No. 501 . 15 December 2010 

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The Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity Passive House, in Charlotte, Vermont, combines classic New England style with game-changing energy efficiency. Photo: J.B. Clancy/ Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, Inc.

Build Boston 2010

by Evan H. Shu, FAIA

The venerable Build Boston conference often provides an excellent way to take the temperature of the architecture and construction industry. This year was no different, as the conference, now in its 26th year, took on a leaner, less glitzy feel, with a smaller trade show area and fewer celebratory ballroom events. But it was clear that attendees were serious about preparing for the future: the nearly 200 workshops and seminars were extremely well attended by thousands of industry professionals.

Among the diverse range of topics covered at the conference, held November 17 to 19, 2010, three major themes emerged at the most popular sessions: energy, technology, and codes.

Energy Conservation: Passive House

Six of the seminars were grouped as a symposium on the topic of "Passive House" buildings, which are airtight, super-insulated houses and other structures that rely on passive (non-mechanical) energy gain, augmented by renewable resources.

Proponents like to say such buildings "can be heated with a hair dryer"; no less impressive, the buildings are typically warmed sufficiently by the heat from occupants and appliances. The key elements of this approach are codified into a set of measurable standards that can result in a building being certified by the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) or by corresponding European organizations.

In the talk "Passive House: Carbon Neutrality in Europe and North America," Katrin Klingenberg of PHIUS and Günter Lang of Lang Consulting in Vienna described some of the history of this rapidly growing movement, which traces its roots to the late 1980s and the work of Bo Adamson of Sweden and Wolfgang Feist of Germany.

With over 25,000 buildings now certified, the Passive House (Passivhaus) standard has become quite well entrenched, especially in Europe and particularly in Germany and Austria. The 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Village under construction in Innsbruck, Austria, will have its 444 residential units constructed to this standard.   >>>


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