Quirke’s Pharmacy in Clonmel is only the third non-residential building in Ireland to be independently certified as having achieved the benchmark passive standard in energy efficiency and it’s proving popular with owners and staff.
The pharmacy reopened in August and requires nearly zero energy for heating, lighting and cooling.
"When we started this project in 2011 we concluded that passive house was the standard to aim for, if for no other reason that the properties' asset-value would be higher than poorer-performing premises on the market. Its rental value would be higher, which is backed-up in recent international market research," says architect Paul McNally of The PassivHaus Architecture Company, who was commissioned by Ronan and Tara Quirke to design the building at 53 Main Street.
Ms Quirke says the new building is a pleasure to work in. “Even on a very busy day, we all remark on how the day has flown by. Our tiredness levels after a busy day are reduced, perhaps due to the airiness of the new pharmacy or the lack of fluorescent lights, or probably both.”
This observation is backed up by recent research by the Irish Green Building Council entitled Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices which reports that "productivity improvements of 8 to 11 per cent are not uncommon as a result of better air quality".
The passive house standard addresses ventilation and air-quality, thermal bridges and consequently eliminates the risk of surface condensation and mold.
Quirke’s premises does not require air-conditioning and is heated with one radiator when necessary. The rest of the year it achieves optimal air quality and temperature with only the waste heat from low-energy lighting and heat emitted by the occupants. In addition, it uses a fraction of the electricity demand of a commercial building built to the current building regulations.
Two other certified commercial passive house buildings have been built in Ireland previously; Tesco Supermarket in Tramore, completed in 2009, and the train-driver's building in Portlaoise by Iarnród Éireann in 2011.
Dún-Laoghaire/Rathdown Co Council recently voted to amend its draft county development plan to make all new commercial and residential developments to the passive house standard, or equivalent.
From 2020 nearly-zero energy buildings are obligatory as a result of the European Directive 0210/31/EU recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, Article 9, which requires that “Member States shall ensure that by December 31 st, 2020 all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings; and after December 31st, 2018, new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero-energy buildings”.
Some industry figures are not convinced the low-energy building strategy should be made mandatory by Dún-Laoghaire/Rathdown Co Council.
Hubert Fitzpatrick, a director of both the Irish Homebuilders' Association and the Construction Industry Federation, said the competent authority for building standards was the Department of the Environment, not local authorities, and such a move "will increase the cost of new build even further".
Paul McNally disagrees: “Forward-thinking contractors are already offering residential passive house buildings at little additional cost compared to the legal minimum. And these buildings cost almost nothing to run and are more comfortable and mold-free.
“My advice to the construction sector, is that if you try to resist change, you risk being swept away by it. It may cost you a little in the short term to learn new ways of doing things, but this effort ultimately places you at the centre of the new normal, and then you are best-placed to stay in control of your business.”