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Irish Magazines article on Green Building

GBA Editor | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

The green products and materials area is not one I am too familiar with at the moment. I have never invested enough time or energy I suppose in reading about the products, or the projects completed with the techniques of a green builder. Lately, I decided to gain a basic introduction from a source, I know has worked down through the years to combine together concepts of energy conservation and green, natural materials in construction. Sometimes, the too concepts are separated from one another. It feels a bit ‘either or’. I can thoroughly recommend the article about Patrick Daly’s house in Ireland and would enjoy hearing some feedback on it.

Do any of you know of any other good introductory articles I can read on the subject of natural materials – especially, if the architect or consultant has thought about the inter-relationship of natural materials and energy efficiency.

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  1. homedesign | | #1

    After a quick browse of the link you sent...
    I really like it
    My first impression is that we (N. Americans) can learn much from the Irish
    Thanks for posting
    I would like to see more "Irish" links

  2. homedesign | | #2

    I noticed that they have a discussion forum as well
    Kinda like a Parallel Universe

  3. Brian O' Hanlon | | #3

    John, Construct Ireland also have a blog, (which is more like a newsreel to be honest) in which they provide the odd link back to GBA blog entries. So yeah, definitely a kind of parallel universe going on. I haven't allocated as much time as I would have wished in the past few months to either the Construct Ireland or GBA resources - but I'm fully aware they are up and running with a strong critical mass.

  4. Brian O' Hanlon | | #4

    Of course, we do have different Imperial and Metric systems to cope with. In energy design, this is more accute as we are talking about energy units, and area units, and dimensional units which are different. Also the fact the US talks about R-values, and we talk about U-values. I have never seen a translation table between one and the other - any link as such, would be interesting for me to see.

    But on a positive note, I notice at GBA website, you talk about all the different climates in North America and Canada. Which is different to Europe - I don't hear much about design and building in the Mediterranean areas - mainly because the languages are all different. Even though, the European Energy Performance in Buildings Directive is for the entire EU region - and Passive standards are meant to cover the entire region also - we don't share our construction skills and knowledge as much as in North America and Canada. When architects from Australia come to Ireland to give lectures from time to time, I always make a point of asking them about the different climates they come up against on that continent. Lets just say, Europeans haven't got a common langauge in terms of construction yet. We have a common currency of course, and that is causing no small amount of teeting problems.

    UCD ERG did have to execute some thorough research a couple of years back, to try and look at the various energy standards around Europe, to ensure level competition between one EU member state and the other. In that document, I recall that France has three different climate zones. That was really strange for me in Ireland, where there is only a small climate change between the top and bottom of the island. Although, Joe Little, an architect who is a regular contributor at Construct Ireland magazine asked our department of the Environment, if it was possible to create a map combining wind strengths and rain exposure - for the purposes of seeing where external wall insulation retrofits would be suitable or not (Require extra structural ties etc). The UCD ERG document is here:,15660,en.pdf

    Their home page is here:


    Thanks so much for this! especially timely as I'm visiting my wife and daughter in London and Brighton next week and haven't really kept up with the movement in Europe other than Passive House and some great conversations with Pete Walker at the Centre for Innovative Construction Materials at the Univ of Bath.

  6. homedesign | | #6

    thanks for swapping links
    Too bad about the units......I have been trying to think more metric
    here is a link to a conversion tool

    Everyone has a diifferent focus.
    I am more interested in Low Energy Enclosures and Durability.
    Hopefully someone else will come along soon and discuss natural materials with you.

    The magazine link you provided showed some pretty sophisticated windows.
    I am very curious to see how "the Irish" install windows in wood frame construction.
    Do you have any links that show window opening and window flashing details?

    In case you do not already is a link to one of "our" best resources

  7. Brian O' Hanlon | | #7

    @ JB, MC,

    Durability is certainly a huge factor in the health and well being of occupants of any building. It is in highlighting that issue, that Building Science and GBA have been so successful. Over here in Scotland and UK in particular, GAIA architects were fore runners from the 1970s onwards in building low energy buildings, often within the same budget as for standard building. But Howard Liddell of GAIA architects claims that we should be doing a lot more in Europe, in the effort to try and understand the interior environment of buildings - what goes into furnture, paints, floor coverings, surface treatments and so on. If we want to seal buildings, it is the one obstacle in the way of progress right now. The Building Research Establishment in the UK have published a book called the 'Green Guide to Building' or something, which is an inventory of all building materials and their respective embodied energy figures. It is quite interesting - but I guess Howard Liddell's point is that, we need to press harder in terms of knowledge of products we build our homes with. Joseph Lstiburek's comments in this regard have been interesting to me. Liddell is coming at architecture, almost like how Ray Anderson is approaching the manufacture of carpets. I have to get time to read Ray Anderson's recent book, Adventures of a Radical Industrialist.

    Howard Liddell often refers to the work done by Bill Bordass and Adrian Leaman at the Useable Buildings team in the UK, in lectures I have attended by Liddell. Many of the 'usable buildings' publications are available here, with a log-in provided by the team if requested.

    One of the early inspirations of the Useable Buildings effort was Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue in the US, and author of a book called 'How Buildings Learn'. Stewart did a television series of that name also, which I have stumbled across online, once or twice. Howard Liddell's own book, called Eco-minimalism, is based on a life time's worth of effort, in which he has experimented with almost every gadget and renewable energy concept going - even lived off the grid for a long time - and Howard has finally settled on the eco-minimalist idea.

    The 'Acceptable Construction Details' are the latest attempt by the department of the environment in Ireland to publisize the cause of more energy efficient fabrics. I still have to give them a thorough look through - I seem to be spending more time on contracts and finances since the building slump, than I did when budgets were under less stress in the 2000s. The Scottish Ecological Design Association have a range of details, which they made available through their website here:

    Viking House in Ireland have emerged with one or two others as one of the fore runners in the low energy building idea. A friend of mine works with them from time to time, and was encouraging me to participate in a project not so long ago, but committments were very pressing elsewhere. Viking House have a very interesting website, and to the best of my understanding, many of their concepts are based around German thinking in low energy design.

    One of the better authorities to emerge in recent years on the subject of energy conservation and building durability, in my opinion has been the architect Joe Little. Much of Joe's approach to digital tools in energy efficient design, probably stem from the German standards again. He often refers to the Fraunhofer Institute in his articles for Construct Ireland magazine.

    The Building Research Establishment in the UK run their SAP energy rating system. It can be found at this link:

    The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland have introduced a very similar scheme here. In fact, if you study their respective manuals for the energy rating software, much of it is the same. The basic fundamental difference, is the EU gave member states a choice, if they wanted to based their energy rating on either Co2 emissions or primary energy consumption. I think, most member states choose to go the PE route, as Ireland did. For whatever reason, the UK seems to be much bigger into Co2 emissions, and that became the basis for its energy ratings of properties. Bear in mind, the Passive House philosophy is based on comfort of occupants as the yardstick, so it adds a different slant again. The odd thing too, I find from reading GBA is how well your ASHRAE standards are adopted and implemented in the various states. There is no practical use for the introduction of the Passive House standard, on top of existing US standards, where they are already well developed. You have to understand, that when the Passive standard in Europe gained traction in the 1990s, we had very little to go on.

    But because of the Co2/PE difference in approaches, I cannot do domestic energy ratings in the UK, or visa versa - even though it all ties back to the same EU directive root legislation. In the USA I understand that energy ratings and retrofit grant aid schemes are linked to local utility companies. Again, in places such as Ireland and UK, we still have a very much public infrastructure on the utility scale power industry.

    There is one other professor of physics from Cambridge university who I would like to mention. His name is David MacKay and his book, Without the Hot Air, has become a real classic on this side of the Atlantic. It is available in its full glory to read at his website.

    I guess, David has become a bit like an Amory Lovins over here. Lovins is an author who has a very strong following on this side of the water too. MacKay's basic insight was very clever, in that he broke away from all of the complex units for measurement of energy in his book, and related everything back to a standard measure - the number of light bulbs worth of energy consumption, that each individual in the UK needs to reduce over the coming years.

  8. Brian O' Hanlon | | #8

    BTW, the 'Acceptable Construction Details' by dept of Environment in Ireland are available here:

  9. Brian O' Hanlon | | #9

    I keep forgetting to add the links - Joe Little Architects website.

  10. Stephen Thwaites | | #10

    Another somewhat parallel universe exists at :

    Paticularly inspiring (to me anyways) is the main thread on triple glazing. It's 234 posts span 3 1/2 years, from Aug 2007 to Jan 2010.

    Stephen Thwaites
    Thermotech Fiberglass Fenestration

  11. homedesign | | #11

    The David MacKay book is very good.
    I like the way he puts things "TO SCALE"
    It is very difficult for me to picture ANYTHING unless I can visualize it TO SCALE

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