Holy Smokes!

Holy smokes, it’s been over a month since our last post!

In early November, we both took the insanely difficult Passivhaus Consultant
exam. We had a great time studying, meeting and celebrating post-exam with up-and-comers in the Passivhaus community. Any time you guys are in Seattle and want to grab a drink, shoot us an email.

Additionally, we’ve had the privilege to work with some really progressive folks on potential Passivhaus/energy improvement projects over the last few months. We’ve opted to go all in on the Passivhaus design and consultancy. We’re still working out the bugs, tweaking things as we go.

The biggest news is we’ll be migrating the blog to our new website. Hooray! A new website! The focus of the blog will stay the same, and we’ll be updating it regularly, not only with projects that we’re really fond of, but projects that we (and some of our Passivhaus brethren) are working on. The website will be used to document projects we have worked on in the past, as well as things presently underway and we will be adding content as we post it on the blog. So without further ado, welcome to the new, minimimally delicious brute force collaborative website…



2010 AIA Seattle Honor Award Predictions

We were recently asked if we were going to the AIA Seattle Honor Awards, and if we had any predictions on potential winners. Maybe it’s just us, but $25 seems a little absurd for an awards program given the present economy. If that $25 entry fee included delicious, local brew – it could be justified. This year’s jurors (Jim Jennings, Sheila O’Donnell and Gilles Saucier) are all architects we really admire, and if none of them bail out on the discussion like last year, almost make it worthwhile.

Additionally, we’re just not huge fans of award competitions. Yes, we will gladly spend hours working on expanding our minds and portfolio on architecture competitions,  but the time and money associated with award competitions just doesn’t pencil out for us. It would be an understatement to say we subscribe to Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, specifically regarding award competitions:

26. Don’t enter awards competitions.
Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

Maybe because it was so ingrained during school, but we tend to feel if your work deserves recognition, it will receive said recognition.

That being said, here is the shortlist.
Visionary: unbuilt projects
winner: T Bailey Offices, Olson Kundig Architects.
Utilizing windmill mast cylinders to fabricate a building, and then utilizing the geometries to passively cool the building. No brainer.

runner-up: X1 Wild Buffalo Passivhaus, Olson Kundig Architects
An ultra-low energy residence, designed to achieve passivhaus, that straddles northern prarie and forest. Of course we’re enthralled with this one.


Measurable: built projects
winner: the Kolstrand Building, Graham Baba Architects
This is the kind of reuse that just kills us. Kudos.

runner-up: Building 115, Graham Baba Architects
I was forced to watch this one go up on a daily basis. Needless to say, it’s a phenomenal infill project. Had the profilit corners been done correctly, it’d definitely be a winner.

economical: realized projects utilizing limited resources (presumably financial, not rare earth metals)
winner: wall + roof studio, Hutchison + Maul
The scale of this project, a writing and potting studio, is great. Economical, attractive and well thought out. Should be an easy choice for jurors.

runner-up: Magnuson Park Beach Shelter, Mike Eliason with Miller|Hayashi Architects
Yes, this one’s a shameless plug. However, small utilitarian public projects that don’t look like crap are a rarity (though we’ve definitely tried to spread the knowledge) – and this one plays off the former naval base and surrounding swords-to-plows artwork. And, in a way, this is also a ‘wall+roof studio’.

Tectonic: the tell-the-tale detail
winner: Art Stable Hinge, Olson Kundig Architects
Holy cow, now that is a door.

runner-up: Zipper Door, (unknown)
A little by default, we know there are more than 10 details that were worth submitting, and we question the usefulness of this. However, it looks fairly well- crafted and that’s what stood out the most.

The full submissions gallery can be seen on the AIA Seattle webpage. If you are looking to follow results from home while watching Monday Night Football, check out twitter: @AIASeattle, @Archibot, #AIAHA. We’ll follow up with winners.

AIASeattle has posted the winners…

Honor Award
Colman Triplex, Workshop AD

Merit Award
Bodega Residence, Cutler Anderson
Port Townsend Residence, BCJ
Seattle Childrens’s Bellevue Clinic, NBBJ
Suncrest Residence, Heliotrope

*Building 115/*Kolstrand Building, Graham Baba Architects
Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, Weinstein A+U

*Art Stable Hinge, Olson Kundig
Deployable Greenhouses, atelierjones
Steel Stair, deforest architects
*T Bailey Offices, Olson Kundig
UW West Campus Housing, Mahlum

Can European windows actually save carbon?

Recently, we’ve seen and heard a number of folks claim that shipping Passivhaus windows from Europe isn’t the ‘sustainable’ solution – but we’ve never seen any data to really back that up. People seem to assume that local always equals more sustainable. But is this necessarily the case? We weren’t so sure, especially after crunching the numbers through PHPP on a potential Passivhaus in the Northwest. Our realization during this task was that certain European windows allowed us to achieve Passivhaus with significantly less insulation than any North American window could. This really didn’t seem that odd to us, as high performance windows being developed in Europe are pretty superior to here in North America, and the quality of glazing overseas is fairly stunning as well – high solar heat gain coefficients (SHGCs), low U-values and superior visible transmittance (VT). What follows are some quick, back of the napkin calculations that make the argument that shipping high performance windows from Europe might actually save CO2. A lot of CO2.

In addition to the baseline model with European windows and glass, we ran three North American windows with high SHGC triple pane glazing through PHPP and then adjusted the amount of insulation needed to achieve the Passivhaus standard. We’ve taken the approach that the client wouldn’t want anything to change. Therefore, window size and orientation, building assemblies, etc. remain as intended, and we’re merely adding EPS insulation as needed.

First, we need to determine a few things…

Shipping weight of windows
448 sf x 6.13 lbs/sf = 2746.24 lbs (1.25 tons)

Envelope areas
Wall area = 3,302 sf
Slab area = 1,360 sf
Roof area = 1,360 sf

EPS foam CO2 (4’x8’x1” EPS type IX insulfoam)
5.33 lbs x 5.5 lbs CO2/lb= 29.3 lbs CO2 per sheet

Freight CO2 rates
Sea = 0.0887 lbs CO2 per ton-mile
Truck = 0.3725 lbs CO2 per ton-mile

Baseline Model w/ European window
Our baseline is the as-designed building.
Window: Internorm Varion
Glazing: Glastroesch (0.64 SHGC, 0.105 U-value, 0.73 VT)
Specific space heat demand: 4.74kBTU/ft²a

EPS insulation at envelope assemblies
3” EPS at wall
4” EPS at roof
6” EPS at slab

Baseline Shipping CO2
Trucked from factory in Lannach (AT) to Rotterdam (700 miles), shipped from Rotterdam to Portland (8,685 nautical miles/9,988 miles)
700 miles * 0.3725 * 1.25 tons = 326 lbs CO2
9,988 *1.25*0.0887 = 1,107.5 lbs CO2

Total Baseline CO2 = 1,433.5 lbs

Option A: Serious Windows
Window: Serious Window 925 series
Glazing: Serious 9 (0.47 SHGC, 0.107 U-value, 0.45 VT)
Specific space heat demand: 6.68kBTU/ft²a.
In order to achieve the standard (ultimately coming in at 4.68kBTU/ft²a), more insulation is needed.

EPS insulation at envelope assemblies
Add 2” EPS to wall = 6,048 lbs CO2
Add 2” EPS to roof = 2,490 lbsCO2
Add 5” EPS to slab = 6,225 lbsCO2

Serious Windows Shipping CO2
Trucked from factory in Longmont, Colorado (1,285 miles)
0.3725 *1,285 miles * 1.25 tons = 561.5 lbs CO2

Total Serious Windows CO2 = 15,324.5 lbs

Option B: Thermotech Windows
Window: Thermotech fiberglass
Glazing: 322 Gain #3#5 (0.61 SHGC, 0.16 U-value, 0.63 VT)
Specific space heat demand: 6.22kBTU/ft²a.
In order to achieve the standard (ultimately coming in at 4.72kBTU/ft²a), more insulation is needed.

EPS insulation at envelope assemblies
Add 1” EPS to wall = 3,024 lbs CO2
Add 4” EPS to roof = 4,980 lbs CO2
Add 4” EPS to slab = 4,980 lbs CO2

Thermotech Windows Shipping CO2
Thermotech windows are manufactured in beautiful Ottawa, Ontario (2,642 miles)
0.3725 *2,642 miles * 1.25 tons = 1,230 lbs CO2

Total Thermotech Windows CO2= 14,214 lbs

Lastly, the local option – it’s always greener to go local, right? Let’s take a look…

Option C: Cascadia Windows
Window: Cascadia fiberglass frame
Glazing: Cardinal 179 LoE#2#5 (.57 SHGC, 0.17 U-value, 0.69 VT)
Specific space heat demand: 6.78kBTU/ft²a.
In order to achieve the standard (ultimately coming in at 4.71kBTU/ft²a), more insulation is needed.

EPS insulation at envelope assemblies
Add 2” EPS to wall = 3,024 lbs CO2
Add 4” EPS to roof = 4,980 lbs CO2
Add 5” EPS to slab = 6,225 lbs CO2

Cascadia Windows Shipping CO2
Cascadia windows are manufactured just across the border in Langley, BC (294 miles)
0.3725 *294 miles * 1.25 tons = 137 lbs CO2

Total Cascadia Windows CO2 = 14,366 lbs

This was shocking to us, as we expected the numbers to be significantly closer. Of course, the locally manufactured windows had the lowest transportation CO2 production – that only makes sense. However, the superior frames and glazing from Europe require significantly less insulation in the envelope. This definitely seems backwards and goes against conventional wisdom, but in this instance, shipping windows from Europe saves CO2 – a whole lot of CO2. In fact, with an average of 14,634 lbs CO2 for the three North American options, the European windows can save six tons of CO2 emissions. That is not insignificant, and something to keep in mind if North American manufacturers don’t think that developing high performance glazing is a worthwhile venture.

We realize that a more sustainable wall assembly would probably be utilized in most situations, rather than stacking on more EPS, but we wanted an apples to apples comparison between the windows from a performance standpoint. Regardless, the North American windows would all require several inches of EPS in the slab. Production of just one inch of EPS in the slab emits 1,245 lbs of CO2, which is almost equal to the CO2 emissions of importing the European windows. Additionally, the Internorm window is a clad wood window, which as architects we’re more drawn to versus fiberglass. I’m not aware of any wood window produced locally that comes close to Passivhaus standards. And here in the gray and gloomy winters of the Northwest, windows with a higher VT, such as the Glastroesch, are definitely a great bonus.

We’re definitely interested in any thoughts/critiques readers may have on this one.

PHBdW: Passivhaus Bau der Woche 10

When we ran across the AI Passivhaus blog a few weeks ago, we were stunned at the the level of documentation on their project in the Cotswolds. There is a certain level of sexiness to this project – a restored barn in a protected landscape, an “el”-shaped earth-sheltered addition slipped below the barn, a passivhaus that heavily utilizes passive solar and thermal mass – plus the addition of renewables to achieve carbon neutrality.

To obtain planning permission in the protected district, the architects had to agree to keep most of the existing stone barn. This led to some really interesting structural gymnastics that are well photographed and discussed on the AI blog. That the architects were able to pull this off, despite the protected district, seems to have irked many folks. However, we are intrigued the architect found a way to build a fantastic project without destroying the surrounding views.

Below-grade wall assembly, U-value=0.117 W/m²k (R-48.5)

  • plaster
  • 22 cm precast concrete panels
  • waterproofing/drainage mat
  • 31 cm rigid insulation
  • geotextile
  • backfill

Above-grade wall assembly, U-value=0.153 W/m²k (R-37)

  • plaster
  • 22 cm precast concrete panels
  • 25 cm rigid insulation
  • render (stucco)

Ground slab assembly, U-value=0.146 W/m²k (R-38.9)

  • 25 cm concrete, screed (incorporating 20 tons of recycled glass) and resin overlay
  • 25 cm rigid insulation

Roof assembly, U-value=0.085 W/m²k (R-66.8)

  • 25 cm hollowcore concrete panels & screed
  • 36 cm rigid insulation
  • drainage mat
  • geotextile
  • green roof

Triple pane Alu2Holz windows, manufactured by Optiwin, make the interiors glow. We’ve seen these windows used on a number of passivhaus projects lately – and the low U-value, high VT, high SHGC, airtightness and minimal profile make for some superb windows. They seem to be a much better option than Serious Windows at this point, even taking into account issues of shipping.

Additional ‘green’ features include rainwater recycling, a 40m² solar hot water and a PV array which shades the south-facing windows during summer.

  • Windows: U-value=0.74 W/m²K (R-7.6),
  • Airtightness: 0.22 ACH50 (ridiculously tight)
  • Heating Demand: 13 kWh/m²a (4.12kBTU/ft²a)
  • Primary Energy Demand: 62 kWh/m²a (19.62kBTU/ft²a)

    The project succeeds on several levels, and the juxtapositions (above/below, modern/antiquated, etc) work really well. The minimalist interior is a great touch. Add in the fact that this is intended to be carbon neutral, and the bar for energy efficient modernism has definitely been elevated.

  • Architects: Seymour-Smith Architects (UK)
  • Location: Gloucester (UK)
  • TFA: 358 m² (3,853 ft²)
  • completed: 2010

    Further Reading

  • Channel4 write up on the underhill project.
  • upcoming events: October/November

    Things have been crazy the last few weeks, but that craziness has subsided (thankfully). We’re planning on attending a number of green events in the upcoming weeks and wanted to throw them out there for interested parties…

    SMALL 4 Houses (4 small houses by 4 great, local firms)
    UW Architecture Hall 147
    6:30 PM, free
    Architecture without Border’s Carve for a Cause
    Design Within Reach, 1918 First Avenue
    6:00-9:00 PM, $20 suggested donation
    Passivhaus Seattle branch meeting
    Phinney Neighborhood Center, room 3
    5:30-6:30 PM, members free, small fee for non-members
    Ecoguild monthly meeting: Dan Whitmore talks about his passivhaus
    Phinney Neighborhood Center, lower building
    7:00-9:00 PM, members free, $5 donation for non-members
    Insulation, Thermal Capacitance, Infiltration, and the Owner’s Perspective, presented by AIA Seattle/Betterbricks
    Seattle Central Library, WaMu Foundation Room
    12:00-1:30 PM, $5 members $20 non-members (no unemployed or student discount?!?)
    SIGA Airtightness Workshop presented by small planet workshop
    Phinney Neighborhood Center
    1:00-4:00 PM, free
    note: the Seattle workshop may be full, there are workshops in Olympia and Portland
    Alex Steffen: Carbon Neutral Cities
    Town Hall Seattle
    7:30-8:30 PM, $5 (tix)
    We dragged a bunch of friend’s to Steffen’s discussion last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, this one should be equally as engaging. Although we’ll be in Portland for the Passivhaus exam (ironic!)
    5th North American Passive House Conference (warning, terrible website ahead…)
    Hilton, Portland
    UW Architecture Hall 147
    6:15PM, free
    60th AIA Seattle Honor Awards
    The Moore Theater, 1932 Second Avenue
    6:00PM, $25adv/$30 door (no unemployed discount?!?) (tix)
    “I never met Lou Kahn… But I consider him a mentor”
    online submissions gallery
    Natural Ventilation (Including Solar Control and Thermal Mass), presented by AIA Seattle/Betterbricks
    Seattle Central Library, WaMu Foundation Room
    12:00-1:30 PM, $5 members $20 non-members (no unemployed or student discount?!?)
    through 11/14
    Lost in Nature: The Architecture of Jarmund / Vignaes Architects
    Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th Street
    10 AM – 4 PM TU-SA, $6
    decibel festival appears to have been a smashing success this year. due to the baby, we only made once showcase (optical 1), which was still  incredible. a few upcoming shows:
    Matthew Dear (live)
    Nectar, 412 N. 36th St
    9:00PM, $10 (tix)
    Baltic Room, 1207 Pine
    9:00PM, $10 (tix)

    Elevating the Discourse: Public Toilets pt. 3

    Composting Toilet, 2006

    designer: Sheffield School of Architecture

    location: Eccleshall Wood (UK)

    Working with the city of Sheffield, a Sheffield School of Architecture’s MArch studio designed and constructed an awesome dry composting toilet in the nature preserve of Eccleshall Wood. This innovative privy uses no glue or metal fastenings. The stacked timbers create a stunning effect and allow lots of ventilation and illumination, though privacy may be a little lacking. This is an incredible play on the outhouse.

    Flydalsjuvet Rasteplass, 2006

    architect: 3RW arkitekter

    location: Geiranger (NO)

    Situated at the end of Geirangerfjord, this rest stop by 3RW may be one of the most interesting we’ve run across. The wooden shell is re-used timber from a dilapidated structure. The box is elevated on 5cm structural glazing, creating a fairly incredible effect from the interior. The color of the glazing is reminiscent of the cool hues of mountain lakes.  The layering of the wood works really well given the context of the fjord, and is a great re-purposing of materials. This project is yet another stunner built for the Nasjonale turistveger (National tourist routes). We could definitely use better designed (and functioning) toilets along our national routes!

    Hereiane Rasteplass, 2006

    architect: 3RW arkitekter

    location: Jondal (NO)

    Another small project completed by 3RW for the Nasjonale turistveger. This compact outhouse is located at the Hardangerfjord. The colored concrete adds a touch of frivolity and interest to passing cars. Exterior walls are slate, which is left rough on the interior.

    Brookley Road Public Conveniences, 2004

    architect: John Pardey Architect

    location: Brockenhurst (UK)

    John Pardey Architect have completed several interesting public conveniences, and we thought the form and layout of this one was the most noteworthy. The exterior is finished with stained timber and a zinc roof. The continuous skylight at the roof  is a great touch, and provides ample light to the interior. The entire facade is lifted off the ground to aid cleaning and provide ventilation. Both toilet rooms (for men and women, naturally) back up to a shared ‘pipe alley’, keeping plumbing away from bored teenagers. It is easy to see why this was a 2004 finalist for the Prime Minister’s Award for Better Public Building.

    Safe Haven Bathhouse, 2009

    foto: Pasi Aalto

    foto: Pasi Aalto

    foto: Pasi Aalto

    architect: TYIN tegnestue

    location: Ban Tha Song Yang (TH)

    An elegant toilet and bathing structure for an orphanage in Thailand, this wooden project utilizes local materials and found objects in an incredible manner. The end result is a toilet better than most starchitects could even dream of. The concrete block boxes hold private spaces and provide a nice contrast to the bamboo screen. The total cost of this toilet was NOK22,500 (US$3,230) and was assembled in just over two weeks. TYIN tegnestue provides an excellent model of how simple projects combined with a little brainpower and elbow grease can significantly improve sanitary conditions in even the remotest of locations.

    brute force baby!!

    So things have been a little quiet the last week or so, and I imagine it will be this way for the next few weeks…

    A new (non-passivhaus) addition has been added to the brute force collaborative family, although this one wasn’t a Mike and Aaron collaboration – Mike and Heather are proud to announce the birth of Clementine, who was born Saturday the 28th. We’re all doing superbly, and are slowly adjusting to the new normal, aka sleep deprivation and uber loud noises.

    The good news is that since Clementine is naturally a bit of a furnace, we’re in discussions with the Passivhaus Institut to see if she can be a Passivhaus Certified Component!

    In the meantime, Aaron, who is wrapping up a project he designed and built in Boston, may have a few posts on those efforts, and we’ll have a few guest spots sprinkled in with the posts as I can get them out.