Welcome to LatamHaus

LatamHaus network seeks to address the challenges of the expected housing demand in Latin America by 2030. For instance, it is estimated that Mexico will need 26 million new homes by 2030. These homes will need to address the low-carbon strategy set by the National Strategy developed from the NAMA for sustainable housing in partnership with the Passivhaus Institute. However, the recent COVID-19 crisis around the world highlighted some challenges associated with household air pollution. This interdisciplinary network seeks to collect pilot data and support future housing projects which respond to low-carbon emissions and indoor air quality challenges. We seek to understand the challenges, barriers, and scalability issues to adopt the Passivhaus Standard in Latin America and set an action plan to address these concerns. In doing so, the network will contribute positively to some Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This project is supported by the most important network of Passivhaus professionals and enthusiasts in Latin America, the Latin American Passivhaus Institute.

LatamHaus is a project is funded through the Global Challenge Research (GCRF) fund at Lancaster University, Research England and the Latin American Passivhaus Institute.

Low-carbon homes and the Passivhaus Standard

Passivhaus (Passive House) refers to a design method for ultra-low energy buildings that are extremely comfortable and economical to operate. Passivhaus evolved from Swedish super-insulated homes and passive solar energy to minimise space heating and the heat that escapes (leaks) from a building structure and through the different building elements (i.e., walls, doors, windows), also known as thermal transmittance or U-values. In 1998, Professor Wolfgang Feist from the Institute for Housing and Environment in Germany and Professor Bo Adamson from Lund University in Sweden developed the Passivhaus method and built the first Passivhaus dwelling in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990. These developments led to the founding of the Passive House Institute in 1996, which continues today as the leading global centre of research and development for the advancement and adoption of the Passivhaus performance standard. Over time, Passivhaus evolved from a method for cold climates to warmer or temperate climates where cooling is also of primary concern in addition to heating.

The Passive House Institute (PHI) defines Passivhaus as “[…] a building, for which thermal comfort (ISO 7730) can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air”. The Passivhaus design has five (5) essential principles including the following: (1) super-insulation, (2) thermal bridge free construction, (3) airtight building envelope, (4) adequate ventilation strategy and (5) high-performance doors and windows.

Accordingly to the Passive House Database, up to March 2021, there are only 2 Passivhaus certified homes. The Passivhaus dwelling in Mexico City (in the illustration above) was the first residential project awarded with the certification in Latin America.

Image credit INHAB. First home to receive the Passivhaus Certification in Latin America.

Household air pollution

The average person spends more than 90% of their time indoors, and indoor air quality (IAQ) related emissions can contribute significantly to total air pollution exposure. Our homes are one of the places, if not the place, where we spend most of our time indoors. Despite this, relatively few household air pollution considerations are taken when designing homes.

Household air pollution is the cocktail of harmful substances from human-made and natural sources present in the air. The number of air pollution sources and airborne contaminants found indoors is considerable and their sources. Nevertheless, we can characterize the air pollutants as they include allergens, bio-particles, combustion products, tobacco smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as gases from building materials, furnishing, cleaning, and personal care products.

We are exposed to both indoor and outdoor pollution throughout our lives. However, the health risks from indoor air pollution exposure are higher than those outdoors. LatamHaus network seeks to establish discussions to change in housing design through better considerations for household air pollution.

Image credit INHAB. First home to receive the Passivhaus Certification in Latin America.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals are “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030” (UNDP, 2015). The 17 goals are made tangible through 169 targets and 303 indicators that attempt to focus attention on a ‘means of implementation’ to mitigate against a lack of tangible action that previous goals have been criticised for. Importantly, the SDGs aim to recognise the considerable link between social, economic and environmental outcomes. For example, ensuring that short-term improvements in wellbeing do not risk undermining long-term environmental consequences. The ability of design to engage real people and communities, understand everyday problems and implement the ‘right’ solution, not just the ‘newest technology’, enables it to act as a bridge between other disciplines. It is an important and growing voice in this field that helps to bridge the gap between the rapid advancements in science, technology and engineering with real people, challenges and contexts on an everyday level.

Ultra-energy-efficient construction, such as Passivhaus, has the potential for attaining significant positive contribution while minimising negative implications for implementing several SDGs. The goals of such implementation can be defined through a project contribution to specific targets and indicators. As such, this network seeks to develop capacity building to respond to the following SDGs positively:

  • The discussion in this network will address a highlighted topic by the recent pandemic, indoor air quality. Since health and housing quality are linked, this project focuses on SDG 3 — Health & wellbeing. More specifically, we will look for solutions that positively impact Target 3.9 and Indicator 3.9.1 — Mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution. In 2019, approximately 48,500 deaths were attributed to air pollution in Mexico. Those linked to household air pollution were above 10,000, surpassing the Latin America annual mean of 1,746 deaths.
  • We will look at the housing industry innovation (Passivhaus) to minimise low-carbon emissions by improving energy-efficient design, construction & use. This network will discuss the most underperformed (Index: 25.1/100) SDG in Latin America: the SGD 9 —Industry, innovation and infrastructure. The network will look for solutions to promote access to affordable housing and basic services (Target 9.4), balancing the CO2-emissions and added value (Indicator 9.4.1). Mexico is among the 15th largest CO2 emitters, and its housing industry contributes around 30% of the national CO2-emissions.

Image credits UN The seventeen goals.

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