Category: Energy

New Year’s Honours

New Year’s Honours

Happy New Year! I hope everyone is looking forward to what the new year brings them, or at least what it brings once the hangover subsides…

With it being New Years Day it seemed appropriate to blog about the Women in STEM who have been awarded Honours this New Year’s. I wanted to know more about each individual so thought I’d research and add some flesh to their stories, allowing others to also find out more too. Rather than use titles or level of Honour to order them, I have simply ordered them by their surname:

Margherita Joan Biller; For services to Mathematics in Further Education. Margherita is Head of Mathematics at York College, and taught mathematics prodigy Daniel Lightwing, after whom the main character of the film A Brilliant Young Mind was modelled. (Yorkshire!)

Susan Elizabeth Black; For services to Technology. Susan is an Honorary Senior Research Associate in Computer Science at University College London. She is a computer coding activist, author of Saving Bletchley Park and participated in the BBC series ‘Girls can code‘.

Click here to read about the other fifteen women in STEM to receive honours!


Conference: Passivhaus

ph_logo-strapline_blue_1I had heard of Passivhaus prior to attending the conference, but not many details in what it was and how it affected structural engineering. Put simply Passivhaus is design focussed on minimising energy use during it’s lifetime. (This links quite nicely with Peter Head’s talk focussing on performance focussed, rather than financially focussed tenders written about here.) Passivhaus, as a basis, tends to ensure the following in its design:

  • good levels of insulation with minimal thermal bridges
  • passive solar gains and internal heat sources
  • excellent level of airtightness
  • good indoor air quality, provided by a whole house mechanical ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery (more info)

There is also a very similar set of standards for retrofitting properties called EnerPHit, since we obviously can’t solve poor building design by simply starting again. The EnerPHit standard is a slightly more relaxed version to Passivhaus due to the difficulties in renovating properties and because there needs to be an element of value for money. I live in a draughty, Victorian terrace, solid wall construction. Making it anywhere close to Passivhaus standards would be incredibly difficult.

Why follow Passivhaus design?

In an average building there is a 60-80% increase on heating costs compared to its design expectations.

78% of homes do not achieve the required air change rate rising high humidity levels, condensation, mould growth and associated health issues.

How does it affect structural engineering?

Thermal bridging: Make sure the structural framework of a building is enveloped within a thermal, insulating layer (and preferably a thick one). In professional work ensure a masonry column supporting a steel beam doesn’t penetrate through the cavity, ensure appropriate construction notes ensure all displace insulation is re-inserted.

Airtightness: During construction a building should have continuous plastic sheeting within the external structure. How do you fix this without using nails or staples? How do you ensure a building’s structure doesn’t penetrate through this?

Communication: Both of the above topics cannot be resolved without considerable communication between architects and engineers. Personally I have a great interest in sustainable design. Unusually I also have a degree in Architecture, as well as currently studying in Civil / Structural engineering. I hope in the future I am able to work on projects that combine both my personal interests, and also combine my skill sets.

Fracking: Initial blog

Fracking: Initial blog

I live within an area where companies can buy licences to complete test fracking drills (without planning permission), so I thought I’d find out more about the industry to educate myself. Subsequently I have attended a few meetings and am now part of a local community campaign group (Frack free Leeds / Frack free LS26) as I have concerns about the method, and feel the government and local MP are not listening to the research currently available. I recommend a read of a blog written by another member of the group, Hayley, which details everything discussed at the initial meeting including many of the concerns individuals had. Please have a read of her blog.

As our research and campaign progresses I am sure I will blog more about the topic… watch this space!


Are the lights going out?

Are the lights going out?

I attended the IStructE lecture this evening on the local and national changes in energy production. I have summarised the content into general information about the national situation and then covered each of the main power generation methods. My thoughts and questions are in red.

Background information

  • The UK is on track to increase renewable electricity targets from 1.3% to 15% by 2020.
  • Companies have looked into carbon capture technologies to reduce the impact of existing power stations, however due to the Government not communicating effectively, and consistently (closing down coal power stations, changing subsidies, changing targets) these have been scrapped by the majority of energy companies. The lack of consistent policy, even within 8-10 months time frame means that companies don’t want to take financial risk in developing their technology or business. Does this mean renewable technology research and development isn’t taking place, and therefore we’re preventing future technologies from being created?
  • Power demand has dropped and is now the lowest it has been since 1995 (however as more use electric cars this will probably increase).

Read more…