Passive House Not Only For Homes

On March 16th, Günter Lang, Austrian passivhaus expert, gave a presentation on the Passive House building standard. The term Passive House refers to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building. A project that follows Passive House principles results in an ultra-low energy building that requires little energy for space heating or cooling. Thermal comfort is achieved to a maximum extent through passive measures (insulation, heat recovery, passive use of solar energy and internal heat sources). Günter Lang’s presentation demonstrated the great potential and versatility of the Passive House standard not only for single family residences which are most commonly associated with the standard, but also for apartment buildings, affordable housing, schools, courthouses, healthcare, office buildings, retrofits and entire city districts. Sponsored by passivhausMAINE and AIA Maine, the talk referenced a variety of large scale building types and a variety of construction types to show that there are many ways of building a Passive House building.

Some Firsts and Largests

RHW Tower

First Passive House Skyscraper The corporate headquarters of Austrian Raiffeisen-Holding in Vienna, rising 240 feet, only 60 feet wide, and with a glazed double-skin façade, exceeds our previous perceptions of what a Passive House looks like, and for the first time a skyscraper was designed and built (by Atelier Hayde Architekten and Architekt Maurer) to meet Passive House standards.

Three main factors allow the building to meet the Passive House standard:

  • Thermal efficiency of the well-insulated double facade
  • Use of daylight to reduce electrical lighting requirements
  • Advanced mechanical systems
Heidleberg

The World’s Largest Passive House district Heidelberg’s Bahnstadt is the world’s largest Passive House district. Bahnstadt is a model for how Passive House can become the standard for large scale developments, districts and entire cities.

Heidelberg’s newest city district, Bahnstadt is being built completely to the Passive House Standard. The basis for this is an integrated energy concept that was developed and passed by the Heidelberg City Council alongside urban development and other key concepts necessary for such a scheme. The Passive House Standard is legally binding through contracts and was set via a development law mechanism. Additionally, compliance with the Passive House Standard has been integrated into the building permit process.  Special energy consulting and financial aid is available for builders and developers.  Currently, the first segment of residential building is mostly finished, already offering living space for some 1,500 people. The entire residential part of the project is currently two years ahead of schedule due to the high demand. In addition to living space and a kindergarten, the district will also offer Passive House cafes, restaurants, office space, a laboratory, a supermarket, a movie theatre, and a building supply store. (Passive House Institute press release, 30.06.2014 )

LifeCycle Tower

Prefabricated Wood High-Rise Construction (or An 8 Story Building Built In 8 Days)The LifeCycle Tower ONE in Dornbirn, Austria was completed in 2012 and is a PassiveHaus certified high rise constructed with prefabricated wood and reinforced masonry components. Prefabrication allowed for the 8 story building to be assembled on-site in 8 days. LifeCycle Tower TWO, the Illwerke Montafon Center in Montafon, Austria, of the same construction type, was also completed in 2012. The Illwerke Montafon Center is 5 stories tall, with a basement, and has approximately 100,000 sf of floor space. These buildings demonstrate how passive house standards can be applied to both mid- and high-rise wood construction and prefabricated modules.

Simple buildings with simple systems

Wood towers and Passive House skyscrapers will be seen more and more in the future. The double facade will be used more often around the world. A precedent has been set for pre-manufactured Passive House buildings that can be used for temporary housing and then relocated to different sites as necessary. Gunter Lang emphasized that the Passive House standard can successfully be incorporated into any building design (everything emits energy!) and implemented into local policies and codes as well.

  • Design simple buildings with simple systems.
  • Design buildings that passively use the sun, water, earth and air as much as advanced building systems.
  • Design with energy use reduction and a high performance envelope in mind.
  • Be a good advocate. Most buildings built now will need to exist in the future without reliance on fossil fuels so design for that now.

Passive House Case Study Resources

Passive House Database (you can even add your own Passive House project to the database!)

Passive House Regions (PassREg)

Passive House 2014 Awards

International Passive House Association (iPHA)