Warm Homes for the Elderly

Residents have moved into the final phase of energy efficient homes in a City Council Senior Citizen Complex in the North Inner City. The retrofitting project in St. Bricin’s Park, Arbour Hill was managed by the City Architects and has enabled people to remain in their communities in larger homes that meet their needs. “The response from residents following the project has been really positive” says Senior Executive Architect, Cecilia Lopez-Naughton.

35 homes were refurbished in a three phase development. The first two retrofit phases achieved Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) standards (BER average of B2 and B3). Every two bedsits built in the 60’s were converted into apartments that meet modern apartment sizes. This provided residents with more space, comfort and accessibility. Improvements included accessible units located on the ground floor for elderly residents with mobility issues.

City Architects set themselves a challenge, learning from the previous phases to take the energy efficiency of the remaining apartments to the highest possible standard. Out of this, the Passive House Pilot Project was born. With the help of the existing consultant architects and Passive House designers, Low Energy Design, they worked towards the Passive House certification. This means reducing energy use and CO2 emissions by a minimum of 80%. By retrofitting the buildings, this further prolongs their life. It helps reduce carbon emissions and waste from demolition and new build construction. In doing so, it also contributes towards the City Council’s Climate Change Action Plan to help reduce climate impact. Living in a Passive House is more comfortable as the apartments can maintain a constant temperature of 21 degrees. The design includes external insulation, triple glazed energy efficient windows, along with an air heat pump with a ventilation and heat recovery system to heat the space and water. As a result they achieve an A3 BER. Less energy is used and it helps reduce fuel bills for occupiers making staying warm affordable for elderly residents who can feel the cold more easily.

The new homes are also healthier to live in as the air is constantly filtered. How the City Architects did this was to stipulate in the project specification that all contractors should be trained in Passive House building techniques to achieve high standards of construction. During the development of the complex, the construction team including electricians, plumbers and mechanical services technicians, along with members of the City Council’s maintenance engineering, architectural and building inspection sections all underwent training. Twenty people participated in the course and many went on to successfully complete the Passive House Institute exam.

This is what is happening in the construction industry and staff were really interested to learn more about Passive House techniques. They were training on the building they were working on at different stages. It was hands on and the participation and commitment from staff was huge. It created a great sense of working in a team. Our side was inspecting what the contractors were doing so we knew what to look for but if there was a problem, it was an exchange of how could this be solved. It was more about finding a solution in a collaborative way. Cecilia Lopez-Naughton, Senior Executive Architect, Dublin City Council

The pilot project achieved the ‘Passive House EnerPhit’ standard accredited by the German Passivhaus Institute.

“These standards are more challenging in retrofits, but will become the norm in years to come. It was a good testing ground for us to see if we could achieve this and we did”, concludes Cecilia.

St Bricin's Park, Arbour Hill
Image: Fennell Photography