We're Gonna Have to Science the S**t Out of This

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'We're Gonna Have to Science the S**t Out of this'

Reflections on the 20th International Passive House Conference, April 2016

In Frankfurt airport after my annual transfusion. Feeling refreshed and invigorated with high-octane creativity flowing through my veins again.

I’ve just been to the world’s top energy efficiency ‘clinic’ in Germany, where the Passive House Institute celebrated its 20th annual International Conference. Forty five countries and over 1,000 delegates descended in Darmstadt to soak-up the magic-bullet formula for global warming that is ‘Passive House’.

I take my hat off to the incredible team at Passive House Institute that cracked the code two decades ago.  The scientific papers, celebrated case studies and showcased products never cease to impress.


The Martian photo

 Image from 'The Martian', Directed by Ridley Scott


Highlights for me include the following:

  •  The Proof: literal dissection of the world’s first certified Passive House in Darmstadt-Kranichstein where, after 25 years, it is still as airtight as it was when first measured (0.22 ACH @ 50Pa), drenched each day with outdoor fresh air tempered through the heat recovery ventilation unit. Space heating demand hit the modelled target each year for 25 years. Performance gap? Nein!!
  •  The People: Meeting up with highly committed and enthusiastic friends from home, US, UK, Canada, China and Australia is always a blast. The buzz, camaraderie, knowledge sharing and comfort in knowing that you’ve boarded the right energy train is grin-inducing.
  • The Papers: Imagine having the keys to the best chocolatier in town for two whole days but where you’re only allowed to choose 20 yummy nuggets to gorge on. That just about summarizes the challenge in trying to select which quality workshops, courses and presentations to attend. Presenters openly share their experiences and findings and the audience laps it up. Das is gut, ja?
  • The Products: every year the quality of Passive House products is ramping up. Historical windows, ductless ventilation, submarine-proof attic hatches, it’s all there. A real bonus was witnessing two Irish companies receiving well-deserved Passive House Certification for their air-tight boards and MVHR (more of that in a separate piece).
  • The Projects: Sunday is project day, and the buses lined to take the pilgrims to a vast array of projects to suit everyone’s interest. Of particular interest to us was the tour to Bahnstadt in Heidelberg where full Passive House standard (including PHPP) is mandatory.
  •  The Prof: Wolfgang Feist led the congregation for the 20th time. As usual he ran around the conference like the Duracell Bunny (solar-charged, of course), meeting and greeting everyone. The significance of his life’s work will be long lasting, mark my words.
  • The Postulations: the Twitter machine exploded right out of the traps with gems including ‘we are cooking the Earth’, ‘we have no other Earth’ and ‘Architects must take the lead on the energy efficiency challenge’. My personal favourite was from Feist himself calling it like it is and quoting from ‘The Martian’ telling us ‘We're gonna have to science the s**t out of this’. Boom!
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