Ground-breaking research about the thermal comfort performance of Passivhaus dwellings in Latin America

The Passivhaus is starting to get be introduced in Latin America and with the increasing housing demand expected over the next decades, the Passivhaus could help us to reduce global warming without sacrificing comfort in our homes. This is the first study that evaluated the physical comfort in Passivhaus dwellings in Latin America for a complete year. This study demonstrates that Passivhaus dwellings have the means to achieve desired temperatures in Mexico. Although, more research needs to be carried to understand exactly the impact of materials and architectural design the future ahead is bright! This article was published in the Journal of Building Engineering and can be accessed here. If you cannot access the publication please contact us. The abstract of this article is as follows:

New approaches to building design, such as the Passivhaus standard, aim to minimise energy consumption and improve the indoor environmental comfort. In 2014, the first Passivhaus dwelling in Latin America was built, and since then, other buildings have followed this approach. However, there is little published data on thermal comfort in Passivhaus certified dwellings in non-European countries. No previous study has evaluated the thermal comfort in Passivhaus buildings in Latin America. This work aims to assess the annual overheating of the first Passivhaus dwelling in Mexico City following the Passivhaus, static (CIBSE Guide A, Passivhaus, Mexican standards) and dynamic (Adaptive approach – CIBSE TM52) methodologies to assess overheating.

Indoor temperature and relative humidity were measured over one year at 5-min intervals. Temperatures above 25 °C were observed in the bedroom during 7.53% of the year, the living room (8.03%) and the kitchen (8.20%). There was a significant daily temperature variation in the kitchen (4.15 °C) and living room (6 °C). Overheating was observed through the CIBSE Guide A static criteria in the bedroom and kitchen. The Adaptive and Passivhaus criteria suggested no overheating. Passivhaus overheating criteria sets indoor temperatures as acceptable. Occupant perception of thermal comfort matched the Adaptive and Passivhaus criteria results. While the results presented here cannot be generalised, they could be used to help improve the design and performance of Passivhaus certified dwellings in similar climates’. The results highlight the potential for Passivhaus dwellings to provide comfortable indoor environments while minimising energy consumption in Latin American countries.

Passivhaus: how to build sustainable communities

Last week LatamHaus hosted the last of the workshops planned for this summer. This workshop looked at the materiality of the Passivhaus and how to develop sustainable neighbourhoods using the Passivhaus Standard, focusing on the Latin American context. This session was divided into two parts, one per topic followed by s discussion with all the participants, which was very stimulating. In a way, this was assisted through the workshop layout. For this last workshop, we wanted everyone to feel like they were talking as friends; hence this conversation was more relaxed.

Juan Manuel Vazquez talked about the Passivhaus materiality and the materials available in the different regions. One of the most critical remarks was to think about the environmental impact that each construction material has as many of the ‘standard’ construction materials use hydrocarbons and have a higher CO2 emission rate. Hence, we should think to move into natural materials such as wood, including Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and all the vegetal fibres as they have the potential to absolve CO2. This should also consider materials that have an impact on the local circular economy, making them more attractive.

“When one decides the materiality of any building, it’s the moment when the building designer sets the course for the building. Once the construction is done, one cannot take back the raw materials during the whole life of that building.”

Juan Manuel Vazquez

One of the most critical factors is to make the complete life cycle assessment for the materials and use those with a lower CO2 footprint and high CO2 absorption during their lifetime. Hence, making buildings that are more resilient making the CO2 neutral buildings. As an added benefit, the natural materials also have better performance as insulation, moisture breathable and airtightness materials. But more importantly, the photosynthesis.

When looking at the cost of a building, it is vital to consider the environmental cost. Some governments have started to develop this further through the CO2 credits. In this regard, the universities should focus on supporting the development of appropriate policies and teaching future building designers how and at what cost. Not economic, but environmental.

“Dwellings need to move from being sources of carbon emissions to carbon sinks.”

Ursula von der Leyen

The second part of the workshop focused on how to develop sustainable neighbourhoods through the Passivhaus Standard. This short lecture focused on identifying the factors and drivers in case studies across the globe where this has been done successfully. The principal drivers for this type of initiative are citizens’ demand for better housing and the need to reduce the CO­2 emissions. Hence, it is driven by both people and government.

After discussing the factors and drivers for these neighbourhoods to pop out around the globe, Alejandro presented a case study. The ‘Prinz Eugen Park‘ in Munich is a 600 housing development built using wood to the Passivhaus Standard. Once more, the LatamHaus Team wants to thank all the participants that took their time and came to share their experiences and enhance these rich discussions. It certainly helped us shape an agenda of interdisciplinary collaborations and shape projects that will support the Passivhaus development in Latin America.

Passivhaus and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Last week we hosted the second LatamHaus workshop. This workshop looked at how the Passivhaus can positively impact the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Latin America. 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.

In this workshop, Juan Manuel Vazquez from the Latin American Passivhaus Institute was the key speaker. The workshop was brief but with lots of insights and excellent feedback from all the participants. The workshop was divided into two sections. In the first section, Juan Manuel presented the SDGs and set them around the Passivhaus. Juan Manuel talked about the importance of the SDGs, particularly:

  • SDG 1 No poverty, as Passivhaus, have the means to reduce fuel poverty, helping families to stop deciding on whether they eat or make their homes comfortable.
  • SDG 3 Health and wellbeing, particularly Passivhaus, can achieve better health for the occupants as buildings will have high indoor environmental quality (i.e. better indoor air quality and low risk of overheating).
  • SDG 4 Quality education, this goal is intrinsically related to better health. Passivhaus schools and learning buildings provide adequate ventilation to control air pollution and temperatures so that their occupants do not suffer from cognitive impairment or productivity losses.
  • SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production, as Passivhaus has the potential to manage better the resources (and raw materials) in the construction and through the life of the building but also to highlight the social responsibility.
  • SDG 13 Climate change, as almost half of the CO2 emissions, comes from the construction industry Passivhaus is a way to minimise the CO2 emissions through the complete cycle life of the building.
  • SDG 17 Partnerships for the goals, partnerships that can set tangible benefits for the communities.

After Juan Manuel’s intervention, Alejandro presented in greater detail the two SDGs that LatamHaus is trying to address through different activities. They are:

  • SDG 3 Health and wellbeing by reducing the number of deaths related to air pollution and contamination (target 3.9) by reducing the mortality rate attributed to household air pollution (indicator 3.9.1).
  • SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure by looking at the construction industry making buildings resource-use efficient (target 9.4) through reducing the CO2 emissions per unit (Indicator 9.4.1).

Then the participants discussed how the Passivhaus has a positive impact on achieving the SDGs from their point of view. According to the participants, the most important were SDG 1 No poverty, SDG 3 Health and wellbeing, SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy, SDG 9 Industry and  SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities. The participants also had the opportunity to discuss some of the SDGs guided through a digital whiteboard platform in greater detail. Nine of them were discussed in greater detail

We had participants from all over Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina! The LatamHaus Team wishes to thank all participants and speakers who invested their time and effort to make this workshop a great experience for us all!

Passivhaus: barriers and challenges

Workshop remarks

On the 15th of June 2021, we had a fantastic time in the first LatamHaus workshop. In this workshop, we had the opportunity to discuss the barriers and challenges for adopting the Passivhaus in Mexico and Latin America. Elena Reyes from the Passive House Institute (PHI) joined us at this event.

The session was brief but with lots of insights and excellent feedback. The workshop was divided into two sections. In the first section, Alejandro presented in general terms what are the barriers and challenges for the Passivhaus introduction to new regions. Elena, the key speaker for this event, talked about the experience of the Passive House Institute when the Standard is introduced to new regions and the components that are key for a successful implementation. The Passive House Institute approach takes two key aspects: support for pilot projects as the standard catalyst and a bottom-up approach. Although this approach may take longer to be embedded in the new region, it has successfully achieved long-term sustainability. This approach is a cycle that includes the development of research, components, buildings, dissemination, the use of the Passivhaus resources (i.e. Passipedia) and other tools (i.e. PHPP and PH Design), as well as capacity building and knowledge transfer.

En lugarde importar componentes podemos utilizar el approach de Wolfgang Feist en la primera Casa Pasiva: buscar soluciones con materiales existentes.

Workshop particiapnt

In the second part, the participants had the opportunity to discuss the barriers in their countries. The group discussions were guided through the help of some digital whiteboards created for this event. More than 30 barriers and challenges were identified, and 8 were discussed in greater detail by the participants.

The most critical of the barriers identified and discussed by the participants are:

  • Public engagement. There is a need to create direct public engagement with the final users. This demonstrates how the Passivhaus works (i.e. Ice Box Challenge) and provides information to the final user about the benefits (i.e. health & well-being, low-energy consumption and economic savings – long and short term).
  • Co-design participatory policies. The change needs to come from the people; these changes should include the national investment, social factors and policies to support the R&D for the products needed for low-energy buildings.
  • Be local! With this, we refer to materials and the need to create an ecosystem to improve the skills and abilities of local communities. Local networking was also a vital component. This could start the discussion and support new projects and interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly between academia and the industry.

Finally, one of the best solutions is to generate interdisciplinary synergies between academia and the industry. Remarkably, the lecturer’s role in inserting the seed in their students for a long-term sustainable solution with a local approach.

We had participants from all over Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina! The LatamHaus Team wishes to thank all participants and speakers who invested their time and effort to make this workshop a great experience for us all!

LatamHaus: Passivhaus Designer Course impact

LatamHaus, in partnership with ILAPH, Arquiambiente and  Castano y Asociados, delivered such a fantastic time during the Passive House Designer Course. LatamHaus supported some participants with 80% scholarships. Our biggest aim is to develop capacity-building activities and support net-Zero and carbon-neutral projects aligned with the UK Government’s national and international goals.

We recognise that one of the most important factors for this kind of project is setting the seed for change on the right people. That is why we at LatamHaus decided to support academics, professionals, and policymakers on their carer development as Passivhaus designers. We are confident these people will have a broad impact on their communities and countries. Shortly after the finishing course, a participant shared the way it has already impacted him and their institution opening and opened international research collaboration opportunities:

“I started an international collaboration to develop a net-Zero residential tower pilot project in my city. The skills and abilities I learned in this course will help us achieve our university goals. The support from the LatamHaus network made this possible and would like to continue working with Lancaster University in this and future projects.”

— Academic participant

Other participants also shared how they see the impact that these new skills and abilities will have an impact on their day to day life and communities:

“As a specialist in restoration and rehabilitation at a building and urban levels, this course has been beneficial to approach the Passivhaus methodology into heritage buildings. In a broad context, I see the potential at the local, national and international level to develop projects and establish interdisciplinary collaborations. It was interesting to see the experiences in Europe and Latin  American countries where this methodology has already been applied.”

— Academic participant

“I believe that this course will have a very significant impact on my professional work, but above all on the academic. I am pushing for the Faculty of Architecture at the ‘National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)’ continue to deepen the teaching of sustainability and energy efficiency.

In the short term, I mainly see  that the knowledge applied in a future project to develop a digital course called ‘Construction with Energy Efficiency and Thermal Comfort (EECT).’ The skills I gained at the Passive House Designer course are invaluable for the EECT project. I am also more confident to start international collaborations with people and organisation with shared objectives.”

— Professional and academic participant

It is incredible to see how the participants expect the course to impact their communities and those surrounding them. LatamHaus impact is beyond academia, as the participants plan to share the knowledge with younger generations and apply their new skills to future projects.

“As a professional, the Passivhaus Designer Course will help me to become more competitive as I will be able to offer more products for our customers. My projects will seek to improve the quality of life and making resource-efficient decisions. In the short, medium and long terms, these concrete actions will help reduce the impacts of climate change by lowering the CO2 emissions on the built environment.

As a lecturer, I will be able to give up-to-date lectures informed by excellent research about sustainable architecture and healthy indoor environments to our undergraduate and postgraduate students” participant

— Professional and academic

We are so thrilled to see that the LatamHaus activities had the desired impact and how the project planted much-needed change to start the change. Our next activity is some interactive workshops on which we will have the opportunity to explore the Passivhaus in the Latin American context. We will have key speakers from the Passive House Institute and the Latin American Passivhaus Institute. Everyone is welcome to attend these free events; if you are interested, please register here.

LatamHaus workshop program

The LatamHaus team is very excited to make this open invitation to participate in the LatamHaus workshops. To attend you would need to be registered (please follow the become a member instructions). On these activities, we will have a member of the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany and one of the Latin American Passivhaus Institute (ILAPH).

In the first workshop ‘Passivhaus: barriers and challengesElena Reyes from PHI will be the key speaker. Elena and Alejandro will present the context of the Passivhaus, as well as some of the barriers and challenges to implement the Passivhaus in Mexico and Latin America. Then the participants will have the opportunity to carry out some interactive activities related to this topic and how to solve them. This workshop will take place on Tuesday, June 15 at 09:15 (AM Mexico City Time Zone) and will last approximately 2 hours.

In the second workshop ‘The SDGs and the Passivhaus‘, Juan Manuel Vazquez from ILAPH will be the key speaker. Juan Manuel and Alejandro will present how the Passivhaus will help us contribute positively to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Then the participants will have the opportunity to carry out some interactive activities related to this topic and its approach. This workshop will take place on Tuesday, June 29 at 09:15 (AM Mexico City Time Zone) and will last approximately 2 hours.

In addition to these two workshops, we want to offer you a third one to discuss the topics in which you have some concerns around the Passivhaus. If you have any topics you would like to cover, please contact us before May 30th. This workshop will take place on Tuesday, July 13 at 09:15 (AM Mexico City Time Zone) and will last approximately 2 hours.

1st Latin American Passivhaus Conference during the UN Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week 2021!

Alejandro Moreno Rangel has been invited to talk about the LatamHaus Network at the 1st Latin American Passivhaus Conference during the UN Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week 2021. Alejandro will be participating in the closing panel talking about the interdisciplinary collaborations that Lancaster University and Imagination are developing at the Latin American Passivhaus Institute (ILAPH). The conference will take place on Monday the 10th of May, the first day of the UN Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week 2021.

The conference will be held online and is free to attend. If you like to register please follow this link: Conferencia Passivhaus de las Américas – Semana Regional del Clima LACCW2021

Passivhaus Designer Course scholarship – Announcement

As part of the capacity building activities in the LatamHaus network, Lancaster University and the Latin American Passivhaus Institute ( ILAPH ) are excited to announce that we will offer ten (10) scholarships. These scholarships will cover 80% of the cost of the Passivhaus Designer Course* with a focus on the Latin American context. The Passivhaus Designer training will be 100% online. Those members of the LatamHaus network that receive the scholarships are expected to cover the remaining 20%. The Passivhaus Designer Course will be in Spanish and taught by Passivhaus Professionals with extensive Passivhaus Projects experience in Latin America.

The members who receive the scholarship commit to attending in full to the course and actively engaging in the LatamHaus network activities.

The course will be online and will take 4 hours (09:00 to 11:00 and 11:30 to 13:30 UTC-3, please note that this time may differ from your local time zone) of your time each of the following days:

22, 23, 26, 27, and 28 of April 2021.

3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 24, and 27 of May 2021.

If you wish to postulate for the course, you need to be a member of the network (become a member), have read the Participant Information page, and signed the Consent Form electronically. Only participants that are permanent residents from a Development Assistance Committee (DAC) List of Official Development Assistance (ODA) Recipients country will be considered.

The application process opens on the 9th of April 2021, applications before this date may not be considered.

*This benefit only applies to the Passivhaus Designer course. The total cost of the course is $1,950 US dollars. This scholarship will be paid directly to the course provider by Lancaster University and ILPAH. Therefore, there is no cash value associated with you. The scholarship cannot be transferred. Any additional charges such as the certification exam or software (PHPP) are not included. We will provide a PHPP demo version for the training sessions.

Activities plan

The LatamHaus network is an interdisciplinary network for people interested in low-carbon emission homes, indoor air quality and Passivhaus buildings in Latin America. As such, the network will allow you the opportunity to discuss and engage with different community members.

LatamHaus seeks to understand the challenges, barriers, and scalability issues to adopt the Passivhaus Standard. We explore solutions to address these concerns and contribute positively to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the SDG 03 (Health and wellbeing) and 09 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure). The network activities will improve capacity building and develop proof-of-concept ideas for sustainable, healthy and affordable housing through the Passivhaus Standard.

The planned online activities for the LatamHaus Network are:

  • Engaging with the housing industry professionals to evaluate the Passivhaus residential design impact on indoor air quality and carbon emissions.
  • Co-authoring research outputs with professionals in Mexico and Latin America.
  • Developing capacity building activities for Passivhaus projects and future research.
  • Providing Passivhaus training to professionals, academics and policymakers.
  • Provide a platform to develop ideas and discuss future projects.

We welcome participation and representation from all sectors of the society. We recognise that women are underrepresented in the building industry in Latin America. Therefore, we encourage women to become members and engage with activities.