30.04.2014 popp@detail.de

Green 1/2014

Holiday house on Laesø island, Photo: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen

Many architects are still puzzled by what exactly a »sustainable« building is. Now the next buzzword is entering the architectural debate: namely, the »Active House«.

In the past year the association, »AktivhausPlus e.V« launched an initiative in Germany to promote the construction of plus-energy homes. The Active House Alliance is pursuing a similar goal on an international level. The underlying message is clear: an Active House is per definition the antithesis of a Passive House.

An Active House should not only function in a climate neutral and environmentally friendly manner, but it should also offer its occupants the best possible internal thermal comfort and air quality. Interestingly, these claims are almost identical to those that the proponents of the Passive House uphold for their own concept.

So what is really new about Active Houses? Are they simply old ideas dressed up as new ideas? To find out the answers to these pertinent questions we spoke with two protagonists of ­energy efficient building: Manfred Hegger – ­co-founder of AktivhausPlus e.V. and long-time president of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) – and Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute. Both interviews in this edition of DETAIL Green emphasise the differences between both positions, as well as their fundamental similarities. The latter can be summarised as follows: climate neutral buildings are only feasible if the fundamentals on the passive side – good insulation, air tightness and the avoidance of cold bridges – have been addressed and, at the same time, active components for energy production have been integrated into the building. The interviewees were also in agreement that buildings should prioritise user comfort and that the future lies in neighbourhood-wide energy concepts.

There is probably little point in debating the principles of »Active« versus »Passive« in a purely theoretical manner or to discuss the economic viability of particular energy standards on the basis of abstract figures, as the answer will inevitably depend on the individual case in its specific context. Therefore, the focus of this edition of DETAIL Green will be, as usual, on analysing exceptional case studies with various uses – from a holiday home to a former grain silo – in the hope that these will far outlive the current heated debate over sustainable principles.

(Jakob Schoof)

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