Successful delivery of any build, large scale or small, comes from continuity and consistency throughout the whole project lifecycle (concept through to operation). The impact of this becomes even greater with improved levels of energy efficiency particularly when building to the Passivhaus Standards. So it’s time for the ‘traditional’ approach to the construction phase of building to ‘exit stage left’ and make way for a more streamlined and systematic approach that encourages an integrated design and construction process from the outset.
The European procurement model is based upon more collaborative approaches (in both directions) in terms of architect involvement overseeing the construction process and conversely the developer or contractors engagement earlier in the design stage.
Inherent in the successful (read, on time and on budget and still meeting quality standard) delivery of low energy buildings is a non-negotiable requirement for attention to detail. This attention to detail, determined within the design process, is as fundamental to successful delivery as the construction process. It’s a concept that to some extent flies in the face of the current approach to achieving ‘successful’ delivery of non-energy efficient buildings, whereby value engineering and on the hoof changes/decisions are daily, hourly occurrences.
The UK has seen recently a huge increase the number of low energy and Passivhaus buildings being designed for all the reasons we know well (energy reduction = emissions reductions and lower running costs). This largely ‘theory’ based stage is still a little ‘buggy’ but whilst maybe not giant, at least adult sized strides have been made in the last year or two in terms of knowledge and experience producing better designs. By better design we mean one where every detail needs to be meticulously planned, crucially at this early stage using a feasible delivery method. So the teams need to be ‘engaged’ and ‘thinking’ at this stage, really on task thinking, “can we really do that?”.
A cost benefit analysis of lifecycle costs for a Passivhaus for example is heavily dependent on cost effective delivery of projects and this is where we need to make some giant steps. By this we mean the whole team investing in the project with a real focus on delivery. There is no place for complacency (yet), whilst we learn the rules of how to deliver, cost effectively, low energy buildings.
So here’s the rub, how do the team understand whether the plans ARE achievable and or deliverable? They know how this can be achieved with a traditional type of building but if they have no experience in low energy buildings its often the case that the first build is wildly over budget, bringing stress and leaving a bad taste, all very unfortunate for the environment and quite unnecessary to boot.
In the specific case of Passivhaus there is undoubtedly advantage to be had by using qualified tradespeople. Not only will they be aware of how to, if necessary, trouble-shoot on site, they will also provide invaluable input into the all important design stage. They will know whether proposed details are indeed achievable or better still whether there might be a better solution.
On site they will be able to communicate with teams and subcontractor teams to share the knowledge and oversee the detail. They will be able to provide comprehensive toolbox talks and champion air tightness detailing (crucial) to the required standard.
The Certified Passivhaus Tradesperson courses provide a level and depth of knowledge, although try not to be put off by the ‘Tradesperson’ label, as it has a much wider appeal and application. Key members of the design team also benefit from this qualification as it helps them have empathy with team members actually delivering details, under often imperfect on site conditions (wet surfaces, cold days…gloves and sticky tape etc), crucial in terms of planning timing and setting expectations.