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!