International Passive House Conference Focuses on Solutions to Climate Change and Beyond

September 30, 2020


The Passive House Institute’s 24th Annual International Passive House Conference kicked off last Sunday, September 20, with an opening plenary that included talks from two of the most esteemed scientists in the Passive House community: Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf and Dr. Wolfgang Feist, the founder of the Passive House Institute. Presentations then began on Wednesday and continued into Thursday. Subsequent sessions will take place for the next two weeks on those same days in two separate 2.5‑hour blocks (9:00 am — 11:30 am CEST and 5:00 pm — 7:30 pm CEST). Recordings will be available through the conference’s portal. On top of the sessions, attendees will find opportunities to network and tour a virtual exhibition hall.

The final plenary will take place on Thursday, October 8 at 5:00 pm CEST.

The overarching theme for this year’s conference is “Building the Future – Sustainably!” and most of the presentations thus far have focused on some of the different ways that Passive House principles can be applied to achieve this end. However, as the event is taking place virtually and amid the COVID pandemic, the influence of the coronavirus is palpable within many of the recorded presentations. As there is now strong evidence to support the claim that better building ventilation can be an effective tool at stemming the spread of the virus, discussions about the subject often emerge in the chat column to the right during presentations and in subsequent live Q&A.

Both themes were established during the initial plenary.

Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist and professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, spoke about the dangers posed by anthropogenic climate change. He stressed the importance of ambitiously adopting policies to cut emissions and severely reduce our reliance on fossil fuels within the coming decade to stabilize the climate. He also reminded the audience of the catastrophic consequences of doing nothing.

Dr. Wolfgang Feist, meanwhile, discussed the myriad benefits the Passive House standard offers to occupants. More than just making buildings far more efficient and drastically reducing operational energy use, Passive House design can also prevent certain types of sicknesses that are associated with poor indoor air quality. This includes illnesses linked to contaminants like radon and volatile organic compounds, as well as pathogens like mold, bacteria, and viruses. Dr. Feist would return to these points during a press conference between the plenary and the first sessions, and would add that the Passive House standard has the unique property of being compatible with all building types, building styles, and climate conditions. This is why Passive House projects are being constructed all over the world.

Wolfgang Streicher envisions a fossil fuel free future for Tyrol.

Wolfgang Streicher envisions a fossil fuel free future for Tyrol.

Without question, China is one of the vanguards of the Passive House movement when one considers the rapid pace at which certified Passive House structures are being built. In terms of raw square footage, no one else comes close. So much Passive House construction is currently happening in China that an entire session was dedicated to looking at some of the issues unique to China’s building environment (Session 4). As additional evidence of the fantastic rate at which China is building Passive House structures, more than half of the projects that are part of the second session of building tours (scheduled for October 7 at 9:00 am CEST) are from China.

Innovative projects are also happening in Europe, particularly with respect to the creation of entire Passive House communities. Session 3 focused on some of these projects, which can already be found in Germany and throughout the Austrian state of Tyrol. One of the highlights from this session was Harald Konrad Malzer’s tour of a smart city built to Passive House standard within Wörgl, a bucolic town in the shadow of the Tyrolian Alps. Session 1, meanwhile, examined smaller, but no less innovative projects in Greece, Spain, and Italy, as well as how Passive House principles are offering solutions for designers who need to meet energy performance requirements in countries like Romania, Austria, and Ireland.

Fabian Ochs provides background information about the energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) and nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB).

Fabian Ochs provides background information about the energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) and nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB).

Apart from looking at regional initiatives, many sessions have been more focused on the finer points of design. Session 2, for example, analyzed individual Passive House components like kitchen exhaust systems and heat pumps. Presentations during Session 6, meanwhile, focused on the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) and related toolkits. Moderator Andrew Peel noted halfway through the session, the first three presentations were “perhaps the most technical” out of the entire conference.

While the conference’s program is a testament to the global nature of the Passive House movement and the search for solutions that can be applied in vastly different climate zones, it’s also clear that it’s not just the presenters who come from nations around the world; so, too, do those in the audience. The chat column during just about every session typically begins with salutations in multiple languages from at least a dozen time zones.

So no matter where you happen to be, don’t be shy. Register for the Passive House Conference now. There are still four more days of presentations, building tours, and exhibitions to explore.

Ed May provides a link to his free IDF2PH toolkit.

Ed May provides a link to his free IDF2PH toolkit.

Session 1 – Nearly Zero Energy Buildings

Dieter Herz (moderator)

Group A

  • Dimitris Pallantzas (Passive House Institute)
  • Francesco Nesi (ZEPHIR – Passivhaus Italia)
  • Raquel Marcos López (ra[ ]el arquitectura)

Group B

  • Horia Petran (NIRD URBANINCERC)
  • Thomas Roßkopf (Energieinstitut Vorarlberg)
  • Mark Stephens (Mark Stephens Architects and Certified PH Consultants)

Session 2 – Components and Supply Concepts

Michael Wassouf (moderator)

Group A

  • Silvia Öttl (University of Innsbruck)
  • Oliver Kah (Passive House Institute)
  • Matthew Wangelin (KEEA GmbH)

Group B

  • Berthold Kaufman (Passive House Institute)
  • Benjamin Krick (Passive House Institute and University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt)
  • Adrian Musktewitz (Passive House Institute)

Session 3 – Passive House Districts

Peter Friemert (moderator)

Group A

  • Harald Konrad Maizer (Neue Heimat Tirol Gemeinnützige Wohnungs GmbH)
  • Wolfgang Hasper (Passive House Institute)
  • Rena Vallentin (ArchitekturWerkstatt Vallentin GmbH)

Group B

  • Wolfgang Streicher (University of Innsbruck, Arbeitsbereich Energieeffzientes Bauen)
  • Jurgen Schneiders (Passive House Institute)
  • Georgios Dermentzis (University of Innsbruck)

Session 4 – Passive House Goes to China

Rainer Pfluger (moderator)

Group A

  • Peng Mengyue (Center of Science and Technology & Industrialization Development, MOHURD)
  • Yi Zhu (SoftGrid (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.)
  • Haifeng Guo (Beijing Institute of Residential Building, Design & Research co. LTD)
  • Sichen Sheng (Passive House Institute)

Group B

  • Jiandong Li (China Academy of Building Research (CABR))
  • Li Pan (Shanghai Research Institute of Building Sciences Co., Ltd.)
  • Ruixue Li (Beijing Residential Architecture Design and Research Institute Co., Ltd.)

Session 5 – Future-Proof and Sustainable

Johannes Kreißig (moderator)

Group A

  • Benjamin Krick (Passive House Institute & University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt)
  • Josef Scheiring (MPREIS Warenvertriebs GmbH)
  • Thilo Cunz (WSP Deutschland AG)

Group B

  • Marc Großklos (Institut Wohnen and Unwelt GmbH)
  • Tommy Kreutzer Wesslund (Enerwex AB)
  • Martin Laatsch (Steinbeis-Innovationszentrum energie+)

Session 6 – Passive House Tools

Andrew Peel (moderator)

Group A

  • Tobias Hatt (Energieinstitut Vorarlburg)
  • Philippe St-Jean (McGill University)
  • Edwin May (BLDGtyp)

Group B

  • Laszlo Lepp (Passive House Institute – Innsbruck)
  • Fabian Ochs (University of Innsbruck Unit of Energy Efficient Building)
  • Harald Konrad Maizer (Neue Heimat Tirol Gemeinnützige Wohnungs GmbH)


Jay Fox
Jay Fox
Jay Fox is a writer and musician based in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Crain's New York, Salon, Stay Thirsty Magazine, Aethlon, and…

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