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Welcome to Way Out West your unofficial guide to living, working and studying in the west of the province

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A group of legal experts, scientists, academics and environmentalists are set to present draft legislation for consideration by the Northern Ireland Assembly, declaring a climate emergency and proposing a series of targets to cut carbon emissions. It comes as the drafts lead sponsor, Green Party leader Clare Bailey, says Northern Ireland is “falling behind on a raft of climate targets and indicators”.

The bill envisages Northern Ireland being carbon neutral by 2045 by cutting emissions across energy, transport, business, waste management and agriculture. Its sets targets for greenhouse gases, but also plans measures to tackle issues around water, soil quality and biodiversity loss. This proposed bill is part of wider call for action on environmental issues which has increased consistently in recent years. In this time, attempts to cut carbon emissions have become more noticeable in our day to day lives, and one area where this looks likely to continue in the coming years is in eco-friendly housing. In the past, when most of us read about eco-friendly houses, or scrolled though images of them online, we could have been forgiven for dismissing them as quirky, glamorous, or even futuristic anomalies. Rarely did they seem normal.

With recent advancements however, eco-friendly housing has become common and accessible, and therefore wide-scale eco-housing has become a legitimate way to try and tackle emissions. South West College have carried out extensive research in this field of study, and in 2017 The Crest Centre at South West College played a part in the design of an Eco House in West Cork which won home of the year on RTE. This building was part of a CREST Project carried out with Passive Building Structures, a well-established construction firm based in Rosslea, County Fermanagh, who are a market leader in the construction of Insulated Concrete. Crest carried out thermal modelling on the roof elements which were eventually used on the award winning house house.

Passive house is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. It has grown in popularity and has helped make eco-housing much more common.

Just this month, plans have just been submitted in York for the first stage of what could be the UK’s most ambitious council-led housing programme in a generation. York is planning to build at least 600 homes designed to have a net carbon emissions figure of zero. What’s more, the council has selected as lead architect London-based practice Mikhail Riches, the firm behind the acclaimed Stirling prize-winning Goldsmith Street in Norwich. It is hoped that this will ensure the houses can meet the stringent Passivhaus low-energy standard, but still be architecturally attractive and appealing.

Advancements like this mean the Passive House building standard has become a benchmark construction technique around the globe, and now, South West College are offering Passive House courses as part of the Dept Economy’s COVID programme. If you’ve been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19), a range of free, fully-accredited courses are now available to help you retrain and improve your skills. All courses will be delivered online and how you take part will be flexible to fit around your busy lives, whether you’re working from home or providing support to children or vulnerable relatives. Passive House Institiute Level 4 Passive House Trades and Passive House Institiute Level 4 Passive House Designer are part of this programme.

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