Day 1 Housing Seminar

Low and Zero Carbon Housing – Retrofitting and New Building Design


For the next three days architects, developers, builders and contractors, with concrete experience of both private housing and large scale development projects, have come together at the Findhorn Ecovillage to address the technical, legislative and community implications for new build, retrofitting, infrastructure and community planning.


The current UK housing stock is highly energy inefficient. The move to low and zero carbon buildings offers the single greatest opportunity for increased efficiency and positive environmental impact. In the European Union, the construction sector is responsible for 40% of energy requirements. In many cases, the implementation of such measures provides additional benefits, such as reduced running costs as well as greater interior comfort.

A recent report by Oxford University states:

“Of the homes that we will inhabit in 2050, around 80 per cent are already part of the housing stock and so these have to be the main focus for carbon-reduction policies” (Broadman, 2007, p.6).

The report concludes:

“The low-carbon revolution starts at home.”

The Low Carbon Building Standards Strategy for Scotland (Sullivan, 2007, p.23) recommends that “Training in new technologies, new products and new standards should be a priority for all parts of the construction industry and this should be supported by the Scottish Government.”

The Low and Zero Carbon Housing seminar is designed to address how the construction of zero carbon buildings and the retrofitting of existing buildings offer some of the most cost-effective and most immediate strategies in response to climate change. It examines how the building industry is adapting to the rising demand for cutting edge construction techniques and energy saving solutions.

This timely seminar is sponsored by CIFAL Findhorn UNITAR Associated Training Centre in partnership with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Chartered Institute of Building, the Moray Council, and WWF. Co-facilitators are May East, CEO, CIFAL Findhorn, Dr. Daniel Wahl, Researcher, Findhorn College, and Galen Fulford, Director, Ecovillage Institute.

Today’s opening session began with a statement of intent that by the end of the seminar a 1 or 2 page document – a call to action – will be produced to present to the press and local authorities, outlining key issues to focus on in the move toward low and zero carbon housing.

From left: Wayne Ward, John Prewer, Sue Roaf
The first presenter of the day was Professor Sue Roaf from the School for the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University. Sue brought the topic Future Proofing your Lifestyles with Early Investment in Renewables – Lessons from a Pioneer.

John Prewer, Architect and Advisor of the Carbon Free Group presented his paper titled, Rethinking the Way we Build: The Eco-Home as an Example for Possible Solutions.

Next, Wayne Ward, Director, Building Research Establishment – BRE Highlands brought us Practical Implications of Low and Zero Carbon Housing.

Participants then broke into small groups to identify key questions and guidelines that would begin to inform our call to action, some of which included:

1. Why is green building not implemented more widely?
2. How can builders and developers be motivated?
3. How can we educate the client and bridge the gap between feasibility and implementation?
4. How can we change the culture to be able to implement more shared facilities?
5. What is our future lifestyle going to be like?
6. Where are the skills/manufacturers going to come from?
7. How will we achieve a low-energy, non toxic manufacturing base in the UK?
8. How do we make the science of CO2 measurement, auditing, and benchmarking more credible and reliable?

1. We need a clear statement of new guidelines in Scotland in 2016.
2. We need community level integration.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Halve the demand, double the efficiency, halve the carbon intensity.
5. We have to go back to first principles.
6. Think globally, act locally.

In the afternoon we toured a sampling of eco-homes at Findhorn and critiqued them along the way. Making mistakes comes with the territory of pioneering the new so we looked at what has worked well and what not so well with a view to applying the learning to future new builds and retrofits.

Oliver Rehm, Architect and Director of Baufritz, UK then presented Healthy Carbon-Positive Homes: The Baufritz Vision.


The afternoon ended with a podium dialogue to address the key questions so far, followed by an open space session for participants to present their case studies and solutions.

In the evening, three Research students from Vrije Universiteit Brussel presented. Wim Debacker presented his Design and Environmental Impact Assessment of Construction Kits for Temporary Constructions. Stign Elsen presented his Design of a Construction Kit for Adaptive Reuse of a High-rise Building and Anne Paduart presented her Environmental Impact Assessment of Adaptive Reuse of Existing Social Dwellings.

Join us tomorrow as we continue the knowledge transfer, share our experiences, and deepen our exploration….

– Mattie Porte –
June 16, 2008

Photographer: May East

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