WIT School of Engineering team win the Passive House Association of Ireland (PHAI) National Design Competition

An interdisciplinary team of four students from the School of Engineering at WIT were victorious in the first annual national Passive House Association of Ireland (PHAI) Design Charette, held as part of the PHAI ‘See the Light 2014’ conference (http://www.phai.ie).

The event was hosted by the UCD Earth Institute. Nine teams participated in the competition from University College Dublin, Dublin Institute of Technology, Cork Institute of Technology, University College Cork, Carlow Institute of Technology, University of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

The competition was a 24 hour Design Charette with the objective of proposing a design for a specific site in Dublin with the main driver of low energy design incorporating the Passive House design standard. The Passive House standard is the world’s leading standard in energy efficient construction. It requires little energy to achieve year round comfort in housing making conventional heating or cooling unnecessary.

Juergen Bauer of the Architecture Department and John Carney of the Built Environment were instrumental in helping Tom O’Brien to prepare the students for the intensive competition. Eoin Carroll who is a student of Construction Management and Engineering gave great support to the team in preparation for the event.

Understanding the passive house design principles was key for the students and since this has been integrated into the courses of study within the school of engineering for many years now the students were very comfortable going to the competition that each had a valuable skill to bring to the 24hr competition period and the winning proposal proved this was indeed the case.

It was agreed by all present that the student Design Charette was a huge success in promoting the PHAI and that the WIT team were a much deserved winner of this prize. The future for those working in the business of energy in buildings whether at design, construction or operation of buildings will be well supported by talented students such as these coming out into the industry and the PHAI are to be commended for creating such an initiative as the Design Charette.

(LtoR) Professor Gregory O’Hare, Director of the UCD Earth Institute presenting the prize to the WIT winning team of Matthew Keating (Architecture), David Hoban (Construction Management & Engineering), Danny Murphy (Sustainable Energy Engineering), Tom O’Brien (lecturer and mentor for the day) and Cian Gilligan (Architectural Technology).
Professor Gregory O’Hare, Director of the UCD Earth Institute presenting the prize to the WIT winning team of Matthew Keating (Architecture), David Hoban (Construction Management & Engineering), Danny Murphy (Sustainable Energy Engineering), Tom O’Brien (lecturer and mentor for the day) and Cian Gilligan (Architectural Technology).

The WIT team was made up of students from four separate undergraduate final year degree courses. These are Architecture; Matthew Keating, Architectural Technology; Cian Gilligan, Sustainable Energy Engineering; Danny Murphy and Construction Management; David Hoban and the students were mentored during the competition by Tom O’Brien, course leader of the degree in building services engineering.

The competition started at 6pm on Wednesday with Dr Elizabeth Shotton of UCD welcoming the Passive House Association members and explaining her role as one of the five judges of the competition. Tomás O’Leary; founding member of the PHAI then presented the principles of passive house design and was followed by Dr Shane Colclough of the centre for sustainable technologies at the University of Ulster and chairman of the PHAI who discussed methods of integrating renewable technologies to achieve NZEB requirements.   Patxi Hernández of TECNALIA Research & Innovation in Energy & Environment division in Spain presented on Life cycle analysis and encouraged the students to consider embodied energy in their project proposals.   The eagerly awaited brief for the Design Charette was then presented by Martin Murray; founding member and former Chairman of the PHAI who provided visual context of the site and a description of key issues the client, Dublin City Council, were interested in seeing being addressed. In summary the competition required the team to demonstrate, using a multidisciplinary effort, the following elements for the site presented:

  • key design decisions, especially during the initial phases
  • site considerations in terms of public and private space
  • the density of use and density of planning
  • a variety of housing units
  • key checking technologies (thermal bridge analysis, sun path, buildability of the scheme, etc.

The nine teams then got straight into working on the proposal with a target completion of 6pm on Thursday.

The prize for the winning team was presented by Professor Gregory O’Hare, UCD Earth Institute Director and with the result only being announced at 11am on Friday the students quickly prepared an electronic presentation of their paper based design proposal and in front of a packed Astral hall at 3:30 that afternoon the students demonstrated an ability to explain to, engage with and entertain the crowd. It was agreed by all present that the student Design Charette was a huge success in promoting the PHAI and that the WIT team were a much deserved winner of this prize. The future for those working in the business of energy in buildings whether at design, construction or operation of buildings will be well supported by talented students such as these coming out into the industry and the PHAI are to be commended for creating such an initiative as the Design Charette.

For more information on the School of Engineering, visit www.wit.ie/engineering