Latest projects & news
- Wolf partner with Genersys Solar
- Passive House in Newbridge (video on Homepage)
- Vphase: Sunday Times & featured on DIY:SOS
- Energy efficiency ratings to be compulsory for home sales
- CNN meets Hans Eek & reports on PassivHaus retrofits
- Hans Eek - The Vision & the Visionary of the Passive House Concept
What inspire you as a student, before you met Helga Henriksson?
In 1974, I was one of a group of architects called EFEM, the first client we designed an ‘active solar house’ for was Mrs Helga Henriksson. Unfortunately, it failed.
At Chalmers University, environmental problems were always at the forefront of every discussion. It was the time of the oil embargo, which caused the price of oil to quadruple, the markets were greatly affected, rationing of oil lead to strikes (and in some countries violence). In Sweden gasoline and heating oil were rationed and ultimately brought home the realisation of our dependency on oil.
The Swedish government began an initiative to provide energy security with one strategy being indirect taxation, as an instrument of their environmental policy. Elsewhere, scientists such as the Club of Rome engaged in the environmental problem, exploring rapid population growth and its effect on finite resource supplies.
These were influential issues at the time, however, the same problems exist today but our greatest task is ‘how’ we manage the problem of energy-efficiency and resources.
Looking back now, you and EFEM were pioneers. What do you remember most from those days?
It was a difficult time, with 40% of architects unemployed and a low economy. ‘We struggled for food for the day.’
EFEM took a unique approach on 3 levels, with help of some funding from the council for building research;
- Research & development into environmental friendly buildings and energy-efficiency
- Planning whole communities to deal effectively with the natural resources available, handling waste and water.
- Energy-efficient one-off designs
Does the Swedish culture and their understanding of their natural environment contribute to your work?
I think we do. I travel a lot, when I return I always feel calmer. The Swedes have a clean nature. In Spain or Italy I see a lot of waste. I try to take a holistic view, for me it (the environment) is a garden. The surroundings are as important as the house itself.
It has taken many years for the rest of the world to take notice of the passive house concept. Why do you think this is?
Swedish history has influenced the Swedish mind-set. Apart from the oil crises, there was the crisis of the 18th century. Our forests were cleared of almost every tree for mining and the melting of iron ore. For seven centuries, with no gun-powder or explosives available we resorted to building wood fires that burned all night. These were set near the rock, generating intense heat. Then with the fires put out, the rock was cooled quickly causing it to facture. Wood fires were also used ‘to boil oil out of herrings to make a fatty fuel for lighting lamps of London and Paris’.*
We have used double-glazed windows in our houses for over 300 years, and in 1936, Sweden had the world’s first Building code mentioning “heating Efficiency” and high indoor air quality. By 1975, the Swedish building code was the best in the world with very little difference between a standard house and a passive house.
Helga Henriksson’s house (which failed) was an ‘activate’ solar house, so my next design was a ‘passive’ solar house with no solar collector or machines.
Winter in Sweden, there is hardly any sun. For 3-4 hours the sun is below the horizon each day. Heat loss and energy-efficiency is crucial here. In 1978 I had worked with a ‘passive’ solar house which achieved 2500 kWh/yr for heating a house of 174m2. This is like using 250 litres of oil during one year.
In 1985 EFEM designed an energy efficient multi-family house in a German Swedish research co-operation. We built two similar houses, one in the Swedish town Halmstad and one in Ingolstaadt in south Germany. The result was that the houses in Germany only needed 25 % of the normal heating energy, when compared to standard German construction.
Success was achieved by building to passive house standards and the Swedish building code, combined with German mechanical heating installed.
This lead to the project in Dresden in 1991 achieving 800 kWh/yr for heating. This is like using a full tank from a Volvo to heat the house for one year.
What do you remember about the time you worked with Wolfgang Feist?
Wolfgang began to study the Swedish building code in the 1980’s, and he realized that it was adaptable to Germany. He was able to make 75-80% improvement compared to standard German buildings. He also built his own attached row of terrace houses 1989 in Darmstadt with the improved knowledge from the Swedish building system. Later he started the “Passive House Institute”, which developed calculation systems, testing works and also a certification of Passive Houses.
Wolfgang also started the CEPHEUS project, which is a collection of different types of passive houses across Europe. They were monitored and proved. It was a presentation of how to build efficiently. The Lindas Project in Göteborg was one of the projects to be presented as part of CEPHEUS.
You donated half of your prize money to a scholarship for students at Chalmers University. What do you think of students and new generation of architects today?
The scholarship encourages architects and engineers to work together and dispel the old conflicts. It is a holistic view. During the process of designing of a Passive House, a team of different disciplines is needed, where the engineer is engaged at the same time as the architect, before drawing the first line on the page.
I have strong ties with the students and the scholarship is awarded to the master work of a student that expresses the best use of architect and engineering within the passive concept.
his is also promoted through the Passive House Centre here in Alingsas, where I lecture and I also visit many conferences. When the centre began, we had built 49 passive flats in Sweden but have now expanded to 2000 passive homes.
You once said you regret using the term ‘passive’ house. What would you call the concept, if you could change it?
The design concept began as ‘solar passive housing’ which relies on collecting solar energy from the windows and with solar panels, and then stores it.
Later, the word ‘solar’ was dropped, when the design concept developed into a house that relies on the heat inside it, which has been generated by the occupants and tasks like cooking. By reducing heat loss further and supporting this with renewable energy, such as solar, wind or pellet stoves…the building becomes self-sufficient. Hence, a passive house has no heating system.
In the Swedish language, the word ‘passive’ has a negative tone or meaning but I cannot change it now.
The challenge now, is to take passive houses further to achieve near zero-energy housing by 2020.
One of your ambitions was to build a passive hotel. Where would you like to build it?
I am currently working on a new hotel design in middle Sweden and a hotel to been refitted and extended in Alingsas. Designing a hotel is not really more difficult but they use of lot of electricity. An airtight envelope for the whole building and also, each room is one possible approach. In a hotel the tenant is used to a great comfort and it would be encouraging to show that building with passive house principles leads to a greater comfort and healthy living, than a standard hotel. This would also be an excellent marketing opportunity for spreading the passive house principles into all modern buildings.
Do you have any other ambitions?
As one of the co-ordinators of the Goteborg 2050, the project has spanned a number of years and ‘our aim is to draw up and develop visions of the future for Goteborg as a sustainable city and part of a sustainable society. The ambition is to achieve a deeper understanding of how the sustainable world of the future might take shape, and thus to stimulate accelerated movement towards a sustainable society.’**
We take the best of what is new and retain the best of what we have to create an energy-efficient city, looking at areas such as,
Affective use of resources
Planning for an increase of population by 1 million
Consumption & waste
Transport & traffic
Industry & commerce
My aim is to adapt this to my vision for Alingsas. Whereas the EU target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2020, my own target is 20% by the year 2019. The most environmentally sound energy, will be the energy we save.
What inspires you now?
Working with my colleagues, here in the Passive House Centre, in Alingsas. We have very serious discussions but also a lot of fun together. We have the same goals and this encourages us.
Is there anything else you would like to include about your life or career?
Over the next 50 years of building, only 5% of houses will be new. The standard of existing houses can also be improved with a retrofit. We have done this with 300 flats here in Alingsas, and although this method is expensive, the cost is recouped within 10 years.
In theory, we calculated a heating requirement of 27 kWh/yr, an improvement on today’s standard of 115 kWh/yr. However, in reality the measurements show the heating requirement can be as low as 19 kWh/yr. This shows that there are realistic possibilities to make positive influences on the climate change in the construction sector.
*Winning Sustainable Design by Stefan Edman
**Goteborg 2050 brochure