Yet another NW Passivhaus blog

Popping up like flies. Seattle is going to quickly be supplanted by Portland and Brooklyn as one of the greenest regions in the United States. Or perhaps the reality is Seattle never was really as ‘green’ as everyone made it out to be…

Root Design Build, co-founded by brute force collaborative companero Milos Jovanovic, finally has a blog running on their Passivhaus project, the Shift House. The Shift House is planned to come in at around $150/sf, with heating costs under $200/annum. Awesome.

Milos was pretty amped at the last Passivhaus Consultant Training session, that with the R-42 (walls) and R-60 (roof) SIPs, the Shift House would easily be under the required 0.6ACH50. We got a sneak peak of the construction docs and are excited to see how the exterior shades work out.

The project is moving along, and in the last few weeks they’ve been updating on the progress of the build. We’ll be following this one closely, and hopefully will be able to harass Milos for a tour once completed. This will definitely be a future post for our Passivhaus Bau der Woche series.

The presentation Milos gave at the 2009 PHIUS Conference can be downloaded here (PDF).


Elevating the Discourse: Public Toilets pt. 2

Zhejiang Public Toilet, 2009

architect: DNA

location: Jinhua (CN)

Set amidst a “who’s who” in Jinhua Architecture Park, these minimal concrete forms allow ventilation and sunlight into the bathrooms. The simple bent, repeated and rotated, creates a rather intriguing effect.

Aurland WC, 2005

foto: flickr user augen.blick

architect: Todd Saunders & Tommie Wilhelmsen

location: Aurland (NO)

This toilet was part of a fascinating program allowing several up-and-coming Norwegian firms to build stunning projects along the Nasjonale turistveger (National tourist routes). Near the incredible viewing platform completed at the same time, this folly pairs a kiosk and toilet that gently jut out over the landscape. The concrete provides an interesting contrast and durable outer shell to the wooden partitions. Looking out at fjords while squatting must be a proud moment for Norwegians. Additional plans and photos on archdaily.

Amager Strandpark Bunkers, 2005

foto: flickr user cphark

foto: flickr user cphark

foto: flickr user bart van damme

architect: Hasløv & Kjærsgaard Arkitektfirma

location: Copenhagen (DK)

Completed in 2005, the Amager Strandpark is a manmade island just a short ride from the city center. The comfort stations are paired with showers, kiosks or information centers. These “bunkers” are phenomenal and provide multiple functions (a major bonus, in our eyes) – as meeting points, lounge/skating areas and especially as observation points. The ‘superdutch’ graphics also help identify where you are on the nearly 3 mile island. There are many reasons to have Copenhagen-envy, awesome toilets is definitely one of them.

Gravesend Public Toilet, 2007

architect: Plastik Architects Ltd

location: Gravesend (UK)

This incredible landmark features an intensely inverted concrete pyramid that forms the roof. It is held off the exterior walls, creating a clerestory that provides a sliver of natural light to the interior. While we’re typically not huge fans of paint, the Corbusian treatment of the interior color looks good. The roof is pretty amazing – it’s hard to believe this is actually a toilet. Can we have more of these, please?

Elevating the Discourse: Public Toilets pt. 1

foto: flickr user EYLC

Toilets – almost everyone needs them, almost every project has them. Unfortunately, there has been a significant drought of naturally-lit, adequately ventilated and well-designed public restrooms. It’s no secret that light and ventilation keep bacteria and odors at bay – and can potentially elevate the process of squatting to a zen-like experience. Designers also need to work around tougher issues such as bored teenagers, spray paint and burning bowling balls. When working with the Seattle Parks Department, I came to realize that these utilitarian structures needed to ideally be bomb-proof – designed so nothing can burn, pipes are kept safe and with just enough visibility to deter illegal activities yet provide privacy. While you won’t find many comfort stations with Vola fixtures, the following are some of our favorites and definitely take the act of squatting in public to a much, much better place.

Perry Lakes Park Bathrooms, 2003

architect:  Rural Studio

location: Marion, AL (US)

Rural Studio has been in the back of our minds since the early days of school. Under the guidance of Sambo, there were some incredible ideas brought to fruition. One of the more interesting realizations was the thesis project for Brannen Park, Melissa Sullivan, Sarah Dunn and Matt Foley. Three toilets, three different experiences. Materials used match a pavilion built at Perry Lakes Park the previous year. These are some loos where you could really meditate for a while.

Halftecture OO, 2006

architect: Shuhei Endo

location: Chuouku (JP)

Two corten endwalls support a 16 mm thick sheet of corten steel. Light, airy and definitely some structural gymnastics, this would make an impressive house – let alone a toilet. More photos/info on archdaily.

Calder Woodburn Rest Station, 2009

architect: BKK Architects

location: Shepparton (AU)

A celebration of the road trip, the automobile and durability – this stunning rest stop by BKK exudes a robustness and coolness of yesteryear. Concrete cylinders were cast on site with a ribbed profile to deter graffiti. One would almost need a 356 speedster or 2cv to roll into this baby.

Trail Restroom, 2008

foto: piston design

architect:  Miro Rivera Architects

location: Austin, TX (US)

It’s easy to see why this public restroom was winner of so many awards – this elegant water closet is a true work of art. 49 corten plates of varying size coil around and form the enclosed restroom. The plates are offset to allow natural light and ventilation into the toilet. The way the roof is held off the walls is incredible. Steel placement video via youtube.

Further Reading

  • The Toilet Papers by Sim Van der Ryn  has an interesting overview on squatting in various cultures.

PHBdW: Passivhaus Bau der Woche 09

Neue Heimat Tirol is a city and state-owned development company dedicated to building low-income housing that is energy efficient and design oriented. Many of their projects incorporate a mix of low-income housing, elderly apartments and condos. One of their most recognizable and celebrated undertakings is the Wohnen am Lohbach, completed by Baumschlager & Eberle in 2000.

In 2005, the city of Innsbruck and the local architektenkammer (architecture chamber) held a competition for housing in the Lodenareal. The site, located along the Inn, in the northeast section of the city, formerly held a textile factory.

The competition was won by architekturwerkstatt din a4, with team k2 architekten and architekturhalle Wulz & König placing second and third. The winning scheme was 3 blocks of 2 “el” shaped buildings, each forming a semi-open courtyard. Architekturwerkstatt din a4 and Team K2 designed the 2 blocks for Neue Heimat Tirol, which contain 354 rental units. The third block was developed for ZIMA by Wulz & König.

The cantilevered balconies utilize Schöck Isokorb Type K elements to minimize thermal bridging. 11,300 square feet of roof-mounted solar collectors provide over half the building’s DHW needs. Space heating is supplied mostly through a pellet boiler. Since the loads are so small, heating can be supplied through the floor.

Wall assembly, U-value=0.13 W/m²k (R-43.7)

  • 1 cm plaster finish
  • 24-30 cm EIFS (EPS)
  • 18 cm reinforced concrete
  • 1.5 cm plaster

Roof assembly, U-value=0.11 W/m²k (R-51.6)

  • 10 cm extensive planting
  • waterproofing
  • 30-36 cm EPS
  • Vapor barrier
  • 20-31 cm reinforced concrete deck

Basement Floor assembly, U-value=0.12 W/m²k (R-47.4)

  • Wood flooring
  • Screed and foil
  • 3 cm impact insulation
  • 20 cm reinforced concrete deck
  • 26 cm insulation
  • Windows: U-value=0.78 W/m²K (R-7.5), COG U-value=0.6 W/m²K (R-9.4), SHGC=51%
  • Airtightness: 0.20 ACH50
  • Heating Demand: 14.5 W/m²Ka (4.43kBTU/ft²/a)

Pushing for low-tech solutions, low operation and heating costs, and energy independence – Neue Heimat Tirol sounds like an incredible organization to work with. These strategies allow them to work with some stellar architects, producing quality buildings for those that might not otherwise be able to afford it. The Lodenareal complex is expected to save an astonishing 680 tons of CO2 per year. This is an area where Passivhaus really shines – nearly achieving 2030 Challenge now, at costs slightly more than code minimum buildings. We predict that larger housing estates meeting passivhaus will become the norm, as cities and developers realize significant cost savings can be achieved through these schemes.

Further Reading

  • renderings (pdf)
  • DIN A4 writeup (pdf)
  • construction details (pdf)
  • plans and sections (pdf)
  • neue heimat tirol photos, further information (pdf)

The International PH Alliance has announced that the next International Passivhaus Conference will be May 27-28 in Innsbruck, specifically due to the Lodenareal (pdf). Looks like the perfect time to catch some of those Vorarlberg and Tirolean projects we’ve been meaning to visit…

PHBdW: Passivhaus Bau der Woche 08

We’ve previously featured the work of cukrowicz.nachbaur architekten, and for good reason – their work is incredible. They’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of stunning projects of various scales and typologies, which is pretty incredible considering the firm is small and both partners are under 45. The Gemeindezentrum (community center) Sankt Gerold is a compact, minimally detailed wooden box nestled in the heart of Vorarlberg. The building’s functions include the municipal administration, a kindergarten, a play room and a multipurpose room.

The four story structure utilizes PVC-, CFC- and HCFC -free construction, even down to the electrical wiring. Building insulation is wool, mineral wool and wood fiber, which have fairly low embodied energy. The silver fir is sourced from local, community-owned forests. Great care must have been taken to select ideal timbers, as there doesn’t seem to be a visible knot or blemish on any of the wood. This interior/exterior monochromatic effect is visually stunning. The architects even went so far as to detail the lenses for the light fixtures to blend in with the ceilings.


  • Wall assembly: U-value=0.11 W/m²k (R-52)
  • Roof assembly: U-value=0.12 W/m²k (R-47.4)
  • Floor/cellar: U-value=0.16 W/m²K (R-35.5)
  • Windows: U-value=1.08 W/m²K (R-5.2)
  • Airtightness: 0.50 ACH50
  • Heating Demand: 12.80 W/m²Ka (4.05kBTU/ft²/a)
  • Total Primary Demand: 68 W/m²Ka  

Calculations show interior temperatures only get hotter than 78 degrees F for 13 days out of the year (this is information I believe you can obtain through PHPP), and during this time of the year the building is closed. With ecological sensitivities, ultra-low energy use and incredible detailing – it is really no surprise this gem took 2nd place winner for the 2010 passivhaus architekturpreis.

  • Architect: cukrowicz.nachbaur architekten (AT)  
  • Location: St. Gerold (AT)
  • GFA: 773 m² (8,320 ft²)
  • building costs: 2,865€/m² ( ~$400/ft²)  
  • completed: 2008
  • fotos: Hanspeters Schiess

Further Reading

PHNW adds presentations

If you are interested in more advanced aspects of passivhaus and project case studies, PHNW’s Summer 2010 Event presentations have been uploaded on the PHNW website and are worth a quick read.

Presentations from the Spring 2010 PHNW Event have been online for  a few months and are also of interest, and the same goes for presentations from the 2009 PHIUS North American Conference.

lehmbau in the northwest

[This post is being edited and will be back up shortly.]