, money-saving, life-saving cause as this?

Justin Bere

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