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Scottish government promotes green building practices

FIFE, U.K. — One of Scotland’s leading designers of energy-efficient buildings welcomes the country’s government’s plans to offer home-owners interest-free loans to install green energy generating equipment. However, Richard Maxton, one of the few certified PassivHaus designers in the country, is concerned the initiative doesn’t go far enough and claims even more energy and money could be saved if new building projects were made more environmentally friendly from the outset.

PassivHaus buildings already are changing the way properties are constructed on the continent, particularly in Austria and Germany, where more than 20,000 houses, schools, and offices have been built to super-energy efficient standards.

A passive house captures energy from the sun, body heat from occupants, domestic appliances, cooking, lighting, and such and holds on to it within a very well-insulated fabric. As a result, heating demand is reduced by an average of 90 percent.

According to established research, the heating bill for a two-bedroom space built to the correct standards should be around £50 ($81) a year, while a three-bedroom family house could expect to pay around £8 ($13) a month.

To satisfy PassivHaus requirements, the external floors, walls, and roof of a new building have to be insulated to a higher standard than current building regulations demand while triple-glazed doors and windows are routinely 250 percent more efficient than standard double-glazed doors and windows.

“The initiative is great as far as it goes,” aid Maxton, whose Ayrshire-based firm Richard Maxton Architecture has years of experience designing a variety of family homes, public buildings, and corporate complexes. “It provides welcome recognition of the need to tackle the carbon emissions from heating our homes, but more should be done to encourage energy efficiency at the design stage if Scotland is to achieve its ambitions to be a world leader in curbing carbon emissions.

“It is estimated that almost half of Scotland’s total energy use is for heating and with rising prices, many families and businesses are already struggling to meet costs. Providing an incentive for buildings to be designed as energy efficient as possible at the outset will help protect against increasing oil and gas prices while at the same time help tackle climate change,” he added.