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  1. 1. 1 Identifying  barriers  to  the  use  of  natural   building  materials  in  mainstream   construction  in  Ireland     Student:  Caelan  Bristow   Supervisor:  Pete  Walker           Department  of  Architecture  and  Civil  Engineering     The  University  of  Bath       September  2015       MSc  Architectural  Engineering:   Environmental  Design    
  2. 2. 2 Acknowledgements Thank you to everyone who participated in my two surveys and to my interviewees who provided helpful with their knowledge: Tom Woolley, Chris Magwood, Jim Carfrae, Mike Lawrence, Mike Haslam, Ann-Marie Fallon, Niall Crosson, Ian Pritchett, Edward Byrne, Duncan Stewart, Pat Barry, Sally Starbuck, Donal Magner, Simon Corbey, Fergal O’Malley and Henry Thompson. I am also very grateful for the thorough and enthusiastic feedback provided by Feile Butler, James Byrne and Jeremy Rynhart on the case study projects and on the topic in general. Thanks also to Dr. Caitriona Kinsella for providing clarity on methodology, and positive feedback when I needed it most, Nicholas Ward for final proof-reading, my supervisor Pete Walker, my course director Sukumar Natarajan, Anne Ward for warm hospitality especially during the intensive period. Finally, my greatest appreciation goes to Nick and Arvo who have been so patient with me. Let the adventure begin!    
  3. 3. 3 Table of Contents LIST  OF  FIGURES,  CHARTS  AND  TABLES   7   ABSTRACT   8   CHAPTER  ONE    INTRODUCTION   9   1.1  Drivers  and  Background  to  this  research   9   1.2  Beyond  Operational  Energy   10   1.3  Current  Practice  in  Ireland  -­‐  Mainstream  Manufacturing  &  Construction   11   1.3.1  Irish  Construction  statistics   11   1.3.2  Mainstream  Manufacturing  &  Production  of  Building  Materials  &  Products   11   1.4  Current  Practice  in  Ireland  –  Natural,  low  impact  Manufacturing  and  Construction   12   1.4.1  Suppliers  of  imported  natural  building  materials  in  Ireland   12   1.5  Focus  of  this  research   13   1.6  Aims,  Objectives  &  Methodology   14   1.7  Contribution  to  knowledge   15   1.8  Research  scope  &  Restrictions   15   1.8.1  Definitions   15   1.8.2  Scope  of  Research   15   1.9  Structure  of  thesis   17   CHAPTER  TWO     LITERATURE  REVIEW   18   2.1  Introduction   18   2.2  Why  should  we  build  with  NBMs?   18   2.3  The  Benefits  of  NBMs   19   2.3.1  Performance   19   2.3.2  Health  &  Environmental  Impacts  of  Buildings   19   2.4  Sustainable  Construction   20   2.4.1  Barriers  to  and  drivers  of  sustainable  construction   20   2.4.3  Strategies  to  increase  the  use  of  NBMs   21   2.5  Current  practice  –  natural  building  in  Ireland   21   2.5.1  Ecological  Developments,  communities  and  organisations   21   2.5.2  Research  projects  on  sustainable  building  and  NBMs  in  Ireland   22   2.6  Gaps  in  knowledge   22  
  4. 4. 4 CHAPTER  THREE     METHODOLOGY   24   3.1  Introductioin   24   3.2  Pilot  Study   25   3.3  Survey   26   3.3.1  Particpants   26   3.3.2  Construction  Industry  Survey  (see  Appendix  A  for  complete  survey  questions)   26   3.3.3  Non-­‐industry  end-­‐user  Survey   26   3.4  Interviews   27   3.5  Case  Studies   28   3.6  Technique  of  analysis   29   Mixed  Method  Approach   29   3.7  Validity  of  methodology   29   3.3.1  Thematic  Analysis   30   CHAPTER  FOUR     SURVEY  AND  INTERVIEW  REPORT  AND  ANALYSIS   31   4.1.  Quantitative  Results   31   4.1.1  Construction  industry  Survey  Results   31  Section  One:  Attitude,  knowledge  &  awareness   31  Section  Two:  Building  Regulations,  Technical  Guidance,  and  Environmental  Impacts   35  Section  Three:  Market,  Infrastructure,  Investment,  Lenders  and  Insurance   37   4.1.2  End-­‐User/Occupant  Survey  Results   40  Section  One:  Attitude,  knowledge  &  awareness   40  Section  Two:  Building  Regulations,  Technical  guidance   43  Section  Three:  Market,  Infrastructure,  Investment,  Lenders  and  Insurance   45   4.1.3  Comparison  of  results:  similarities  &  differences   47   4.2  Qualitative  results  from  surveys  and  interviews   48   4.2.1  Construction  Industry  Survey  results   50  Perceived  Benefits  of  NBMs   50  Perceived  Disadvantages   51  Attitude  to  Environmental  &  Health  Impacts   52  Regulations   53  Environmental  Product  Declarations   54  Material  &  Product  Certification   54  Attitude  to  potential  NBM  market   55  Lenders  and  Insurers   55   4.2.2  End-­‐user  Survey  Qualitative  results   57  Benefits   57  Disadvantages   57  Attitude  to  Environmental  &  Health  Impacts   58  Environmental  Product  Declarations   59  Lenders  and  Insurers   60   4.3  Interviews   61   4.3.1  Attitudes  of  construction  industry  and  end-­‐users   61   4.3.2  NBM  Knowledge  and  Experience   63   4.3.3  Industry  and  Market   64   4.3.4  Building  Regulations  and  Certification   65   4.3.5  Insurance  Provision   66  
  5. 5. 5 4.4  Summary  of  perceived  barriers   67   CHAPTER  FIVE     CASE  STUDIES   68   5.1  Review  of  Aims  &  Objectives   68   5.2  Case  Studies   68   5.2.1  Case  Study  1:   Byrne  House,  Abbeyshrule  Co.  Longford   68  Project  Description   69  Barriers  and  solutions   70   5.2.2  Case  Study  2:   Rehan  Electronics  Factory,  Co.  Wexford   71  Project  Description   72  Barriers  &  Solutions   73   5.2.3  Case  Study  3:   Rynhart  House,  Co.  Wicklow   74  Project  Description   75  Barriers  and  Solutions   76   5.2.4  Case  Study  4:   Butler-­‐Ritchie  house,  Co.  Sligo   77  Project  Description   78  Barriers  and  Solutions   79   CHAPTER  SIX     DISCUSSION  OF  PERCEIVED  BARRIERS  AND  PROPOSED  SOLUTIONS   80   6.1  Perceived  Barriers   80   6.1.1  Type  One  –  Knowledge  Barriers   80  Awareness  of  Impacts   80  Knowledge  about  NBMs  and  Experience  using  NBMs   81  Industry  &  end-­‐user  Attitude  towards  NBMs   81  Main  Barriers  –  Type  One   81   6.1.2  Type  Two  –  Regulations   81  Regulations  and  Standards  on  NBM  Construction   82  Main  Barriers  –  Type  Two   82   6.1.3  Type  Three  –  Systematic  Barriers   82  Societal  Values   82  Construction  Materials  Industry  and  NBM  Market   83  Government  Priorities   83  Banks  and  insurers   83  Main  Barriers  –  Type  Three   84   Summary   84   6.2  Proposed  Strategies  to  Increase  NBM  construction   84   6.2.1  Professional  &  Societal  knowledge   84  Increase  Public  Awareness  of  the  impacts  of  buildings   84  Educate  the  workforce   85  Provide  Official  Technical  Guidance  &  Codes  of  Practice   85  Encourage  suppliers  to  stock  NBMs  and  create  a  NBM  practitioner  database   85   6.2.2  Building  Regulations  and  Embodied  Energy  rating  system   85   6.2.3  Systematic  change   86  Society   86  Market,  Industry  and  Government  Incentives   86  Banks  and  Insurers   86   CHAPTER  SEVEN     CONCLUSION   88   7.1  Outcome  of  this  Research   88   7.2  Study  Limitations   88  
  6. 6. 6 7.3  Potential  Impacts  of  this  study   89   7.4  Beneficiaries   89   7.4  Recommendations  for  Future  Work   90   BIBLIOGRAPHY  AND  REFERENCES   91   APPENDIX  A    NATURAL  BUILDING  MATERIALS  SURVEY  –  CONSTRUCTION  INDUSTRY  95   APPENDIX  B      SAMPLE  GROUP  BACKGROUND  INFORMATION   97  
  7. 7. 7 List of Figures, Charts and Tables Figure 1. Lifecycle carbon emissions of a typical building ..............................................9   Figure 2. Carbon Spike at Construction Phase ............................................................10   Figure 3. Statement from BMF website.........................................................................12   Figure 4. Roadmap of Boundaries................................................................................16   Figure 5. Relevant Research Flowchart.........................................................................18   Figure 6. Drivers and Barriers for Sustainable Construction ........................................20   Figure 7. The Village, Cloughjordan...............................................................................21   Figure 8. Process of Mixed Method Approach..............................................................30   Figure 9. Awareness of energy use & emissions (Industry) ...........................................32   Figure 10. Perceived composition of energy use & emissions (% Industry responding) ................................................................................................................................32   Figure 11. Supply Chain knowledge (Industry) ..............................................................32   Figure 12. What "natural building" means (% Industry responding)..............................33   Figure 13. Familiarity with NBM Performance (% Industry responding)........................33   Figure 14.Previous training (Industry) ............................................................................34   Figure 15. Experience with NBMs (Industry)..................................................................34   Figure 16. Reasons for not using NBMs (% Industry respondents) ..............................35   Figure 17. Importance of health & environmental impacts (industry) ............................36   Figure 18. Opinion re enforced regulations on impacts (Industry).................................36   Figure 19. Should EPDs be mandatory (Industry)..........................................................37   Figure 20. Support of Irish NBM industry ......................................................................38   Figure 21. Perceived reasons for higher cost of NBMs (Industry) .................................38   Figure 22. Awareness of energy use & emissions of buildings (End-users) ..................40   Figure 23. Perceived composition of energy use & emissions (% End-users responding).............................................................................................................40   Figure 24. Knowledge of Suppy Chain (End-users)......................................................41   Figure 25. Meaning of "natural building" (% End-users responding) ...........................41   Figure 26. Known NBMs (% End-Users responding) ...................................................42   Figure 27. Reasons for not using NBMs (% End-users responding).............................42   Figure 28. Familiarity with NBM performance (% End-user responding) .....................43   Figure 29. Importance of Health & Environmental Impacts (End-users).......................43   Figure 30. Opinion on enforced regulations on impacts (End-users) ............................44   Figure 31. Should EPDs be mandatory (End-users) .....................................................44   Figure 32. Support for Irish NBM industry (% End-users responding).........................45   Figure 33. Opinion on government support for NBM industry (End-users) ..................45   Figure 34. Opinion on cost influence of NBMs (End-users)..........................................46   Figure 37. Byrne hemp lime house ...............................................................................68   Figure 38. Rehan Factory..............................................................................................71   Figure 39. Rynhart timber frame house ........................................................................74   Figure 40. Butler-Ritchie cob house .............................................................................77   Figure 41. Difficulty pyramid .........................................................................................80   Table 1. Aims, Objectives and Methodologies ..............................................................14   Table 2. Summary of Perceived Barriers .......................................................................67  
  8. 8. 8 Abstract This dissertation investigates the primary barriers to the wide scale use of natural building materials (NBMs) in Ireland. The study is motivated by a concern that insufficient attention is paid to the impacts of Ireland’s buildings contribution to climate change, particularly with regard to embodied energy and embodied CO2 of construction materials, the environmental impacts during all lifecycle stages and the effects of conventional materials and construction systems on occupant health. There is a body of international research on attitudes to sustainability and barriers to sustainable construction but there does not appear to be any research on the above- mentioned subject, least of all in Ireland. In general, attitudes and practice of natural, low impact building is under-researched in Ireland despite a growing community of natural building practitioners. It was deemed that the most appropriate methodology for the purpose of the study was a “Mixed Method” approach, using quantitative and qualitative analysis in the form of surveys and interviews, to gauge the position of construction industry professionals and end-users. Using the common psychology technique, Thematic Analysis, survey and interview responses were coded to reveal barriers specific to each sample group. Following this, representatives of selected case studies were presented with the range of barriers and were asked to select and comment on the most relevant, the outcome of which informed the process of determination. Emerging from this rigorous analysis were three levels of barriers, posing minimal to substantial difficulty to overcome.
  9. 9. 9 Chapter One Introduction This dissertation presents the research findings of a study of attitudes and practice among construction industry professionals and end-users towards natural building materials (NBMs) on the island of Ireland. The aim of the research was to determine the most prevalent barriers to the mainstream uptake of NBMs found in each group and in general. The collected results, both quantitative and qualitative, provided insight on the scale and intensity of the challenges to those who want to build low impact natural buildings in Ireland, and this thesis suggests possible strategies for resolving those challenges. 1.1 Drivers and Background to this research The key driver for this research was a concern regarding the current narrow focus on energy performance and CO2 emissions in Ireland as the sole impact that buildings have on climate change. Current building policy and practice in Ireland concerning material choice and design focuses almost entirely on regulating CO2 emissions in use. There is no emphasis on the lifecycle embodied energy and carbon. Further, current manufacturing and production processes of many Irish building products have detrimental impacts on the environment and may be hazardous to the health of building occupants. For these reasons it is imperative that alternative certified low impact1 building products and methods be approved and appropriate training courses be widely available. Typically buildings account for between 38-48% of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and lifecycle emissions are approximately 10-25% of this (Anderson and Thornback, 2012). Construction phase and embodied emissions are an increasingly significant proportion of overall emissions (Heinonen et al., 2011). Figure 1. Lifecycle carbon emissions of a typical building2 1 Here low impact is used to denote materials that do not have a detrimental impact on the environment nor on 2 (
  10. 10. 10 Figure 2. Carbon Spike at Construction Phase3 Ireland has committed to the European Union’s legally binding Energy Performance of Buildings Directives (EPBD) to reduce the energy use of buildings and corresponding CO2 emissions (European Commission, 2012). All member states must achieve a 20% reduction on the baseline (1990) level but, like most countries, Ireland’s measures to reduce emissions only focus on the operational stage (exemplified in Figure 1 showing the lifecycle carbon emissions of a typical building) even though a significant carbon spike occurs pre-occupancy (Figure 2). International studies suggest that the embodied energy of a building may be far greater than the operational energy: “A study of the energy use of Swedish low-energy buildings found that the initial energy embodied in a one family home accounted for more than 40% of the whole-life energy requirements over a 50 years life span (Thormark 2002). Rawlinson and Weight (2007) suggest that in the UK the embodied energy in complex commercial buildings may be equivalent to 30 times annual operational energy use. At the same time Sturgis and Roberts (2010) suggest that this accounts for 45% of the whole life-cycle carbon of its structure.” (McLinden, 2015) In addition, the proposed The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill (Irish Government, 2015) does not contain binding medium and long term targets for emissions reduction (McGee, 2015). 1.2 Beyond Operational Energy The terms “energy efficient” or “low or zero energy” do not necessarily denote sustainability. Sustainable construction can be defined as that which addresses the ecological, social and economic issues of a building by considering reduced resource consumption, reuse & recyclability of resources, protection of nature, elimination of toxins, life cycle assessment and quality (Kibert 2008). Ireland’s building regulations don’t address the majority of these criteria, and the energy efficiency standards do not consider embodied energy. The present concentration on energy use of buildings has shifted attention from the main issue, which at a macro level, is to prevent catastrophic changes to the planet 3 (Heinonen et al., 2011)
  11. 11. 11 and life that exists here. Serious environmental impacts in terms of climate change, local toxic pollution, resource depletion and ecological decline result from the production of materials that are derived from fossil fuels directly, such as plastics, foams and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or that require large amounts of energy (often from fossil fuels) to process, e.g. concrete and steel,. In contrast, "low impact construction" prioritises use of building materials from natural sources (referred to in this thesis as NBMs) having low impact on environmental & occupant health and low energy use, embodied energy and carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, resource consumption, and life cycle cost. Along with lower impacts, further benefits of NBMs include exceptional performance in regulating moisture and temperature, breathability, hygroscopicity, thermal insulation capacity, durability (when installed correctly) and acoustic attenuation. 1.3 Current Practice in Ireland - Mainstream Manufacturing & Construction Data is available for the volume and value of the construction industry, although not specifically for each construction material or product manufactured and used in Ireland. 1.3.1  Irish  Construction  statistics4   • the construction industry is still very slow in comparison with pre-2008: output was €11 billion in 2014 with 110,000 employed compared to €38 billion in 2007 (440,000 workers) • the volume of building & construction in the first quarter of 2015 was up by 1.4% on 2014, with the annual change in value +7% • however construction is only 6.9% GNP (below sustainable level of 12%) (Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland and DKM Economic Consultants, 2015) • according to the CIF, the industry is not meeting the demand for housing, current or future: 11,016 dwellings were built in 2014 against 25,000 required to meet demographic needs (ESRI) • the downturn resulted in loss of many skilled craftsmen, designers and site management 1.3.2  Mainstream  Manufacturing  &  Production  of  Building  Materials  &  Products     • current production of building materials in Ireland is primarily limited to those with high embodied energy & environmental impact including cement & concrete, coatings and plastic pipe • members of the Building Materials Federation in Ireland manufacture mostly high impact building products - Kingspan, Gypsum Industries, Aerobord, Tegral Building Products, Irish Cement, Roadstone, Cemex, Wavin, Dulux, Ronseal among others (see Figure 3 (BMF, n.d.)). 4 data from the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI), the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Building Materials Federation (BMF) and the Bruce Shaw partnership
  12. 12. 12 Figure 3. Statement from BMF website5 • Ireland has a trade surplus, with exports greater than imports but many building products are still imported. • Recent journalistic reports indicate that there is active lobbying by both the Construction Industry Federation and the concrete industry against higher standards of construction (Antonelli, 2015a) (Antonelli, 2015b) and that such industry has a powerful influence on housing development (Winston, 2007, p. 68). 1.4 Current Practice in Ireland – Natural, low impact Manufacturing and Construction Despite efforts to confirm the proportion of low impact construction within the overall construction output in Ireland, no published data was available for this study. There appears to be a lack of information regarding this market presumably due to its perceived fringe status. Although mainstream building materials produced in Ireland are not NBMs, a few materials can be sourced here. For example, stone and slate is quarried and used in buildings throughout the country, and there are several lime producers. In 2013, 3.05 million cubic metres of roundwood was produced, 90% of Irish panel products (MDF and OSB) and 60% of sawn timber were exported, and 67% of the Irish market (construction, pallet/packaging and fencing) was supplied by homegrown sawn softwood (4% by sawn hardwood) (O’Driscoll, 2015). Locally excavated earth is used for cob construction and straw is harvested for cob and strawbale construction, both methods gaining popularity in Ireland. 1.4.1  Suppliers  of  imported  natural  building  materials  in  Ireland   Currently there are several NBM suppliers in Ireland, who import natural products and materials. Ecological Building Systems (EBS), is the main supplier of natural building products in Ireland. The company was established in 1992 and has seen significant growth since 2000. According to Niall Crosson, Senior technical engineer at EBS, “customer demand is increasing based on more education and awareness. Legislation is also driving specifiers to high performance natural materials. These all need to be backed up with good technical support/training, which we provide at our training centre.” (Crosson 2015, pers.comm.) Crosson estimates that approximately 1% of the materials used in construction in Ireland are natural, which seems especially low considering the availability of raw 5 (
  13. 13. 13 materials. All of the NBMs sold by EBS in Ireland are imported from Germany or the UK. Other suppliers of natural materials include the Traditional Lime Company (lime, natural paints, clay plaster), Hempire (hemp building products, clay plaster) and Stoneware Studios (lime & clay products). The timber product industry for construction is developing, though far from equal to the scale of the masonry industry. Donal Magner of the Wood Marketing Federation believes the problem is the lack of third level timber engineering programs and technical college courses in timber technology, “the cross-laminated timber industry could work here in Ireland. We could grow spruce appropriately for use in this industry. We need more expertise in this field but there aren’t enough educational opportunities here to create the workforce.” (pers.comm. D Magner 30.06.2015) In summary, most of the natural materials & products used for construction in Ireland are grown, harvested, processed and manufactured outside of Ireland. 1.5 Focus of this research The main research question that this thesis addresses is: What are the perceived barriers to increasing the use of low impact natural building materials on the island of Ireland? In order to address this question it is necessary to consider the following subquestions: • is there a general reluctance to use NBM? to supply NBM? • how do attitudes, knowledge, experience, perception of professionals/practitioners compare with those of the end-users/occupants? • what is the influence of government, regulations and economic constraints? • what other influences affect potential users? Several different levels of barriers that must be addressed in order for NBMs to gain a wider market share emerged from this research. Some of these can be resolved with the development of increased awareness and knowledge through education. Many of the barriers identified were found to be interrelated and advances in one area may trigger advances in another. However the work also identified deeper systematic challenges that will require fundamental changes to societal values, government, industry and the doctrines of lenders and insurers in Ireland.
  14. 14. 14 1.6 Aims, Objectives & Methodology Table 1 outlines the aims objectives and specific methodologies that form the core of the research that was undertaken. Table 1. Aims, Objectives and Methodologies Aim Objective Research Method Outline current construction practice in Ireland Gather data and feedback regarding current construction practice in Ireland from industry professionals, relevant researchers, construction organisations, self-builders Desktop study interviews via email & phone Set out Ireland’s response to EU energy performance directives Provide summary of strategy to combat climate change Desktop study Point out the limitations of current strategy in face of climate change Detail the relationship of buildings, the environment and occupant health focussing on the environmental impact of construction Desktop study Highlight the benefits of natural building – performance & impacts Outline scientific and academic research on key performance parameters which suggest the benefits of building naturally; review studies on environmental and health impacts of buildings Desktop study Literature Review Consider common attitudes to the environment and sustainability, and related barriers to sustainable construction Assess previous studies on attitudes to sustainable construction, and the relevance of suggested barriers to the present study Desktop study Literature Review Describe the state of the art in natural building in Ireland Investigate current practice in construction with natural materials Desktop study Literature Review Draw up a preliminary list of perceived barriers Gather data and feedback regarding attitudes & practice in Ireland from industry professionals, end-users and experts Mixed Method Analysis & Thematic Analysis Online Survey: construction industry professionals end-users Interviews:   experts in natural building academics contractors Review case studies in natural building materials & methods Apply the challenges that emerged from qualitative analysis to case study projects to determine barriers and how they were overcome Interviews Desktop study Site visits Establish the key barriers to increasing the use of natural building as a mainstream approach Synthesise qualitative data and case studies to arrive at conclusions on barriers, according to level of difficulty and intensity Desktop study Propose strategies to overcome barriers Present strategies for overcoming challenges to natural building Desktop study Identify the impacts of the strategies and beneficiaries of the study Evaluate the effect of these proposals on building construction in Ireland and who will benefit from this study Desktop study
  15. 15. 15 1.7 Contribution to knowledge This study is of benefit to several groups and fills a research void in relation to the critical need for low impact building in Ireland: manufacturers and suppliers, and those considering investment in a green product industry in Ireland; designers, builders and specifiers considering the use NBMs; those considering a building project, both domestic and non-domestic; government, to encourage revision of policy & regulations; insurance companies and banks, to indicate public attitudes to low impact building and the recognition of high standards that competent industry professionals will adhere to in the creation of such buildings. 1.8 Research scope & Restrictions 1.8.1  Definitions   As there are many interpretations of the term natural building several definitions have been synthesized to create the term “natural building material” for this study.. Some participants felt that there has been a misuse of terms such as “ecological”, “sustainable”, and “green” over the past decade so that they are reduced to “greenwash”. Further, it can be argued that “natural” can be anything that is derived from the earth including concrete. Therefore the term used throughout this thesis is a synthesis of definitions from Kibert (2008), Woolley (2006 & 2013), Magwood (2014) and Smith (2010). In this work a natural building material is defined to be one whose embodied energy from cradle to grave (to cradle) is minimal, and whose production, use and disposal has a low impact on the environment and occupant health, use less energy and produce less greenhouse gas emissions, resource consumption and life cycle cost. 1.8.2  Scope  of  Research     This dissertation is a study of attitudes, knowledge and practice across the island of Ireland regarding natural building materials. The topic is vast and only a limited number of aspects can be covered within the scope of this dissertation. Therefore, it does not attempt to present an in-depth study of performance parameters or a comprehensive analysis of energy use and CO2 emissions of the construction industry. Rather it focuses on identifying the challenges to the mainstream uptake of natural building materials and methods. For this reason a qualitative analysis methodology is used. The following flowchart provides a roadmap of the study (Figure 4).
  16. 16. 16 Figure 4. Roadmap of Boundaries Mainstream Industry CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS & PRODUCTS IRELAND INTERNATIONAL BuildingsIndustry Transportation Agriculture Embodied energy/CO2 Pre-Use Embodied Energy/CO2 Post-Use Operational Energy/CO2 Construction & Building Fabric M & E systems Natural Low Impact on Environment & Health Conventional/High Impact on Environment & Health Barriers Drivers End-user/ Occupant Construction Professional architect engineer builder supplier manufacturer Awareness Knowledge Attitude Experience Regulations Standards Government Societal Culture/Tradition
  17. 17. 17 1.9 Structure of thesis The following chapter examines existing research on the need for alternative low impact choices in building materials, the performance, environment and health benefits of NBMs (and the impacts of standard construction) and current attitudes to sustainability and the environment. Current practice in natural building in Ireland is discussed. A lack of Irish research on barriers and solutions to increasing the use of NBMs is identified. Chapter 3 then describes and justifies the use of mixed method analysis (quantitative and qualitative analysis of surveys & interviews) as a way to examine the current position of construction industry professionals and end-users to reveals key barriers to NBM uptake. In Chapter 4, a study is presented which seeks to establish the main perceived barriers for construction industry professionals and end-users. This study is comprised of a detailed survey of both professionals and end users and also a series of interviews with NBM experts. Using thematic analysis and mixed methods a series of barriers is identified from the gathered data. Chapter 5 presents a series of case studies. These examined four projects that made extensive use of NBMs in order to ascertain whether the barriers identified in Chapter 4 were encountered in practice and where this was the case what solutions were developed to overcome them. Following from this, Chapter 6 then draws together the key perceived barriers from each sample group comparing them with the expert and case study feedback. Hypotheses are proposed on the key challenges to the uptake of NBMs. The chapter concludes with recommendations for overcoming the barriers in Ireland. Finally in Chapter 7 a summary of the key findings of the research is presented. Limitations of the methodology are discussed. Possible solutions to overcome the identified barriers are presented and further work to extend the analysis is proposed.
  18. 18. 18 Chapter Two Literature Review 2.1 Introduction This dissertation investigates the barriers to the increased use of natural building materials (NBMs) in Ireland. To demonstrate the scope of previous research that would be relevant to the topic it was necessary to investigate a variety of areas. These are outlined in Figure 5. Although this thesis focuses on the island of Ireland it was necessary to draw on data from the UK owing to a lack of prior work in this area. Figure 5. Relevant Research Flowchart 2.2 Why should we build with NBMs? Energy  Use,  Carbon  emissions  and  the  Embodied  energy  of  buildings   Although NBM expert Neil May argues in the Good Homes Alliance critique of the BRE Green Guide (May, 2009) that our understanding of the embodied energy (EE) and carbon (EC) of buildings is still poor, much research has been done to quantify the lifecycle impacts of buildings in this area. Hinnells et al. claim that the energy used by buildings in the UK accounts for 47% of overall CO2 emissions, 90% in use and 10% as embodied energy (cited in Goggins et al., 2010). Energy used during the life cycle of standard buildings contributes considerably to GHG emissions. Monaghan et al. discuss the EC and EE in housing, demonstrating the EC/EE difference between standard cavity wall construction methods and prefabricated timber frame low-energy methods (Monahan and Powell, 2011). Emissions from the transport of construction products and materials to Ireland is a major contributing factor in the overall EE & EC of buildings, although these are not fully accounted for because international shipping and aviation emissions are not included in the total inventoried emissions which covers Relevant(research(for(a(study(of( the(BARRIERS(to(the(uptake(of( NATURAL(BUILDING(MATERIALS( in(Ireland( WHY(is(this( IMPORTANT( to(study?( What(are(the( BENEFITS(( of(NBMs?( What(research( has(been(done( on(ATTITUDES(to( SUSTAINABILITY(&( the(ENVIRONMENT?( PERFORMANCE( ENVIRONMENT( HEALTH( What(research( has(been(done(on( the(BARRIERS(to( SUSTAINABLE( CONSTRUCTION?( What(is(the(( CURRENT(PRACTICE( (of(NBM(construction( in(Ireland?((
  19. 19. 19 territorial, production and consumption only (Klein, 2015, p. 79) (van Aardenne et al., 2013). Low  impact  materials  and  Products   The current efforts in Ireland to reduce energy use and emissions in buildings focus on the operational stage only of a building’s lifecycle but since 10-25% of its emissions come from harvesting, processing and transportation of building materials to site, demolition and disposal, it is important to consider how these emissions can be reduced. Woolley suggests using local low impact low carbon materials (referred to in this thesis as NBMs) is a solution (Woolley, 2006) (Woolley, 2008). 2.3 The Benefits of NBMs 2.3.1  Performance     Extensive research on the performance of NBMs has been carried out by many institutions and research groups in the UK and overseas. Tests carried out by the Lawrence et al. demonstrate the exceptional hygrothermal performance of hemp-lime construction (Lawrence et al., 2012) and Mukherjee and McDougall determined that hempcrete can prevent buckling and can carry some direct load (Mukherjee and MacDougall, 2013). The superior thermal and structural properties of strawbale walls and have been shown by Walker (Walker, 2004), Gross et al. (Gross et al., 2015) and de Wilde et al. (De Wilde et al., 2010) and the satisfactory fire resistance of strawbales walls by Ashour et al. (Ashour et al., 2011). Woolley’s Green Building Handbooks, and publications Natural Building and Low Impact Building communicate the impacts of NBMs and their in situ performance (Woolley et al., 1997)(Woolley, 2006)(Woolley, 2013); The Building Research Establishment (BRE) commissioned Woolley and Bevan’s detailed report on the potential construction uses of hemp-lime (Bevan and Woolley, 2008) as well as reports on best practice use of recycled & low impact materials such as woodfibre . In Norway, Gaia Lista et al have recently published the first of a three part report on the the hygrothermal potential of wood to achieve true passive house performance (Gaia Lista et al., 2014). In Canada and the US, Chris Magwood, Clarke Snell, Frameworks, Jon Nunan, Daniel Chiras and many others have spent decades testing, refining and modernising methods of natural construction, in order to demonstrate the desirable performance of straw, timber, and earth in buildings (Magwood, 2014)(Snell, 2005)(Kibert, 2008)(Racusin and McArleton, 2012)(Nunan, 2010). 2.3.2  Health  &  Environmental  Impacts  of  Buildings   Natural materials have been shown to have much lower environmental and health impacts in numerous studies. Woolley discusses these in his books Natural Building (Woolley, 2006) and Low Impact Building (Woolley, 2013) and is spearheading the efforts to establish the NaturePlus standard of eco-certification in Ireland (NaturePlus and Alliance for Sustainable Building Products, n.d.)
  20. 20. 20 Recent work on the positive effects of green buildings includes reports by McGraw Hill Construction the World Green Building Council’s report on health, wellbeing and productivity in office buildings, both extensive studies that assess how sustainability features (beyond low carbon and resource efficiency) can affect employee experience (Glenn et al., 2014)(Alker et al., n.d.). Joseph Allen et al. of the Harvard School of Public Health also recently published research on the positive health effects of green buildings particularly indoor air quality and human health. He proposes “a framework for identifying direct, objective and leading “Health Performance Indicators” for use in future studies of buildings and health.” (Allen et al., 2015). Researcher Melissa C. Lott has stressed the negative effects of energy efficiency measures on public health (Lott, 2014). Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart identified the many health risks of the materials and objects of our surroundings, such as the toxic substances found in finishes which will contaminate indoor air (McDonough and Braungart, 2009, pp. 37–42). 2.4 Sustainable Construction 2.4.1  Barriers  to  and  drivers  of  sustainable  construction   Previous research has explored the barriers to sustainable construction. Pitt et al. established a set of barriers and drivers in their work to determine the factors that promote or prevent sustainable construction practices (Figure 6). Figure 6. Drivers and Barriers for Sustainable Construction6 Williams et al. investigated why a strong policy drive has not ensured sustainable development in the UK, revealing that stakeholder indifference was the main reason (Williams and Dair, 2007). However a Southwest Regional Assembly commissioned report on barriers to sustainability (Baker Associates, 2006), found economic and insurance reasons as the main barriers to sustainable building. This finding is supported by a study by Häkkinen et al. from 2011 (Häkkinen and Belloni, 2011). Woolley highlights further obstacles to the uptake of natural and renewable materials, 6 (Pitt et al., 2009)
  21. 21. 21 such as poor understanding of building physics, lack of data and research and weak government policy among other reasons (Woolley, 2013). The Irish Green Building Council conducted a study on the sustainability of materials used in construction (Kirwan et al., 2013). This consisted of a survey of manufacturers and suppliers as well as architects and other industry professionals. The findings demonstrated a wide difference in knowledge and engagement with the environmental sustainability of materials between manufacturers/suppliers and specifiers. 2.4.3  Strategies  to  increase  the  use  of  NBMs   There are a range of studies proposing strategies to increase the uptake of NBMs. Walker at the University of Bath suggests prefabrication as a method to increase the uptake (Walker, 2013). This solution is supported by Smith (Smith, 2010) and Kaufman (Kaufmann and Remick, 2009) among others. Horman et al. propose construction process improvements to deliver green buildings (Horman et al., 2006). 2.5 Current practice – natural building in Ireland 2.5.1  Ecological  Developments,  communities  and  organisations   One large scale eco-development exists in Ireland. Located in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, The Village7 is attached to an existing town and consists of approximately 130 housing plots on 67 acres. Members of the Village can purchase individual plots on which to build houses in accordance with the Village’s ecological charter. It is run by Sustainable Projects Ireland Limited (SPIL), a not for profit company composed of 125 members and a board of directors (Winston, 2012). Figure 7. The Village, Cloughjordan 7
  22. 22. 22 Other individuals and groups in Ireland are actively engaged in building with natural materials, such as Mud and Wood8 (Earth Building, Sligo), The Hollies9 (cob and strawbale, Cork), The Hemp Building Consultancy 10 (Hemp, Kerry), Ardnashee 11 (strawbale, Cork), Rock Farm Slane12 (strawbale, Meath) among others. There are growing numbers of architects specializing in ecological design with natural materials including Solearth Ecological Architecture13 , Gaia Ecotecture14 , Winkens Architecture15 , Feile Butler/Mud and Wood, Miles Sampson Sustainable Architecture16 , and others. Earth Building UK and Ireland (EBUKI) is a non-profit organisation set up to raise awareness about earth building. They provide information, training and a database of earth structures in the UK (the database of earth structures throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland is in progress)17 . Feile Butler, Irish director of EBUKI writes extensively on earth building, energy efficiency and many other aspects of natural building on the Mud and Wood website (“News & Articles – Mud and Wood,” n.d.). Butler has made extensive submissions for the public consultations on the energy assessment standard and the energy efficiency directive in Ireland in relation to natural buildings (Butler, 2013a)(Butler, 2013b). The Irish Timber Frame Manufacturers Association’s membership is growing although current practice in Irish timber frame construction depends on mainly imported timber and conventional (non-NBM) products and methods. 2.5.2  Research  projects  on  sustainable  building  and  NBMs  in  Ireland   In Ireland, the Cork Centre for Architecture Education at UCC spearheaded the NEES Project 2011-2014 (Natural Energy Efficiency and Sustainability), in collaboration with several other EU partners, to support the development of sustainable architecture. The outcome of their research was a selection of best practice products and services as well as 6 pilot case studies (“NEES project Results 2011 to 2014,” n.d.)(Empey, 2014). NEES2 is about to start which will incorporate earth building training for the construction industry among other programs18 . 2.6 Gaps in knowledge This literature review shows that construction that employs NBMs (as defined in the previous chapter) can reduce energy use and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions thus diminish environmental impact, and that NBMs have exceptional performance and health benefits. Precedent studies suggest the variety of factors influencing attitudes to the environment and sustainability and highlights the barriers to sustainable construction. Dispersed efforts towards ecological building in Ireland include participation in an ongoing EU research project on sustainability in architecture. 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
  23. 23. 23 Nevertheless, there is an absence of academic research on the development of NBM construction specific to Ireland and despite the small but dedicated community of ecological architects and natural building practitioners, NBMs represent only a fraction of the materials used in Ireland and natural building is still on the fringe of mainstream construction.
  24. 24. 24 Chapter Three Methodology The choice of methodology used in this dissertation was critical in order to achieve acceptably thorough results since there is no precedent to such research in this area to date. As such, and due to this lack of available research in the area along with the complex nature of this topic, an innovative methodological approach was adopted, namely Mixed Methods (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2011). This comprises of both quantitative and qualitative elements, the former chosen due to the need for numerical data concerning the levels of engagement with natural materials in Ireland currently, and the latter chosen due to the somewhat exploratory nature of this thesis. “Exploratory research tends to tackle new problems on which little or no previous research has been done” (Brown, 2006, p. 43), thus the need for this type of research design. 3.1 Introduction This chapter outlines the methodology used in this study. The key objectives of the study were • to gather data and feedback regarding current construction practice on the island of Ireland • to assess the understanding of the Irish construction industry and the public about the relationship between climate change, energy use, CO2 emissions, buildings, the environment and occupant health • to gather data and feedback about attitudes to natural building materials on the island of Ireland • to determine perceived barriers to increasing the adoption of natural materials on the island of Ireland • to illustrate examples of natural building projects, their challenges and solutions, using selected case studies In order to capture the complexities of the topic, and because these research questions and objectives are both broad and specific, the mixed method design included data collection in the form of a survey/questionnaire and interviews. The qualitative elements of the survey and the interviews were chosen to give voice to the stakeholders and users and to allow any issues that could be unknown or unacknowledged by the researcher to surface thus providing a more in-depth understanding.
  25. 25. 25 3.2 Pilot Study Several pre-survey interviews were conducted with academics and experts in natural building.19 The interviewees were asked about their experience with natural building, their perception of its barriers to growth and potential solutions for overcoming those barriers. The insight gained from these interviews provided the basis for the survey questions. The survey was designed so that the questions would elicit a broad spectrum of attitudes to, knowledge of, and practice with natural building materials and methods. Two surveys were created, one for the construction industry (architects, engineers, builders, quantity surveyors, energy assessors, developers) and one for end-users (building occupants). Survey design guidance was sought from a research methods expert at the University of Limerick, Ireland.20 In addition to general information on attitudes, experience and practice, the intention was to determine if the participants have had any frustrations in relation to NBMs and/or had suggestions regarding the future of natural building on the island of Ireland. The use of surveys and questionnaires as a methodology for the examination of attitudes and practice regarding building and the environment has international precedent. These techniques were used to good effect in a study by Kaiser et al. in 1999, where they examined ecological behavior, environmental attitude, and feelings of responsibility for the environment (Kaiser et al., 1999). Axelrod and Lehman in 1993 employed a survey to look at the factors that guide individual action concerning responses to environmental issues (Axelrod and Lehman, 1993). More recently, in 2010 Kokkarinen and Cotgrave chose a student population when they examined attidudes towards the environment (Kokkarinen and Cotgrave, 2010). In 2013, Brennan and Cotgrave worked on developing a measure of assessing attitudes towards sustainable development in the built environment (Brennan and Cotgrave, 2013). While these studies do not address the pertinent questions of this thesis, they do establish that such research methods, survey designs, can be seen as best fit for present purposes. 19 The participants included: Michael Haslam (Solearth Ecological Architecture, Dublin) , Tom Woolley (Rachel Bevan Architects, NI), Pete Walker (University of Bath School of Architecture), Mike Lawrence (University of Bath School of Architecture), Jim Carfrae (University of Plymouth School of Architecture), Chris Magwood (Endeavor Centre, Ontario, Canada) and Ann-Marie Fallon (Regeneration Partnership Sustainable & Passive House Architecture) 20 Dr. Caitriona Kinsella (lecturer in Psychology and Research Methods at the University of Limerick, Ireland).
  26. 26. 26 3.3 Survey 3.3.1  Particpants   In Ireland, for the report “Measuring the Sustainability of Our Construction Products and Materials” the Green Building Council surveyed manufacturers, suppliers and specifiers to collect information regarding sustainable building products in use in Ireland comparing the results to determine the contrasting attitudes between specifiers and suppliers (Kirwan et al., 2013). This type of approach, including members of different populations, allows for the development of an in-depth understanding of the topic. For this reason it was decided that this study would also look at two different populations when administering the survey, namely those working in the construction industry and end-users. 3.3.2  Construction  Industry  Survey  (see  Appendix  A  for  complete  survey  questions)   The survey was issued via personal email and social media (facebook and LinkedIn) to contacts in Ireland (ROI) and Northern Ireland (NI). It was composed of four sections: 1) background, 2) knowledge, experience, perception, 3) regulations, technical guidance, training and supply chain awareness, 4) construction materials market, infrastructure, investment. Construction Industry Survey Sample Profession 25 total Architect 16 Builder/contractor 4 Engineer 2 Energy assessor/engineer 1 Manufacturer/supplier 1 Academic (architecture) 1 Background statistics can be found in Appendix B. 3.3.3  Non-­‐industry  end-­‐user  Survey     The end-user survey (a shorter version of the industry survey) also had four sections: 1) background, 2) knowledge, experience, perception, 3) regulations, guidance, supply chain, 4) market, infrastructure, investment. The main objective of the end-user survey was to assess the extent of knowledge about the environmental & health impacts of buildings and attitudes to the use of natural building materials.
  27. 27. 27 End-user Survey Sample Occupant status 26 total Homeowner 14 Tenant (domestic) 8 Prospective homeowner 4 Background statistics can be found in Appendix B. 3.4 Interviews In addition to the two surveys, extensive phone and email interviews were conducted with industry professionals.21 The interviewees were asked about their experience with natural building materials and methods of construction, whether they had engaged in a natural building project, what they perceived as the main barriers to natural building and what they believed were the solutions to overcoming these barriers. The following is a list of NBM experts and practitioners interviewed for this research. 21 The use of interviews in this manner has precedent. For example Stevenson describes the use of qualitative analysis in the form of interviews to determine that people have a tacit knowledge of the “ecological affordances” offered by materials (Stevenson, 2006). Interviewee Area Profession/Company Method of interview Niall Crosson supply Engineer Ecological Building Systems Phone email Edward Byrne supply Director Traditional Lime Company phone Ian Pritchett (UK) Supply/construction Director Greencore Hemplime Construction phone Feile Butler Eco architecture Earth building Mud and Wood Earth Building UK and Ireland Meeting email Duncan Stewart Eco architecture Architect TV presenter Eco Eye Phone email Sally Starbuck Eco architecture Gaia Ecotecture RIAI Sustainability Task Force Phone email Pat Barry Green building Director Irish Green Building Council phone Donal Magner Timber and forestry Director Wood Marketing Federation phone Simon Corbey (UK) Sustainable bldg. research Alliance for Sustainable Building Products email James Byrne Natural construction Self-builder Mechanical Engineer Email meeting Fergal O’Malley Timber frame Construction Timbertech phone Henry Thompson construction Contractor Old Builders Company phone
  28. 28. 28 Several individuals/organisations contacted declined the opportunity to contribute to the study. These included: • a representative of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) • a representative of the Building Materials Federation (BMF) of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) • a representative of the Department of the Environment Building Standards section • a representative of the Bank of Ireland • a representative of Ulster Bank • a representative of AIB bank • a representative of the Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA) • a representative of the Irish Timber Frame Association (ITFA) • a representative of the Irish Association of Self-builders (IASB) • representatives of Green Building Councils in Europe For the purposes of this study, the thesis refers to the “island of Ireland” since survey results and interviews included participants from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Interviews carried out via email were verbatim data, while verbal interviews were hand- noted during phone calls. 3.5 Case Studies The final data gathering exercise, involved the exploration of four case studies of projects that made extensive use of natural building materials and methods. Whether the barriers identified from the survey and interview data analysis were experienced in these projects was examined in a further attempt to pinpoint key challenges to NBM construction. The projects included: • a private house in Hemplime, Co. Longford 2011 • a private house in timber frame & wood fibre, Co. Wicklow 2010 • a private house in cob, Co. Sligo 2010 • a factory in poroton, Co. Wexford 2010 Each project demonstrated experience of some of the challenges identified by the research findings and also examples of how the design team and/or client resolved those difficulties.
  29. 29. 29 3.6 Technique of analysis Mixed  Method  Approach     Both surveys and interviews were used to collect data in this study, and as such the methods by which both sets of data were analysed reflect the mixed methods nature of the research design. Mixed method implies both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (interviews) analysis. By comparing quantitative and qualitative results along with existing data and background reasons for this research, the analysis demonstrates the effectiveness of methodological triangulation22 . The quantitative approach generated numeric totals of responses to certain questions relating to barriers, and the qualitative approach enabled a broader and more unsworn understanding beyond the numbers and facts. The qualitative analysis used a thematic approach (described in the following section) to highlight and code important words & phrases that emerged. These codes were then collapsed into generalized themes. The themes became the set of criteria that would be applied to selected case studies. 3.7 Validity of methodology This thesis adopted a Mixed Methods approach to fully understand the barriers facing both end-users and those working in the construction industry. As such, surveys were administered that comprised the quantitative element, and survey comments and interviews made up the qualitative element of this design. The numerical data from the quantitative section was averaged and percentages found. The qualitative section was anaylsed using Thematic Analysis (see next section for details). Figure 8 gives an overview of how this research design moved from data collection to analysis and interpretation. 22 Triangulation is a powerful technique that facilitates validation of data through cross verification from two or more sources. In particular, it refers to the application and combination of several research methods in the study of the same phenomenon. • It can be used in both quantitative (validation) and qualitative (inquiry) studies. • It is a method-appropriate strategy of founding the credibility of qualitative analyses. • It becomes an alternative to traditional criteria like reliability and validity. • It is the preferred line in the social sciences. By combining multiple observers, theories, methods, and empirical materials, researchers can hope to overcome the weakness or intrinsic biases and the problems that come from single method, single-observer and single- theory studies. (“Triangulation (social science),” 2015)
  30. 30. 30 Figure 8. Process of Mixed Method Approach23 3.3.1  Thematic  Analysis   The method used to analyse qualitative data in this dissertation is called “Thematic Analysis”. Braun and Clarke define this as a method for identifying, analysing, and reporting patterns (themes) within data (Braun and Clarke, 2006). It minimally organises and describes your data set in (rich) detail. The authors describe a step by step method of carrying out this type of analysis which includes the following steps: familiarizing with data, generating initial codes to identify interesting features, searching for themes (initial thematic map), reviewing themes (developed thematic map), defining and naming themes (final thematic map) and producing the report. The authors stress the advantages of thematic analysis including its flexibility, facility to learn & do, accessibility to beginners, usefulness as participatory tool, adeptness at summarising a large body of data, and of particular importance for this study, the possibility of unanticipated insights (Braun and Clarke, 2006). This final advantage makes this method of analysis most useful in the current context, as it allows for an exploratory approach to an under-researched topic. 23 (Diagram from Creswell 2012 cited in Opoku and Ahmed 2013)
  31. 31. 31 Chapter Four Survey and Interview Report and Analysis This chapter presents the survey results and the feedback from expert interviews. The results of the collected data demonstrated a range in attitudes and knowledge in both sample groups. Similarities emerged among the themes in both surveys, as well as stark contrast in some responses. Data from the surveys and interviews was mapped to themes of barriers. The sample groups for each survey consisted of 25 construction industry professionals and 26 end-users. Twelve NBM experts/practitioners were interviewed. The complete list of questions of the Construction Industry survey can be found in Appendix A. The end-user survey questions are similar and thus not included. 4.1. Quantitative Results 4.1.1  Construction  industry  Survey  Results  Section  One:  Attitude,  knowledge  &  awareness   In Section One participants were asked a series of questions that dealt with awareness of the impact of buildings in Ireland on climate change, the attitude to natural low impact buildings, and their knowledge of and experience using natural building materials and methods. Training was surveyed in Section Two together with Technical Guidance but is included in these results as part of Experience. Similarly, participants’ knowledge and attitude to the supply chain of materials was surveyed in Section Two but it is included here in Attitudes and Awareness.   Awareness     The responses to the first questions suggest a poor overall awareness and understanding of buildings’ energy use and CO2 emissions (Figures 9 & 10). The supply chain was of low or no concern to most (Figure 11).
  32. 32. 32 Figure 9. Awareness of energy use & emissions (Industry) Figure 10. Perceived composition of energy use & emissions (% Industry responding) Figure 11. Supply Chain knowledge (Industry) 4% 4% 28% 28% 32% Perceived Energy Use & Carbon Emissions of Buildings in Total National Energy Use (Industry) 5-10% 10-20% 20-30% 30-40% 40+%
  33. 33. 33 Attitudes   The most commonly chosen definition of natural building was biological and mineral, then low environmental impact. But health, local sourcing and energy efficiency were recognised as an aspect of natural building by less than a third of the participants (Figure 12). Figure 12. What "natural building" means (% Industry responding) Knowledge  &  Experience   Participants mentioned a variety of natural building materials but commonly only timber, stone and lime. Over two-thirds claimed to know of most material performance criteria (Figure 13) and half had received training or had tried to teach themselves about natural building materials or methods (Figure 14). Figure 13. Familiarity with NBM Performance (% Industry responding) 60% 72% 4% 28% 20% 28% 28% low env impact biol & mineral biological not mineral low health impact recycled energy efficient local greenwash 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% What "Natural Building" means (Industry)
  34. 34. 34 Figure 14. Previous training (Industry) Sixty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they had used NBMs (Figure 15). Those that had chosen not to use NBMs indicated the main reasons were lack of experience and lack of knowledge of sources. Cost and lack of certification were less of a problem (Figure 16) and one-third had had a negative experience with an NBM project, or knew someone who had. Figure 15. Experience with NBMs (Industry) 24% 16% 36% 16% Any training in natural building materials or methods? (Industry) no self taught yes no answer 68% 28% 4% Experience with NBMs (Industry) yes no a little
  35. 35. 35 Figure 16. Reasons for not using NBMs (% Industry respondents)  Section  Two:  Building  Regulations,  Technical  Guidance,  and  Environmental  Impacts   Section Two of the survey focused on current Irish Building Regulations, technical guidance, computer simulation and product environmental information. The questions were designed to elicit feedback on whether participants considered the Building Regulations and guidance to be sufficient and whether the environmental impacts and health should be considered. Environmental  &  Health  Impacts   The first question in this section pertained to participants’ opinion on whether environmental and health impacts of material choice were as important as energy and CO2 impacts. Results indicated an almost even split between those who do and those who don’t (Figure 17). 40% of respondents indicated that they were in favour of regulations on the impacts and EPD requirements, although some had reservations (Figures 18 & 19). 32% 32% 28% 16% 4% 12% 0% 12% 16% 24% 4% lack knowledge of sources lack experience cost unsuitability complexity non-durability health distrust nonconventional lack of certification lack of time 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% Reasons for not using NBMs (Industry)
  36. 36. 36 Figure 17. Importance of health & environmental impacts (industry) Figure 18. Opinion re enforced regulations on impacts (Industry) 44% 12% 0% 16% 12% 8% 8% 4% Importance of Health & Environmental Impacts: equal to energy & CO2 impacts? (Industry) agree important 1 2 3 not sure 4 5 6 disagree not important 7 no answer 40% 28% 12% 8% 4% 8% 0% 4% Should there be enforced Building Regulations on Health & Environmental Impacts? (Industry) agree 1 2 3 not sure 4 5 6 disagree 7 no answer
  37. 37. 37 Figure 19. Should EPDs be mandatory (Industry) Influence  of  Regulations   Results on the perceived effectiveness of Part L of the Building Regulations on energy performance and CO2 emissions indicated that more respondents thought they weren’t, although 33% were satisfied. Responses on the amendments to the Building Regulations (BCAR 2014) regarding the influence on material specification and compliance certification suggested a majority would be willing to certify NBM projects. However this legislation has since been repealed (taking effect in Sept 2015). Responses on product certification are briefly discussed in Section 4.2.1. Technical  Guidance   Responses suggest a consensus that there is not enough official technical guidance that Approved Technical Details for NBM construction should be included in the Building Regulations Technical Guidance Documents. (Further discussion in Section 4.2.1) Computer  Simulation   The results regarding on reliability and usefulness of building simulation were inconclusive Nevertheless, most agreed they would adopt NBM materials and methods if the buildings’ performance could be simulated well.  Section  Three:  Market,  Infrastructure,  Investment,  Lenders  and  Insurance   The final section collected the participants’ views on the potential market for an Irish industry manufacturing natural building materials & products, on why NBM costs more than conventional materials, about what strategies the government could implement to
  38. 38. 38 increase uptake, finishing with the participants experience of lending bodies and insurers. Industry  potential  for  NBMs   The majority of participants thought that Irish industry producing NBMs would have a market that they would use the products and materials manufactured although many said it depended on cost (Figure 20). Figure 20. Support of Irish NBM industry   Cost   72% of participants felt that limited production influences the price of NBMs. Over one half also thought specialist fabrication was an influence. Similarly 48% or respondents felt that importation costs increased prices (Figure 21). Figure 21. Perceived reasons for higher cost of NBMs (Industry) 0% 0% 0% 20% 24% 8% 44% 4% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% definitely not 2 3 not sure 5 6 absolutely no answer Would you support a new NBM industry by specifying their products? (Industry) 48% 28% 72% 56% importation costs exoticism limited production specialist fabrication 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% Rating of the reasons for the (perceived) higher cost of NBMs? (Industry)
  39. 39. 39 Government   Most (%) of those surveyed thought the government should actively encourage the natural building industry, although there are strong opinions against government involvement amongst the minority (%). This is discussed further in the Qualitative Results (see section 4.2.1). Lenders  and  Insurers   Few respondents (less than 8%) indicated having experience with either lenders or insurers on a NBM project. However participants gave reasons for the reluctance to fund or insure NBM buildings, which this is presented in the qualitative results (see section 4.2.1).
  40. 40. 40 4.1.2  End-­‐User/Occupant  Survey  Results  Section  One:  Attitude,  knowledge  &  awareness   Awareness     End-users appear to have a limited awareness of the impact of buildings on overall energy use and CO2 emissions (Figure 22). However more of them recognised the range of constituents making up that energy use than in the construction industry survey (Figure 23). Figure 22. Awareness of energy use & emissions of buildings (End-users) Figure 23. Perceived composition of energy use & emissions (% End-users responding) Similar to the previous survey, knowledge of the supply chain is generally poor (Figure 24) although almost one quarter did not answer. 0% 27% 31% 23% 12% 8% Perceived Energy Use & Carbon Emissions of Buildings in Total National Energy Use (End- User) 5-10% 10-20% 20-30% 30-40% 40+% no answer
  41. 41. 41 Figure 24. Knowledge of Suppy Chain (End-users) Attitudes   Most participants thought low environmental impact best defines “natural building” and two-thirds thought biological and mineral. In contrast to the industry answers, energy efficiency was important for more than half followed by health impact (Figure 25). This is discussed further in Section 4.2.2. Figure 25. Meaning of "natural building" (% End-users responding)   Knowledge,  Experience  &  training   More natural building materials were listed than in the industry survey (Figure 26) but it is unclear as to whether they had used those materials, and only a quarter said they
  42. 42. 42 had some experience. Lack of experience (on the part of themselves or their building contractor) was the top reason for not using NBMs by over half, and lack of knowledge on sourcing the NBMs by one third. Cost, lack of certification and non-conventionality were not significant but perceived non-durability was selected by 12% (Figure 27). Five respondents had negative experiences with NBMs (comments in section 4.2.2). Figure 26. Known NBMs (% End-Users responding) Figure 27. Reasons for not using NBMs (% End-users responding) 35% 54% 8% 0% 4% 12% 4% 0% 8% 8% 0% 4% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% lack knowledge of sources lack experience cost unsuitability complexity non-durability health distrust nonconventional lack of certification lack of time cost of expertise Reasons for not using NBMs (end-user)
  43. 43. 43 Over two thirds of the end-users claimed to be familiar with the performance criteria of building materials, and particularly the concept of thermal insulation, acoustics and breathability (Figure 28). Almost half said they had had some form of training. Figure 28. Familiarity with NBM performance (% End-user responding)  Section  Two:  Building  Regulations,  Technical  guidance   Environmental  &  Health  Impacts   Most of the end-users believed that environment and health impacts are as important as those of energy and emissions and they also felt that there should be enforced regulations on this in the Building Regulations (Figures 29 & 30) (further discussed in Section 4.2.2). Some indicated that Environmental Product Declarations from manufacturers for materials and products should be mandatory (Figure 31). Figure 29. Importance of Health & Environmental Impacts (End-users) 85% 0% 12% 4% Importance of Health & Environmental Impacts: equal to energy & CO2 impacts (end-user) yes no maybe no answer
  44. 44. 44 Figure 30. Opinion on enforced regulations on impacts (End-users) Figure 31. Should EPDs be mandatory (End-users) Technical  Guidance   Most users answered that they didn’t know what technical guidance was available.
  45. 45. 45  Section  Three:  Market,  Infrastructure,  Investment,  Lenders  and  Insurance   Industry  Potential   The respondents thought that there would be a market for Irish NBM industries and over half said they would support this to some degree (Figure 32). Similarly, almost 90% thought that the Irish government should support the development of NBM industry (Figure 33). Figure 32. Support for Irish NBM industry (% End-users responding) Figure 33. Opinion on government support for NBM industry (End-users) 0% 0% 8% 15% 19% 8% 46% 4% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% definitely not 1 2 3 not sure 4 5 6 absolutely 7 no answer Would you support a new NBM industry by specifying their products? (end-user)
  46. 46. 46   Cost     Most respondents saw limited production as the main driver behind the higher cost of NBMs, followed by specialist fabrication (Figure 34). Figure 34. Opinion on cost influence of NBMs (End-users) Lenders  &  Insurers   Very few had had experience with lenders or insurers on a NBM project although most were very opinionated about this subject (discussed in Section 4.2.2). 19% 27% 73% 62% 0% 4% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% importation costs exoticism limited production specialist fabrication economy of scale nonNBM monopoly Rating of the reasons for the (perceived) higher cost of NBMs? (end-user)
  47. 47. 47 4.1.3  Comparison  of  results:  similarities  &  differences     Some questions were posed to both groups, although in some cases, fewer end-users responded usually due to the technical nature of the question. Those answers that achieved a high response rating are compared below. Section  One:  Attitude,  Knowledge  &  Awareness   • The responses indicate that the construction industry has a better awareness of the contribution of embodied energy and carbon of buildings within the overall energy use & carbon emissions in Ireland. At a minimum, the responses indicate that more than half of the industry participants recognized the role of buildings in overall energy use. • In contrast almost 60% of end-users believe that buildings are responsible for 30% or less of the overall energy use/carbon emissions in Ireland. Nevertheless, in both surveys less than 40% believed that buildings are responsible for more than 40% overall energy use/carbon emissions. • Although supply chain might be considered the responsibility of the specifier, both surveys questioned participants since end-users may be concerned about the provenance of materials used in their homes and workplaces. Industry and end- users claimed full awareness to the same degree (16% and 15% respectively) but among those who chose ‘sometimes’, industry respondents were twice as aware of supply chain as end-users and most end-users stated that they rarely knew the supply chain. • Regarding the term “natural building”, 96% of end-users felt low environmental impact was a key element, compared to 60% for industry who felt that the meaning of “natural building” had more to do with biological and mineral elements (72%). Fifty percent of end-users also selected biological & mineral, low health impact and energy efficiency. The most cited natural materials by industry respondents were timber, stone and lime compared to timber, earth, strawbale and stone by end-users. • Both groups placed thermal insulation at the top of the list of familiarity with material performance criteria, but there was a significant contrast on other familiar criteria with end-users selecting in order: 1. acoustics & breathability, 2. durability, 3. air quality and 4. internal temperature regulation. The industry selection was: 1. internal temperature regulation, 2. thermal mass & moisture regulation, 3. breathability and 4. air quality. • The main reasons for not using NBMs were similar (lack of knowledge of sources, lack of experience) but only one end-user cited cost as a factor compared to 28% of industry. Industry participants also selected lack of certification, unconventionality, unsuitability and nondurability (albeit with less significance). End-users only cited non-durability as a secondary reason. Section  Two:  Building  Regulations,  Technical  guidance   • More than half of those interviewed in both groups indicated they thought environmental and health impacts were as important as energy and emissions, Specifically, results show that the end-users feel much more strongly about those impacts (85% compared to 56% for industry). However the related question about enforced regulations on environment & health impacts indicate equal agreement in both surveys (>80%).
  48. 48. 48 • Although the end-user response rate was somewhat lower on the EPD question at 62%, the industry responded with 72% agreeing there should be mandatory EPDs against 58% for the end-user group. Section  Three:  Market,  Infrastructure,  Investment,  Lenders  and  Insurance   • Both groups believed that there could be an Irish natural building materials industry, with end-users in agreement at almost 100%. • Limited production and specialist fabrication were cited as the main influences on cost for both, although more than twice as many industry respondents felt that importation costs were also important (48%). • Over 70% in both groups said they would support an Irish NBM industry to some degree, although two of the end-user group responded negatively. • Overwhelmingly industry and end-users thought that the government should support the NBM industry to some degree but 8% of industry weren’t in agreement and 8% of end-users answered conditionally. • There was a very low response rate in both surveys to the questions regarding money lenders and insurers, so the responses aren’t indicative of the wider community. 4.2 Qualitative results from surveys and interviews The written text from the surveys and feedback from interviews enhanced and expanded on the quantitative results. First the text and feedback were compiled to identify codes within the responses, these were then analysed to generate themes (sections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2). This data was then organized according to the survey categories into thematic maps (see example on the following page, Figure 4.35) in order to identify key barriers, which are listed in Section 4.3.
  49. 49. 49 SURVEYQUALITATIVEDATA(eg.shortcomings)THEMATICSEPARATIONTHEMESOFBARRIERS concern&about&durability&&& longevity& sloppiness&of&architect&or& builder& lack&of&knowledge/limited& expertise&in&detailing&and& installation& difficult&to&prove&compliance& too&time&consuming& lack&of&supply&&&difficult&to& source& more&expensive&than& conventional&materials& need&high&maintenance& EXPERTISE&&&SKILL& INFORMATION&&& GUIDANCE& ATTITUDE&&& PRECONCEPTIONS CONSTRUCTION& STANDARDS Figure35.ExampleofThematicMappingProcess
  50. 50. 50 4.2.1  Construction  Industry  Survey  results  Perceived  Benefits  of  NBMs   Health  &  Comfort   Feedback from half of the industry participants indicated an awareness of the health benefits of NBMs, in relation to indoor air quality, thermal and moisture regulation, lack of chemicals and personal comfort in general: “healthy” “better house climate (moisture balance, heat retention etc.)” “Better quality of life in the building.” “Low-Zero toxic emissions/off-gassing” “fewer harmful chemicals have been used in the manufacture of the building product that you are specifying for use in a building where people are working & living” However, interestingly this contradicts the previous quantitative result in which only 28% believed that “natural building” meant lower impact on health.   Low  energy  and  carbon  footprint   Industry respondents also named low carbon and low energy footprints of NBMs, which includes embodied energy and also energy performance. This aligned with their generally good awareness of the impact of conventional Irish buildings in overall energy use & CO2.   Low  environmental  impact   Interestingly, only one fifth of respondents referred to the environment using phrases such as: “Lower environmental impact” “Environmental long term” “ecological” This may suggest a lack of appreciation for the connection between materials and their effect on the environment. In general the responses illustrated a focus on the benefits for creating and occupying buildings, and less on the benefits beyond the building.
  51. 51. 51  Perceived  Disadvantages   Cost   For industry respondents, excessive cost was the most commonly named problem with NBMs although in a separate quantitative question only 28% indicated that cost was a reason they had not used a natural building product. Later in the survey, some participants expanded on what they believe are the reasons for the higher cost of NBMs: “From the moment a material is no longer standard or is not manufactured in large enough volumes it becomes expensive.” “there is the inertia of markets that are driven by other global and supplier chain agendas.” “NBM Practitioners are in short supply, training is not consistent. And unpractised and unqualified practitioners lead to costly mistakes and bad publicity that are off putting to customers that are considering using NBM.” “transference of 'risk' to the wrong place (the architect) forces the issue.” “high labour cost” Lack of market for NBMs - small or no production output due to global supply chain agendas and costly mistakes on NBM projects due to inexperience which all reduce demand - is the main driver of cost, since “The materials mentioned must be manufactured in large enough volumes.” Lack of client demand is cited as a reason for the lack of market: “No demand from clients, at least for as long as processed building materials are cheap and readily available.” The increased risk for specifiers and high labour costs were also seen as factors in the higher overall cost of building with NBMs. Potential  for  decay   A second perceived problem that was highlighted by almost one third of respondents was that of the potential for decay and degradation, which would dissuade the specifier: “More likely to decay prematurely if not carefully detailed, constructed & maintained” “Also there is a particular weather condition in west of Ireland (very wet, driving rain) which leads one to be cautious in specifying external finishes/details. Some products might be fine for a less exposed climate/region and how they would weather in Ireland poses a question. If a product is not widely used in this region or a sample which has been exposed for a no of years is not available to inspect it would lead a designer to be cautious in specifying.”
  52. 52. 52 “More susceptible to degradation from poor detailing or workmanship” “maybe not as robust as more conventional materials” “Reduced relative performance in certain instances relative to other materials” Nevertheless, in a later question, only eight respondents admitted having or knowing of a negative experience with NBMs, and only seven described the problem. Most commonly damp and moisture ingress leading to rot had occurred. This appeared to be caused by poor detailing and lack of ventilation. One person also mentioned failure of thermal insulation due to an inexperienced construction crew.  Attitude  to  Environmental  &  Health  Impacts     Almost one third of respondents did not believe that the environmental and health impact of material choice were as important to address as energy use and CO2 emissions. Some explained their answer. One architect sees the solution as a gradual process: “C02 targets are a more easily-definable starting point. It is difficult for practitioners to tackle all issues at once, so there is a tendency to gradually increase the scope of environmental and healthy design strategies over time, on a project by project basis (sympathetic clients permitting!)” Of those who explained their answer (both negative and positive responses), most did think these impacts are equally important, but felt that they’re difficult to measure or they don’t matter enough to clients to become significant. One respondent argued that materials like steel and concrete may be high in energy and CO2 in production but are inert once in use and can be recycled so counterbalance the impact on the environment. The same person perceives a bigger problem, economic inequality, as the driver for the lack of regard for environment and health impacts: “The real issues are systemic and political - we have to remember, always, the big picture. Buildings will not solve global politics, wars nor social problems such as 1%/99% finance - that ultimately drives most people to take unsustainable options due to relative poverty of resource and time.” Thus, although there was a majority who did believe the impacts were equally important, their integration process, available tools of measurement, level of end-user interest and economic equality greatly influenced whether they were given equal standing. When asked if there should be a requirement to address those impacts in the Building Regulations, 80% agreed. Those who commented said that for it to work, available guidelines as well as a knowledge & awareness campaign would need to be set in motion. It would also require strict enforcement via 3rd party inspections. This concerned one person who stated: “Decisions should be mature and rounded, not driven by people (an environmental 'police') who have only one narrow expertise and do not
  53. 53. 53 appreciate the problems. We need to 'police' clients and politicians - not people further down the chain with less resources and power (like architects and builders).” However one person contributed a constructive idea: “It should certainly be reflected - maybe a trade-off between embodied energy vs. day-to-day energy usage would be practical.”  Regulations   Energy  performance  &  CO2  emissions   Forty per cent of the construction industry respondents felt to varying degrees, that the current Building Regulations Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy) are not effective on energy performance of buildings and corresponding CO2 emissions. Those who elaborated cited several reasons: pressures from the client compromising energy performance, lack of conscientiousness on the part of industry and end-user, lack of 3rd party inspections, the challenge posed by renewable energy requirement of small low energy buildings. Many just thought they needed fine-tuning but one person declared that the passive house standard should be mandated. Technical  Guidance     Over 50% of those surveyed felt that there isn’t enough official accredited guidance available. However, there can be a problem with guidance material: “The problem is with technical guidance for the use of materials in an Irish environmental context. I find that some guidance can be problematic as it is based on a Northern European or Continental European context.” There were conflicting responses regarding suppliers: “most suppliers appear to understand that designers require robust details and certification” “The quality of information provided by most suppliers is poor and very fragmented. It takes time to find the information and ensuring its quality and veracity.” “I don't believe it should be the architects job to 'police' this - the architect should be provided with good systems (from gov and suppliers) I don't believe the systems are good because they are not integrated. Nor does one trust most of the supply systems which are driven by economics in any case. Architects can't be the suppliers police - that role has to be dealt with systemically” Building Regulations Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) are deemed poor, “very little official guidance. TGDs made up of mostly outdated building practices at this stage.”
  54. 54. 54 One respondent despaired at the inaccuracies in the TGDs: “a good example is the U-Value of 600mm thick stone walls; in Ireland the default position 2.1 is very low indeed; Historic Scotland has MEASURED various forms of historic construction and finds these stone walls averaged at a U-Value of 0.9 and 1.1 which makes all the calculations way off the perceived thermal performance of historic structures” Among the over 70% who thought it would be useful to have Acceptable Technical Details (ATDs) for NBMs in the Building Regulations, many mentioned safety and certainty for specifiers: “ATDs for NBM would make NBM safer and more certifiable.” “Understanding ATD as "best practice" this should extend across all materials.” “to give builders/clients/certifers guidance and confidence in how to use these materials correctly.” “this would make it easier for designers to choose nbms and give them more confidence in the performance aspect of the materials” “It would help 'sell' the idea if there were 'standard' details with measured U- values. It's really tedious to have to work this out when only the 'proper bodies' have the authority” One respondent was adamant that there should be no distinction between NBMs and any other material, that all should be covered: “I don't like the categorisation of NBMs/non-NBMs as an either/or option.” Another person had a different perspective: “This is difficult, as where would it stop? Each designer is able to 'tweak' details using different design & different materials”  Environmental  Product  Declarations   Over 70% agreed with mandatory EPDs from manufacturers, mainly because this would provide sufficient information for them to make an informed choice based on environmental impacts. Those who disagreed claim that it would increase costs "and not necessarily make for better buildings”. One stated that “minimum environmental standards” would need to be “set down in the Building regulations” for this to be useful.  Material  &  Product  Certification     Although the questions pertaining to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 are not relevant now, since BCAR is to be repealed (as of September 2015), it is
  55. 55. 55 useful to look at the attitudes to product certification expressed in the written text. Many stressed that they would only use those with a CE marking, “certification and compliance with building products directive not readily available in some cases eliminating consideration of these products.”  Attitude  to  potential  NBM  market   There was consensus in agreement on the mainstream potential for various Irish industry producing natural building materials/products with a range of suggestions including natural insulation (woodfibre, hemp, sheeps wool, cellulose), lime render, timber products, strawbales, hempcrete, clay block, biomass, flax, etc. One participant saw great but unrealised potential: “This is a lost opportunity. We have a large agricultural/timber industry which provides ample raw materials and land to grow crops such as hemp. There is no reason why we can't produce products like hempcrete, woodfibre board, lime plasters, cellulose. I would also include foamglass in this mix as we have a large supply of recycled glass and we need a suitable material for use below ground level. All that is required is a small team of people with a vision and a source of finance.” Another suggested it would emerge organically: “the idea that its a 'top down' situation is simply not true; most of those promoting their use are doing it for personal and principled reasons; it will be a 'ground up' industry, and unselfconscious.” Although 74% said they would support an Irish NBM industry, almost half had conditional answers: “It depends on performance & cost and alternatives.” “If they were up to scratch of course. BUT House insurance is also a problem.” “if certified and cost competitive”  Lenders  and  Insurers   Very few respondents indicated they had direct experience with banks or insurers, however most agreed that the conservative nature of such institutions influences attitudes to unconventional methods of construction. “They want to protect their investments by sticking with standard, generally non-organic (and therefore considered more durable) products & materials.” Some suggested that the insurance companies are at the root of the problem, and were only concerned about protection against risk represented by alternative constuction. They exhibit a “lack of understanding of the changes in construction methodology in the last fifty years.”
  56. 56. 56 “It comes down to certainty and certification; the institutions are totally conservative and want guarantees for everything they fund now; pity they didn't take the same attitude during the boom which is why it's most important that NBMs have all their documentation” “the only negative aspects are in other people's minds: banks and other institutions who are funding projects are distrustful and want 'certification' and 'certainty'”
  57. 57. 57 4.2.2  End-­‐user  Survey  Qualitative  results  Benefits   Health  and  Environmental  Impacts   According to over half of the end-users surveyed, the greatest benefits were believed to be low health and low environmental impacts. “probably healthier to live in, an overall 'feel-good' factor” “I imagine they are less harmful to the environment in that processing of the materials is reduced and less transport is probably required where materials can be sourced locally. I also imagine that living spaces built from natural materials would be more healthy living environments.”   Low  carbon  and  low  energy  footprint   Almost one third recognised the benefit of low carbon and low energy footprint. Cost   A quarter of respondents indicated that lower cost was a benefit and some expanded that this was due to lower transport, manufacturing and construction costs: “Affordability” “I think that carefully sourcing some local NBM can turn out to be a cheaper option” “cheaper building costs”  Disadvantages   Cost   Interestingly, cost was also a disadvantage for end-users. Cost was cited by 50% of respondents, although only one person suggested a reason: “Until it is more mainstream, there will always be a suspicion on perceived costs, 'experts' and a cheaper less environmental option”. A related question later in the survey asked why NBMs cost more, to which there were two replies: “Rip off Ireland - anything out of the ordinary is always over-priced. Lack of supply makes the seller more powerful. I think people that choose to build with