Wednesday 29 April 2009

Developer critical of zero-carbon housing strategy

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley’s drive towards zero-carbon housing “will set us all running in the wrong direction and sentence generations to live with the consequences”, a leading property developer has warned.

Michael Cosgrave, a director of the Cosgrave Group, told the National Housing Conference in Sligo yesterday that the current strategy was based on using “untested new technologies”.

He was strongly opposed to new building regulations currently being drafted because they would mean that “every new home must become an energy producer” – principally through using solar panels on the roof to provide hot water or electricity.

Mr Cosgrave said it would be impractical to apply the new regulations to apartment buildings as there would not be enough roof space to accommodate all the solar panels required – and there were more practical ways to reduce carbon emissions.

He cited the example of Lansdowne Gate, a Cosgrave Group scheme of 280 apartments in Drimnagh, Dublin, which had been designed to maximise solar gain, with high levels of insulation, heat recovery ventilation and a district heating system.

This system, “which only takes up the space of three parked cars”, was largely responsible for an annual saving of 72,000kg of CO2 and cut the heating bills for each apartment by €200 per year, achieving 98 per cent energy efficiency. Mr Cosgrave said every occupier had individual control over the amount of heat they used. But although the overall scheme had achieved a relatively high B1 building energy rating (BER), “if it was constructed today, it would be non-compliant”.

He said it was essential to change the BER rating system to cover entire apartment buildings, rather than just individual homes.

According to the developer, “we’re missing big opportunities [to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions] while chasing little ones”. In his view, district heating fuelled by combined heat and power (CHP) plants should be much more widely used.

He cited the failure to combine district heating for Dublin’s Docklands with the 1999 refitting the ESB’s Poolbeg power station to run on gas and the new Aghada gas-fired power station in Cork Harbour, which would soon be “heating fish instead of homes”.

Irish Times

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