In speaking with a developer recently he grilled me about cost impact of Passivhaus design. I put on my best show, talking about lower HVAC costs and spatials, lower operational and maintenance costs. Yes, maybe if we tried really hard we could demonstrate best practice for the commercial sector – no extra cost, but excellent IEQ and energy consumption. Together we’d figure out how to make the ‘sell’ to prospective tenants, as surely they wouldn’t get how good this was. I wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark but there was a conservative enthusiasm.

Sun Exposure on a building facade, showing pointy edge.

Photo: Sarah Richter, Atelier Hayde Architekten

Following our chat, we got to talking about his recent big-budget home renovation, one they’d just spent their first summer in. It’s fantastic, he said, but there was a major complaint around comfort, and I won’t say I was surprised. I smiled secretly; I could sense a realisation as his tone changed; without saying it, he realised that what we had just discussed was totally relevant on this personal level. And that’s the connection he needed to make.

I’m a big believer in experiential education. People don’t know what they don’t know, and they won’t believe you anyway until they see it, feel it, hear it and touch it. I used to waste oodles of time trying to convince people with words, as well as presentations, reports and analysis. Now I just arrange a site visit to a completed project. Then we talk.

With a leadership vacuum locally, and with policy taking far too long, I still believe the industry is actually strongly positioned to take the control of emissions in the built environment and slash them dramatically. All of this is possible in the timeframes we require to avert disastrous global warming.

Clare Parry

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