28th August Journal Column

By Mark Siddall, Principal at LEAP: Lovingly Engineered Architectural Process

By 2050 an anticipated 7,000 additional deaths per year could occur as a result of the high temperatures arising from climate change, and a growing and ageing population – roughly triple current levels.

The National House Building Council has raised concerns about the unintended consequences of low energy homes and the potential for increased overheating risks. This has been echoed by the Zero Carbon Hub in its observation that improved standards of insulation and the growing risk of hotter summers could cause overheating within new homes

Although these are serious concerns, we must maintain perspective. The Office of National Statistics estimates roughly 25,000 people die from the cold each year. Putting that into perspective, it means three and a half times more people are dying from the cold today, than those who could potentially die from high temperatures in 2050.

What are needed are homes that are neither too warm in the summer, nor too cold in the winter. Homes just like Steel Farm in Northumberland could be just the solution we are looking for.

You see, the house is super insulated and designed to reduce the amount of energy used for heating by about 90 per cent. Also, in accordance with best practice, Steel Farm was designed to avoid indoor temperatures rising above 25°C for more than five per cent of the year.

The heating bill for similarly sized houses in the North East, built between 1919 and 1944, is on average estimated to be £975 per year. If you owned Steel Farm this would mean you were saving up to £765 per year whilst keeping snug and warm without any worry.

Measurements taken throughout 2014, the warmest year on record according to the Met Office, show that indoor temperatures rose above 25°C for less than two per cent of the year. The average temperature was a comfortable 20°C (just what Trevor and Judith, the owners of Steel Farm, like).

Given the concerns of the National House Building Council and the Zero Carbon Hub and the fact that the ODPM, in 2006, observed that temperatures above 25°C can lead to an increased risk of mortality, Steel Farm demonstrates that you can create a house that is fit for Goldilocks, neither too hot, nor too cold, just right!

So how was this achieved? Steel Farm was designed to the worlds’ leading quality assurance standard for low energy buildings. It is the first Certified Passivhaus in Northumberland. You can learn more about Steel Farm in an in-depth 3-part documentary at PassivhausSecrets.co.uk. Let’s hope we start to see more Passivhaus buildings in the North East in the near future.