While many interns come to PDT to sample the profession, looking for direction, Jordan has been pursuing a very specific career path since high school.
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
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
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 )
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!)
Pam Anderson, Joan Klein, Suzanne Morin, and Allison Zuchman of PDT attended the Healthy Materials Summit in Boston in November. The Healthy Materials Summit, the first to be held in New England, was a giant leap in broadening the dialogue about making a greater positive impact when choosing building materials and products. By requiring full disclosure and transparency of material composition for each product that goes into our buildings, we can challenge manufacturers, designers, specifiers, and end-users to make informed decisions not only about the environmental qualities of materials but also about how materials we choose impact human health and comfort. At the Summit, industry leaders Nadav Malin (BuildingGreen), Bill Walsh (Healthy Buildings Network), Denis Darragh (Forbo Flooring Systems), Tracey Powel (ASSA ABLOY), Heather Henriksen (Harvard Office for Sustainability), and Melissa McCullough (Environmental Health & Safety, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) spoke about where the market is now, the opportunities and challenges around driving the marketplace toward health product declarations, and the branding of their own organizations around material transparency and sustainability.
Twenty years ago the industry started promoting green materials. That translated into a myriad of products with varying degrees of recycled and regional content. Toxins were addressed most commonly with low- or no-VOC products. Today a more holistic approach is needed to also address life-cycle costs and the health impact of materials. EPD’s (environmental product declarations) and HPD’s (health product declarations) are two tools being adopted by the industry that move us in that direction.
An EPD is a summary of the environmental characteristics of a product based on its life-cycle assessment. The life-cycle assessment is based on information from sourcing and transportation of raw materials, to product installation, durability and maintenance, all the way to repurposing, recycling or disposing of the material at the end of its life.
A health product declaration (HPD), the focus of the Summit, is a nutrition label for a building product. A HPD reports a product’s contents and each ingredient’s relationship to the bigger picture of human and ecological health. A HPD increases transparency by disclosing ingredients and their potential health hazards and reduces redundancy by referencing existing hazard lists, EPD’s and other information that is available industry-wide. Unlike the EPD, the HPD has a standard, fixed reporting format which creates consistency, makes clear which information is reported and which is not, and is free to use.
The North American Passive House Networks’ 2014 Conference and Expo was in Portland, Maine on September 22nd and 23rd. Brian Curley, Bob Curtis, Marilyn Leivian and Chelsea Lipham attended from PDT Architects. To say the least, this was a cool conference to have in Portland, Maine. A few highlights from the conference can be found below. Ideas related to building science and the irrational complexity of some of our building systems were distilled into a lot of the passive house ideas – if you superinsulate the exterior envelope in a cold climate, do a proper job of sealing and eliminate thermal bridging, accommodate ventilation and corresponding heat recovery you need a much smaller (if any) heating system. I am a multifamily housing guy so I loved seeing the retrofits of the existing housing stock in the UK, Germany, Austria, Belgium, etc. be transformed into passive house standard housing for regular people - and the best part, truly using our resources properly for the greatest good by creating both comfortable and affordable housing. --- Brian Curley, PDT Principal
Keeping it Simple
The primary objectives in creating a passive house, repeated throughout the conference, are user comfort and keeping it simple. A few strategies to achieve that are:
- Design and construct a high performance envelope by minimizing (and eliminating) thermal bridging, super-insulating walls and ceilings, and sealing every hole!
- Optimize indoor air quality by using HRV’s and ERV’s for ventilation, fresh air supply, and humidity control, and use low and no-VOC interior finishes and products.
- Primary Boiler = Triple glazed windows + insulated “heat sink floors” + supplemental heat gain from occupants. (Shading devices and overhangs are critical to manage warmer weather month heat gains.)
Perhaps one of the most interesting presentations was given by Nabih Tahan of Cree Buildings. His presentation outlined a prefabrication process for an eight story office building in Austria that meets the passive house standards. The concrete core was built first onsite. The wall and floor assemblies (wood structure with thin concrete floor slabs) were built offsite and then assembled onsite in only 8 days.
A video of the process can be seen here:
The conference was full of many other interesting presentations and ideas including panelized construction, real time temperature and humidity sensors in walls, the introduction of the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) modelling software, and a Portland area PassivHaus tour. For more information, see the links below.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted "Getting Down to Business on Climate: A panel discussion with Senator Angus King" on Friday, June 6 in Portland. Senator King could not predict the outcome of what he expected to be “a helluva fight” in the Senate over new rules proposed by the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country. Maine is already ahead of the game as a participant since 2007 in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has reduced our own emissions and generated $257 million in cost savings. King moderated a panel of local experts—among them PDT Principal Alan Kuniholm, president of the Portland Society for Architecture (PSA) —each contributing an industry perspective on the proposed rules. Kuniholm told the crowd that Portland’s design community is actively seeking solutions for the effects of climate change, specifically PSA’s work with rising sea levels and increased occurrence of severe storm events. PSA has sponsored a number of conferences related to this issue along with independent risk assessments studying how rising sea levels will affect the City of Portland. (Commercial Street is especially at risk.)
Kuniholm also noted that reducing demand is key to reduce Maine’s fossil fuel consumption and power usage in general. Maine’s first school of architecture at the University of Maine at Augusta and the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code are essential resources in educating and setting standards for demand and emissions reductions. Kuniholm invited the attendees to visit Architecture 2030, an initiative started by noted architect Ed Mazria, to learn more about how architects are at the forefront of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Bob Perciaseppe, deputy administrator of the EPA, pointed out that the government does regulate a range of unhealthy chemicals but until now has done nothing to regulate carbon. He congratulated Maine on its efforts to date and reminded us that our air, water, farms, and forests are affected daily by power plant emissions drifting east.
Economist Charles Colgan of USM debunked the notion that capping power plant emissions would harm the economy, though he noted that electric bills might rise in some parts of the country in the short term. He cited a January 2014 report by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection indicating that Maine’s GDP did not decline as a result of the drop in emissions after 2005.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network is likely to run a segment of Friday’s event on Speaking in Maine in the coming weeks.
June 17th Update: Portland council adopts fee for bags, bans foam containers (Portland Press Herald) Portland city councilors voted late Monday night to charge consumers a nickel for every disposable shopping bag they get and to ban foam containers for food and beverages in an effort to reduce trash that pollutes waterways. Both ordinances are effective April 15, 2015.
Portland’s disposable bag fee and foam packaging ban ordinances will be up for a vote by the City Council this Monday, June 16th beginning at 7pm. Supporting these ordinances will encourage people to use reusable bags and eco-friendly packaging, and will help clean up Portland’s neighborhoods, streets, and Casco Bay.
Summary of Foam Ban Ordinance: No vendor in the City shall serve or sell prepared food or packaged meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in expanded polystyrene containers . No city facilities or city sponsored events are permitted to use food service ware made from Expanded Polystyrene foam
Summary of Bag Fee Ordinance: All supermarkets, grocery, convenience and drug stores are prohibited from distributing single use disposable carryout bags (paper or plastic) to customers, but they are permitted to sell these bags for a minimum fee of 5 cents.
If you are a Portland resident and cannot attend the City Council meeting in person, you can testify by calling or emailing the city councilors.
For more information:
NRCM (Natural Resources Council of Maine): Five Cents for a Disposable Bag? No Thanks, I’ve Brought My Own!
Surfrider website that lists ban/fee structure of other cities: http://www.surfrider.org/pages/plastic-bag-bans-fees
Alan Kuniholm, PDT Principal and Portland Society for Architecture's President, is participating in events this week that are part of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Service visit to Maine. ULI is here to advise Portland and South Portland on urban design and development practices that are more resilient and adaptable to the impact of climate change.
WASHINGTON (May 8, 2014) – A group of nationally renowned land use and urban planning experts has been convened by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to make recommendations to the cities of Portland and South Portland on developing strategies for a resilient waterfront.
Conducted through ULI’s advisory services program, the panel, which will be visiting the cities May 11-16, will be evaluating many aspects of waterfront resilience, including the impact of sea level rise and storm surge on real estate values and infrastructure systems.
The ULI panel’s recommendations will be presented at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 16th, at the Jewett Auditorium on the campus of Southern Maine Community College. The event is open to the public.
Walt Vernon, principal & CEO of Mazzetti, based in San Francisco, California, visited PDT last Friday to give a presentation "Sustainability Initiatives in Healthcare" to the Maine Healthcare Engineers' Society (MEHES) focused on the FGI white paper "Sustainable Design Guidelines for Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities", the ASHE Sustainability Roadmap, and the Energy Efficiency Challenge (E2C).
Sustainability Facts for Healthcare from the Sustainability Roadmap
Waste and Recycling
Materials consumption in health care facilities costs health care consumers $10 billion annually in waste disposal costs. 80 percent of this waste is no different from that generated by a hotel, up to 60 percent of which is either recyclable or compostable. A standard recycling program in a hospital can reduce waste by 30–40 percent.
A hospital uses an average of 139,214 gallons of water per day. Water conservation can be achieved by using less waste through better technologies in systems and fixtures and by capturing rainwater and other “used” water for other purposes.
Hospitals consume 2.5 times more energy than other commercial buildings, spending more than $8.7 billion per year according to the EPA Energy Star program.
Hospitals must make cost cuts to survive and thrive in the new health care reality. Facilities management is expected to contribute to cost cutting efforts. There is huge potential to generate savings through energy and resource efficiency by implementing a comprehensive sustainability program. (Source: Mazzetti)
The good news is that there are tools that can help:
This white paper provides baseline requirements for the building site, energy use, indoor environmental quality, water supply, emissions and pollutant controls, materials and resources, and waste reduction. Additional performance and prescriptive requirements are also listed for facilities desiring to reach above and beyond the baseline minimums.
The Sustainability Roadmap provides resources on best practices and low- or no-cost building tune-up strategies that can support your efforts to reduce energy use and save on energy costs
Participating facilities begin by benchmarking their buildings using Energy Star Portfolio Manager and work to implement low- and no-cost energy efficiency improvements that can reduce energy consumption by at least 10 percent. E2C provides participants with real data, proven strategies, financial tools, local success stories, and fundamental concepts for saving energy.
PDT Architects presented a case study of the Mt. Blue Campus project at the USGBC Maine Chapter's monthly Green Eggs event. The Mt. Blue Campus is a 225,000-sf school campus located in Farmington, Maine. The project was recently submitted for LEED Certification. In addition to LEED Certification, the key sustainability strategies and successes for the school are:
- Designing a building for a unique program integrating career technical education with a traditional high school.
- Integrating multiple energy systems and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. The systems include a biomass boiler, geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floors, photovoltaic panels, solar hot water, and 2 wind turbines.
- Reusing 40% of the existing buildings on site.
- Community commitment and engagement. This campus serves not only Farmington, where it is located, but nine sending towns from the region. The campus acts as a community center, sharing spaces with the public and providing dedicated spaces for community organizations.
View the case study: Mt. Blue Case Study