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Beattie Passive – At the heart of sustainability

Since its creation Beattie Passive has been looking to help address the countrywide shortage of good quality, energy-efficient homes, a situation that has been exacerbated by the economic difficulties of recent years and the resulting impact on the construction industry.

“As a property developer I’d grown increasingly disillusioned with the standards being employed in sustainable housing developments, both in terms of construction and testing,” explains Ron Beattie, Chairman. “As a consequence I was regularly seeing significant performance gaps in terms of how efficient a building had been designed to be and the actual reality.”

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Subscribing to the old adage: ‘If you want a job doing well you should do it yourself’, Mr Beattie decided to take matters into his own hands. “I basically sat down with a blank sheet of paper and set about designing a system that could be built by everybody, anywhere, and which covered all the relevant areas including sustainability, air-tightness, structural integrity and buildability. A year later I’d answered all those questions having come up with the Beattie Passive System, which we went on to patent in 54 countries. As well as being the only company in the UK with certification for a complete build system from the Passivhaus Institute in Germany, Beattie Passive makes a real difference to peoples’ lives and their pockets by delivering a comfortable, energy-efficient living environment, and by lifting them out of fuel poverty.”

Using traditional and readily available construction materials, Beattie Passive’s innovative patented construction method exceeds existing Passivhaus standards by creating a super-insulated continuous void around the floor, walls and roof. Unlike traditional methods of construction, Beattie Passive eliminates the gaps that occur at joints between floor, walls and roof, creating a high-quality home requiring 90 per cent less heating than a traditional construction.

The strength of the Beattie Passive system and the rising awareness of what it can offer have seen the company working the length and breadth of the UK from Scotland down through Yorkshire, Norfolk and Kent, as well as the Isle of Man. It has also just potentially got its first commission in Abu Dhabi as well. “We might be small but we’re growing on the back of some great ideas,” adds Mr Beattie. “We’ve been able to look at a whole new way of construction, which is very exciting. The construction industry, as we all know, lives in the Dark Ages and isn’t very receptive to change. There’s far too much emphasis on cost rather than providing best value. Thankfully people are now starting to realise that with Passivhaus your overall running costs are reduced considerably so we’ve reached a turning point. The message has definitely started to get through and with all the other benefits, such as local employment and greater youth opportunities, it all helps add up to a very good sell.”

“Despite our own efforts we still need the main contractors stepping up too because the skills shortage is the biggest challenge we’re currently having to contend with. In the meantime our main focus is to maintain the momentum that we’ve built up so far and ensure that we develop our current people so that they reach their maximum potential.”

Ron Beattie, Chairman

The benefits Beattie Passive can offer have proven particularly attractive to the social housing sector and as a result the company took its first venture into Scotland around three years ago with Fife Housing Association and has just began a relationship with East Lothian Housing Association. It has built Passivhaus Certified homes for Orbit HA, Hastoe HA and built the first social homes in 20 years for Great Yarmouth Borough Council. It is also building an ecological centre in Kinghorn.

With increasing demand for its system Beattie Passive has been careful to keep build a strong supply chain and infrastructure to support its continuing growth, particularly on the retrofit side. “We recognise the importance of nurturing young talent because currently 400,000 people per year are leaving the industry and yet next to none are coming through,” says Mr Beattie. “Unless we can come up with a whole new training programme and increase people’s belief in themselves then there’s always going to be a skills shortage. We will be running an NVQ for engineers and with our Training Academy we are turning labourers and carpenters into Beattie Passive engineers able to deliver the quality required. We’ve got one young lad who’d actually worked on the Fife development whilst at college and having finished his studies has came through and built four Passive houses at the age of 19-20. It’s a whole new workforce that we are training to deliver this and they’ve got to be proud of what they’re producing.

“Despite our own efforts we still need the main contractors stepping up too because the skills shortage is the biggest challenge we’re currently having to contend with. In the meantime our main focus is to maintain the momentum that we’ve built up so far and ensure that we develop our current people so that they reach their maximum potential. With the demand for our system we’re seeing it’s vital that we’re able to keep growing in tandem to make the most of the opportunities available, both in the private sector and the public housing sector. We’ve been ahead of the game for a while so the key is to maintain this going forward.”

With its commitment to continual development there seems little chance that Beattie Passive will be losing its leading position anytime soon.