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Mon Sep 28, 2015

It has long been our view at Zehnder that it’s the passion, enthusiasm and willingness to exchange knowledge and ideas within the Passive House community which is one of the key drivers for its growing popularity and success. By sharing experiences with others we all gain a greater understanding of its benefits and potential. 

Therefore, we were particularly honoured when Professor Dr. Wolfgang Feist, one of the co-inventors of Passivhaus, recently contacted us to congratulate us on our work in promoting the Passive House vision and we took the opportunity to ask him some questions that we could share with our community.

Q: How confident are you that by 31 December 2020 all new European buildings will be nearly zero energy?

A: Well - the implementation has been left to the national governments; and from what I have seen so far it is a disturbing mix of different drafts, most of them pretending to give better efficiency (by increasing the reference areas for example, or calculating with high internal gains). The most effective way to improve savings on a homeowner’s energy bill and provide comfort and security is simply to build a Passive House. These are built to a scientifically proven concept, which is the same everywhere and there is no performance gap.

Q:  In your opinion, which countries are currently leading the way in Passive House?

There is progress almost everywhere round the world. There are some places where governments actively assist in realising Passive Houses, for example in Brussels, but the real development is rooted in the growing group of well-educated passive house experts and designers, who gain experience with every building realised.

In the UK, for example, the Passivhaus Trust plays an important role in leading the adoption of the Passive House standard, as does IG Passivhaus in Germany, while we are also seeing a new and very fast development of Passive House in China right now, where lots of new projects have been undertaken. And, perhaps surprisingly, New York City and Vancouver are taking the lead in Northern America. It is a global phenomenon.

Q: What is the best example of a Passive House that you have seen?

A: There are lots and lots of them - I personally love the refurbishment of "Neue Post" in Bolzano by Michael Tribus, the Aufkirchen School by Gernot Vallentin and Belfield Homes by Plumbob LCC. However, it would be unfair not to mention the award winners and finalists of the Passive House Institute’s Architectural Awards, which are hugely inspiring.


Q: And what are you views on Passive House retrofits?

A: From my point of view, the refurbishment of existing buildings using highly energy-efficient components is even more important than New Build. However, it is not always possible to achieve the Passive House Standard (new constructions) for refurbishments of existing buildings, even with adequate funds. For this reason, the Passivhaus Institut has developed the ‘EnerPHit – Quality-Approved Energy Retrofit with Passive House Components’  Certificate.


Q: What is your vision for Passive House moving forward?

A: Passive House will just be the natural way to design any new building in the future - there are only advantages. You get the best possible air quality, the best comfort, no issues with energy and resources, no structural damage and no performance gap. Furthermore, it's sustainable, will last forever (with low maintenance) and is affordable.

There are still some steps to go to convince all building professionals, one important step for this is the availability of suitable passive house components.

Q: Do you live in a Passive House? If so, what is the best thing in your opinion about living there?

A: In 1990 we (some scientists working in the field, including my colleague Professor Bo Adamson) built the very first permanently occupied Passive Houses - and my family and three other families are still living there. The terraced houses have all the components of a "modern" passive house; the insulation, the improved windows and the highly efficient heat recovery systems. Everything has been working flawlessly for over 25 years. Guests don’t believe that the comfortable warm temperatures we have at the beginning of December did not need any heating to maintain - and that there is no need for active cooling even during the worst heat waves of the past few years.

It's this ease of high comfort and healthy air, the absence of any damp areas, the "never to have to worry about energy prices" which makes it so attractive.  I wouldn’t live any other way!


For more information on Zehnder’s energy-efficient indoor ventilation solutions, please click here.

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