According to Gonzalo Sanchez, a policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, the real estate and housing sectors could be doing a lot more to meet their environmental responsibilities. In his article for Euractive, Sanchez claims Europe can go further than energy efficiency measures and employ resource sufficiency as a way to tackle the climate problem.

 

By making our various buildings greener, Ireland and other European countries can go a long way to meeting the EU’s climate neutrality goals. With sustainable built environments a major pillar of the European Green Deal, the housing and real estate sector can make enormous contributions to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

 

For Sanchez, however, this would require novel solutions from policymakers; simply repurposing the existing aged and neglected stock of buildings with improved energy efficiency practices is insufficient to achieve carbon neutrality.

 

Existing Energy Efficiency Measures Not Enough

Instead, there needs to be an EU-wide push towards resource sufficiency, thus reducing living expenses and tackling the climate crisis at the ground level.

 

Buildings are responsible for 36% of CO2 emissions in the European Union, so reducing their environmental impact is of high concern. And with CO2 per capita rising in recent years, there is cause for alarm. Ireland’s own CO2 status remains stubbornly high, despite emissions per capita being over 9% lower than in 1990. As it stands, Ireland remains the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases per Capita in the EU.

 

The slight upward trend of CO2 and the resistance seen in dropping levels highlight the need for policies that consider the carbon footprint of materials used alongside the existing efforts of renewable energy and efficiency. If enacted, such policies would aid the EU in minimizing the necessity for construction materials that are considered carbon-intensive to produce. These materials are staples of the industry, such as steel and cement, so reducing their usage would most likely require new, novel policies and encouragement.

 

Resource Sufficiency

Efforts to decarbonize buildings are nothing new, of course. Ideas of ‘eco-sufficiency’ have been around for decades now. For proponents, the root issue is reducing energy demand rather than counteracting existing energy consumption. In terms of Ireland and the EU’s building sector, this means an attempt to provide genuinely sustainable real estate for a growing population.

 

Eco-sufficiency, then, aims to maintain a high quality of life for people while reducing the need for carbon-intensive materials. This often means drastically rethinking traditional methods of construction and overall design, such as smaller living spaces per inhabitant, while keeping comfort levels high. Ask an eco-sufficiency proponent how best to reduce the carbon footprint of a building, and they will tell you to keep a home’s size proportional to the size of its household.

 

Gonzalo Sanches identifies some key features to the eco-sufficiency philosophy as:

 

Repurposing Underused Buildings

This involves taking stock of existing buildings across Europe and finding ways to renovate and reuse the structures. In Ireland alone, there are an estimated 180,000 vacant and derelict properties, with many that can be repurposed or reallocated for housing.

 

Building Flexibility

A key way to reduce the carbon impact of buildings is to design with flexibility in mind. This unique approach to housing involves long-term thinking, with buildings designed to be easily adapted should tenancy sizes change. For example, splitting a three-bedroom space into two and creating an additional property when suitable.

 

Real Estate Versatility

In addition, the real estate sector can offer more flexible choices in terms of housing based on household size.

 

Sharing Spaces and Facilities

The idea of a shared space is not new to housing, but by sharing other spaces such as laundry rooms and garages, CO2 emissions are reduced yet further. This should be considered when designing eco-sufficient buildings, as well as multipurpose spaces which can serve more than function, thereby reducing space requirements.

 

House Policy Flexibility

Policies should be enacted, when possible, that encourage home use rather than outright ownership. This would involve inhabitants enjoying the security and comfort of a home that suits their household and avoid energy wastage caused by underutilized housing. For example, a large house with a high carbon footprint being used by a small household.

 

Putting People’s Wellbeing First

Eco-sufficiency is ultimately about maintaining as high a standard of living for everyone as possible, now and in the future, while also acknowledging the limitations of our planet.

 

Sanchez argues that if eco-sufficiency in the housing and real-estate sector is to take off, it will require policies to take on board the needs of everyone. This will mean consultations at both the local and the national levels for the widespread embracing of such policies. In this way, those in Ireland or other EU countries are involved in shaping policy and will better reflect society as a whole.

 

 

www.sammin.ie 

 

Project Update: Point A Hotel, Dublin 1 

 

 

 

The Sammin Engineering team are currently working on a €9.8 million hotel development at 17-19 Moore Lane, Dublin 1 under main contractor Sheahan & Collins Construction. Despite the pandemic restrictions on all non-essential construction over the past 15 months, the build is progressing well. 

 

This 4,053sq.m landscaped development, when complete, will consist of 141 bedrooms over seven-storeys (over basement, with a setback at sixth-floor level) and ancillary hotel facilities including reception area, restaurant and bar. The development will also include the installation of an internally illuminated fascia sign (2.57sq.m) and three projecting signs of which one is internally illuminated (5.49sq.m).

 

Below are a few photographs from the Sammin team working on the electrical installations (June 2021).

 



PROJECT DELIVERY PARTNERS:

 

Developer: QMK Dublin Limited

Main Contractor: Sheahan & Collins Construction 

Architect: Morrison Design Limited

Planning Consultant: Tom Phillips and Associates

Project Manager: Virtus Contracts Management

Groundworks Contractor: Cafferkey Civils

Mechanical Contractor: F. Field Limited

Electrical Contractor: Sammin Engineering 

Assigned Certifier: Loscher Moran Consulting Engineers

Interior Designer: Leisure Concepts

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been a busy few weeks on the energy front, with some positive developments for the renewables sector in Ireland.



Shaping Our Electricity Future 

 

As is well-documented, Ireland has extensive untapped natural resources. The potential to harness wind power, particularly offshore, is massive, however, Ireland’s power grid needs to be changed to allow it to handle renewable energy and this will require support from politicians and indeed from members of the public. According to acting chief executive of Wind Energy Ireland (WEI) Noel Cunniffe, an electricity grid and market designed for fossil fuel generators are simply not suitable for a future where most of our electricity comes from wind and solar, which makes sense. He is calling for our fossil fuel back-up generation to be replaced with zero-carbon solutions, including demand response and energy storage. 

 

Writing in The Irish Times, Environment & Science Editor Kevin O'Sullivan reports that Ireland will have a sufficient amount of renewable wind energy projects to help reduce carbon emissions by 51 per cent over the next decade, however, this requires a sufficiently strong power grid.

Earlier this year Eirgrid signed off on capability to operate with 70 per cent renewables on the system on an instantaneous basis, according to chief executive Mark Foley, and this is expected to increase to 75 per cent by the end of 2021. A consultation process has now been launched to explore issues of demand, location, optimum balance of renewables technologies and the required infrastructure to support this. Further details of EirGrid’s Shaping Our Electricity Future consultation process can be found here: https://www.irishtimes.com/advertising-feature/shaping-our-electricity-future-1.4505275 




Obton and Shannon Energy

 

Also making headlines this week, Danish solar company Obton, together with its Irish partner Shannon Energy, has pledged to double its investment in Ireland over the next five years.  Just over a year after entering the Irish market, Obton plans to develop 1GW of solar energy projects here over the next five years, which will bring their total portfolio of projects in Ireland to €750 million. Existing project sites include Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Longford, Galway, Offaly, Meath and Tipperary, with construction of the first project of 20,000 solar panels, due to commence next month at an 8MW solar park in Tipperary. 



EDF Renewables Ireland 

 

RTE News reported that EDF Renewables Ireland is to start the construction of three new solar farms in Wexford and Kilkenny this month. The Coolroe Solar Farm (5MW) is located at Coolroe, Ballycullane in County Wexford, the Blusheens Solar Farm (8MW) is at Killinick in County Wexford and the Curraghmartin Solar Farm (4MW) is located at Curraghmartin, Carrigeen in County Kilkenny. These projects are amongst the first utility-scale solar farms to be built in Ireland and will have a combined capacity of 17MW, which is enough low-carbon electricity to power the equivalent of more than 6,600 homes.

 

 

 

www.sammin.ie



 

New NSAI Standard on Heat Pumps in homes will help Ireland hit its climate targets, May 2021

 

    

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has developed and published a new National Standard Recommendation for the design and installation of Heat Pumps in homes. This new Standard Recommendation is one of a suite of measures developed by NSAI in direct response to actions set out in the Climate Action Plan 2019, the framework that sets out how Ireland will achieve its ambitious decarbonisation targets.

 

Implementing this new Standard Recommendation will support the installation of 600,000 heat pumps in homes that are already suitable for the technology by 2030. These targets are set out in the Programme for Government.



Speaking at the launch of the new Standard, NSAI CEO Geraldine Larkin said: 

 

“I am very pleased we have published this new National Standard Recommendation for the design and installation of Heat Pumps in homes. NSAI is playing its part to drive down carbon emissions by supporting actions on the supply chain for renewables, retrofitting homes and climate adaptation.

 

NSAI are working across different sectors providing environmental standards helping large companies and SMEs minimize their environmental footprint.

 

We will continue to deliver Standards that ensure that sound environmental practices are ingrained as best practice as Ireland transitions to a more circular economy.”



Also at the launch, Damien English, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail said: 

 

“I am delighted to support the NSAI in the launch of its new standard on heat pumps for homes in Ireland. It is incumbent on all organisations – public and private – to work towards achieving Ireland’s goal to reduce its CO2 emissions by 2030.

 

NSAI is playing its part with this new standard which will help public and private homes make the change to cleaner and more sustainable heating systems, and with a knock-on effect of new job opportunities for those businesses in retrofitting works.”



The Standard Recommendation (S.R. 50-4:2021) concentrates on the types of heat pump that are installed in homes to provide heating and hot water and provides guidelines for the design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of heat pump systems.

 

In 2018 the average dwelling emitted 5.2 tonnes of energy-related CO2. 66% of this was from direct fuel use in the home. The sector must reduce its CO2 eq. emissions significantly to meet 2030 emissions reduction targets.

 

Document S.R. 50-4:2021 has been prepared by the National Standards Authority of Ireland Technical Committee 31: Building services, Sub-committee 6, Heat pumps.




For further information and to access all National Standard Recommendations in full, log onto https://www.nsai.ie

 

 

Earlier this week the RIAI published its ‘Sustainable Design Pathways’ to address sustainability challenges for the built environment. This guidance document identifies key areas that must be tackled across built environment design and development in order to help combat the climate crisis. The guide can be accessed in full here: https://www.riai.ie/discover-architecture/riai-research-and-policy 

 

Officially launched at the Building Collaboration for Climate Change Action Conference 2021, the information and guidance set out in ‘Sustainable Design Pathways’ is intended to educate architects, engineers, surveyors, planners and other construction professionals of the environmental issues that must be addressed through development design and build.   

 

Significantly, it also details the actions that will help professionals to achieve emissions reduction targets, as set out by the recently published Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill. The Sammin Engineering team wrote about this important new legislative development earlier this month in an article titled ‘How will the revised Climate Action Bill work?’ and you can read the article in full here: http://www.sammin.ie/news

 

Speaking at the launch, President of the RIAI, Ciaran O’Connor FRIAI, spoke of the need to “balance complex competing criteria in the development and delivery of buildings and infrastructure”. He proceeded to emphasise to industry professionals that “Sustainability must be prioritised within these criteria, for the benefit of current and future generations”. 

 

As mentioned above, the guidance document offers recommendations on how the industry can address the climate crisis and ensure a focus on sustainability, whilst still delivering the highest standards of design in our built environment. One of the key recommendations is the appointment of so-called ‘Sustainable Design Champions’ from the outset. At a project level, these recommendations include setting sustainable design metrics, delivering net zero operational carbon and replacing material products with low impact, low embodied carbon products. 

 

The guidance is to prioritise energy efficiency, adopt net zero energy buildings target, eliminate CO2 emissions, and to adopt a circular economy approach to reduce construction waste. This is all sound advice and it aligns strongly to the existing ethos within Sammin Engineering. 

 

Once again, the guide can be accessed in full here and is well worth a read: https://www.riai.ie/discover-architecture/riai-research-and-policy 

 

 

www.sammin.ie