Thermal tech to measure energy efficiency

18 Dec 2007

Computer simulation and thermal-imaging technology will be used in an audit to gauge just how energy efficient Ireland’s social housing stock is, it emerged last night.

The audit, due to commence in January, takes place just weeks after Budget 2008, which included a Government pledge to commence or acquire 9,000 social housing units in 2008.

The aim of the two-year project, entitled Advanced Ventilation Approaches for Social Housing (AVASH), is to determine the best ventilation strategy for existing social housing units in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency, occupant comfort and significant reductions in energy bills for householders.

All data collected will be analysed and presented to social housing providers who are considering upgrading their social housing stock by performing energy-intelligent retrofitting of individual dwellings and entire schemes.

The existing social housing schemes that are being audited are located in counties Meath, Kildare and Dublin.

Leading the project is Jay Stuart of the Dublin-based Sustainable Design Consultancy, DWEcoCo.

Explaining the background to the audit, Stuart said: “Existing social housing in Ireland consumes a large amount of energy for heating with significant emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

“It is important, therefore, to understand how the energy consumption of existing dwellings can best be reduced whilst achieving a comfortable and healthy environment for the occupants through good ventilation strategies.”

Stuart indicated that the audit would involve the assessment of a broad range of social housing, including family dwellings and accommodation for the elderly and the disabled.

“Advanced thermal imaging and pressure-testing equipment will be used to discover the state of the dwellings’ thermal insulation and level of air tightness. Once this has been completed, computer simulations will be used to determine the best ventilation strategy for the dwelling type.

“The key performance indicator for the project will be the level of increase in home energy efficiency that can be attained by implementing the findings of the project.”

Stuart stated that AVASH project partners in the UK and Denmark had recently launched similar audits.

“It is expected that the result of these projects, along with the analysis of social housing schemes in Ireland, will have a European-wide impact, will contribute to the exchange and sharing of knowledge and experience in the field and will improve the energy performance of the existing social housing stock and its inhabitants’ quality of life.”

While welcoming the Government’s Budget commitment to commence or acquire thousands of social housing units next year, Stuart expressed concern that many may not be completed with maximum energy efficiency in mind.

According to Stuart, “Unfortunately most dwellings due for completion in 2008 will be constructed to the minimum energy efficiency standards of the building regulations.

“Energy savings for householders and greatly reduced carbon emissions can be achieved by going that step further without incurring large additional costs.

All that is required is the knowledge and a can-do attitude, which we will offer to social housing providers through our project findings and public information campaign,” Stuart added.

By John Kennedy