Monday, 24 February 2014

'Building a Resilient Future' - Gale & Snowden at the Technology Strategy Board

Gale & Snowden is to showcase work at 'Building A Resilient Future' for the Technology Strategy Board.

The event is to be held on Wednesday 26th February at No. 1 Drummond Gate, Victoria, London, SW1V 2QQ. 

The focus of this event is to establish the latest thinking and best practice around integrating climate change adaptation and resilience into built environment projects, and to highlight and promote the opportunities for the UK built environment sector.  A range of drivers, approaches and tools which support the understanding, communication, and development of the 'business case' for climate change adaptation and resilience will be highlighted. The benefits of attending include helping to shape the discussion about the future of climate change adaptation in the built environment, sharing knowledge, networking, and finding out about business opportunities.

The conference will be the final dissemination of the TSB funded competition Design for Future Climate. The competition provided funding for project teams to consider climate change impacts in the design of real life construction and building refurbishment projects.

The format of the day will include a series of presentations with panel sessions for wider discussion.

David Gale will be presenting the three 'Design for Future Climate' (D4FC) projects that Gale & Snowden has undertaken over the last 3 years and showcasing the Future Climate Ready Consultancy services that Gale & Snowden provides for all types of building projects. David's presentation is available to view below.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Passivhaus Monitoring South West & Cross Channel Dissemination with Exeter City Council

Housing providers and local authorities from Brittany, France and the South West learn how one of the first UK Passivhaus certified low energy affordable housing schemes in Exeter performs.  

Emma Osmundsen (Housing Development Manager - Exeter City Council) in the foreground of the image below with Gale & Snowden Architects (G&S) with French and British delegates outside the Passivhaus scheme Rowan House.  The day was also made up by the attendance of G&S Architect Tomas Gartner (in the foreground) who is from Germany and the Passivhaus designer of the schemes presented.   It turned out to be a very informed multi-cultural and European exchange of Passivhaus ideas and learning from three different countries.     

French, British & German delegates outside Rowan House

French and British local councillors together with housing providers and various industry professionals from the South West, Devon County Council, Exeter City Council and Wiltshire Council visited two social housing schemes in Exeter built to the Passivhaus standard to learn about how the buildings have actually performed with regards to energy consumption and indoor comfort.   Both buildings have been extensively monitored and evaluated through funding by the Technology Strategy Board and this monitoring work has been delivered by the housing scheme designers themselves, Gale & Snowden Architects. In order to maximise comfort and well being, this two year project is ensuring that the new housing tenants get to grips with the various energy saving technologies installed in their home thanks to training and interviews and  energy and indoor quality monitoring. The learning from this project will inform future designs and is vital in understanding the level of support required to help tenants use effectively the low energy features of their new home. 

The day was split into two halves; the Passivhaus presentations were held in the morning in Exeter's medieval Guild Hall followed by the tour of the Passivhaus schemes after lunch;     the morning venue being at the complete opposite end of the energy spectrum when compared to the afternoon visit.  French and British visitors were welcomed by Exeter City Council (ECC) Housing Development Manager, Emma Osmunsden and had the opportunity to discuss their experience.  Gale & Snowden then presented the results of the monitoring so far.   The delegates also enjoyed a warm welcome from one of the tenants who shared her positive experience of moving into a low energy Passivhaus home. 

The two housing schemes called Rowan House and Knights Place were designed by low energy and ecological Architects Gale & Snowden and managed by ECC. These homes not only benefit from high levels of insulation, "airtightness", a whole-house ventilation system with efficient heat recovery, and hot solar water panels but they are also designed to be as healthy as possible with no PVC used in the construction, the installation of ceramic tiles throughout to reduce dust mites and radial electrical circuits to reduce electro-magnetic fields which are believed to carry health risks.

Emma providing a warm welcome to delegates

The exchange was a real success with both French and British visitors taking a lot of learning home. This cross channel exchange was part of another EU funded project on sustainable energy between local councils on both side of the Channel, which Gale & Snowden were happy to collaborate with as part of the monitoring dissemination activities  – SEACS is a €2 million project selected by the European Cross-border Co-operation Programme INTERREG IV A France (Channel) – England and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Conseil General des Côtes d’Armor, Devon County Council, Dorset County Council, Agglomeration Lannion-Tregor and Wiltshire Council.

G&S presenting monitoring results

Gale & Snowden would like to thank Emma and Gary (ECC housing team) for their input throughout the day in particular sharing ECC's experience of delivering and managing the first multi residential Passivhaus building in the UK.  Gale & Snowden would also like to thank Rose the tenant at Rowan House who warmly received 30 delegates in her Passivhaus flat to share her positive experiences of living there.   A special thanks also goes to Doe Fitzsimmons of Devon County Council who as well as organising and co-ordinating the whole day through the SEACS project also had a very tiring time translating all the presentations live throughout the course of the day.  It was a job well done!

Devon County Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member for Community and Environmental Services, said “The SEACS project is working with communities and schools throughout Devon to tackle the energy challenge together, by raising awareness of the cost of energy and the range of options available to help manage consumption. This SEACS event has enabled Exeter City Council’s experience to be shared with other housing agencies in Devon to inform future schemes for Devon’s residents, as well as our partners in the south west and France”.

If anybody would like to know more about the Passivhaus monitoring research, healthy building design or Passivhaus low energy design then please contact David Gale ( and we would be more than happy to present our research and findings, designs and ideas.

Some quotes below from the delegates who attended. 

"All the partners from Lannion-Trégor Communauté have been very happy and fully pleased with the day, the information provided and the atmosphere."

"Dear Doe and Emma, That was fantastic. Thank you so much for organising it.  You should be really proud of your team."

"This is just a short note to thank you for the time, patience and soaking you took to show us round your projects. We had a blast.  I am sure we will be able to promote passivhaus ideals here in Wiltshire as a result of it."

"I thought the day was just perfect, so well planned and executed. It was a fabulous opportunity to meet not just the French but other Councils too.  I am very grateful for all your time, trouble and efforts which made the day a complete success."

Presentations prepared for the day

Knights Place & Rowan House Introduction

TSB Passivhaus Monitoring Introduction

Passivhaus Monitoring Dissemination Results

Mechanical Ventilation BPEC qualified

Jason our mechanical engineer recently attended a BPEC Domestic Ventilation Systems course, sat the exam and passed with flying colours.  Jason is now qualified under Part F of the building regulations to commission, balance and sign off ventilation systems in domestic applications.  This will be very useful to Gale & Snowden especially when it comes to mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems in homes.  As a practise we are finding that MVHR systems require particular attention in domestic applications to ensure that they perform as intended and provide good air quality in a noise free manner.   MVHR systems need to be designed and installed correctly taking account the room layout, the air tightness barrier and duct penetrations, noise break out, other plant systems such as wood burners, pressure drop to keep fan power to a minimum and air distribution within the spaces to name but a few elements.   Once this has been covered a well designed and correctly installed system requires to be correctly commissioned and balanced at the end of the construction period if it is to perform as intended in a trouble free manner.

MVHR Air Balancing

In buildings that are becoming increasingly air tight it is even more important that air quality is maintained otherwise VOCs (volatile organic compounds), gases and chemicals, dust and particulates, moisture and odours can build up in the home which then become detrimental to health and the building.   Whilst it is important to be energy efficient this cannot be at the detriment to air quality.  Gale and Snowden can now design and detail MVHR systems as well as install and commission them.   We can now ensure that all areas of the MVHR design and installation is carried out to the highest standard.     See our low energy mechanical engineering service for further details.  

As well as providing mechanical designs in-house on our own architectural designs we also provide a low energy mechanical design service to other architects throughout the country who are also working on prestigious low energy projects.   Our in-house team have been designing MVHR systems for over 15 years now which include both commercial schemes (offices, hospitals, museums) and domestic schemes.    We have also designed these systems with C02 & humidity controlled variable volume control and a variety of earth duct and ground piped heat exchangers and carried out extensive thermal modelling work looking at the feasibility of earth heat exchangers at keeping buildings cool when moving into future climate change scenarios.  Some of this work can be found here:   

We also intend to offer this service to clients who wish just for a check and verification of MVHR systems being commissioned by others and also for trouble shooting problem systems.    Our in-house team has experience in monitoring and fault finding problem ventilation systems and fine tuning them to operate correctly.   This may involve taking simple air flow measurements and rebalancing to leaving temperature, humidity and C02 sensors within the ductwork and room space to determine how well any system is performing.   We have found that MVHR systems in homes generally require a fine tune typically a year after hand over to ensure they are working to their optimum.  

Temperature & Humidity Logger in Ductwork

The presentation below provides details of an investigation we carried out on the MVHR systems at Knights Place one of our Passivhaus schemes.  We wanted to determine if frost protection was required or not and also investigate in-situ the efficiency of the MVHR system.  A sub meter on the power supply to the MVHR system was installed as well as temperature, humidity and C02 sensors were installed in the rooms and within the ductwork.  This presentation presents a snap shot of some of the analysis and results so far.