Day 3 started off visiting an urban infill Passive
House apartment complex designed by r2d2 Architects. The apartments in this affordable homes project must be sold at 50% of the normal market rate. We visited at the perfect time during construction to appreciate fully the envelope details for insulation, airtightness and thermal bridging. Due to the narrow streets in this part of the city the contractor chose to manufacture the external wall panels on-site in a make-shift ‘factory’ – ingenious.
After this visit we walked to a nearby project at a similar stage in construction by the same architects. In this case, the project comprised not only apartments but also a kindergarten. This project was almost ready for its first blower door test so the delegation was treated to a variety of different options used by the contractors to achieve the exacting level of airtightness required for Passive House.
The third and last project we visited was a large apartment complex and primary school close to Brussels city center by Architects A2M. As with the above two projects, the benefit of this visit was being able to study the mechanical systems prior to their being hidden behind sheetrock. The apartments in this case will be heated by using a post-heater on the fresh air duct (see photo to the right). It was also fascinating to visit a primary school built to the Passive House standard, complete with gymnasium and kitchen.
Since my first encounter with Passive House in 2002, I’ve always felt that this is the way that cities and regions should go in terms of energy efficiency standards. In 2015 the first region in the world, Brussels, has taken that bold step. And other cities are following soon, including New York. My overriding memory of the trip is the can-do attitude of all the people that we met, policy makers, architects and contractors. “Just do it” is their mantra – “it’s not difficult”. Brussels has pulled off a major coup in the energy efficiency race – no platitudes, just action. The only waffle we encountered all week was of the pancake kind, dripping in warm, oozy chocolate. Great job Brussels!