This blog post is a review of “Passive House in Different Climates: The Path to Net Zero” published in 2016 by Routledge. The authors of the book are Mary James and James Bill. I would have written this review shortly after the book was published but unfortunately, it coincided with my blogging hiatus as I moved from the UK to NZ.

You may know of Mary James from her previous books on Passive House in the US, including “American Passive House Developments” that I reviewed earlier. As well as print books, Mary has produced an extensive catalogue of eBooks about Passivhaus in the US that can be found on the Low Carbon Productions website.

James Bill is an architect, certified Passivhaus Designer and founding member of Passive House California.

The book starts with a brief overview of the international Passivhaus Standard, the building physics principles and how it is being applied in different climates. It then launches into case studies from each of the four climate types identified that are different to the cool temperate climate of Germany. The climate types are; Marine, Cold and Very Cold, Mixed-Dry and Hot-Dry, Mixed-Humid and Hot-Humid. The majority of the case studies are from the US, but there are also projects in Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Mexico, Spain, China and Korea showcased.

While many of the projects in the book are new build residences, there are several other typologies represented including offices, a library, multi-unit residential and retrofits.

Essentially, this is a handbook of specific Passivhaus case studies in different climates. Each project has good quality colour photographs, fairly detailed technical descriptions, general arrangement drawings and detailed technical drawings illustrating the specific construction employed. Some of the design approaches suited to the different climates are explored in the introductory section, otherwise, it is left up to the reader to learn directly from the specific case studies.

Passive House in Different Climates: The Path to Net Zero” is an excellent collection of well-illustrated Passivhaus case studies from different climates.

052 Passivhaus Different Climates_Title

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This blog post is a review of “Hyperlocalization of Architecture: Contemporary Sustainable Archetypes” published in 2015. This book is written by Andrew Michler and published by eVolo.

You may know of Andrew Michler from his writing on Inhabitat, prior to that, he was a builder. He is a certified Passivhaus Consultant and has designed and built his own foam-free off-grid Passivhaus home in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

The book starts with two bold (but accurate, I would argue) assertions about modern architecture;

A majority of buildings have failed on the most basic level of interacting with the place and people they aspire to serve.

and

The principle of modern design was severed from the realities of a building as an environmental intervention by relying on technology to overcome conditions rather than adapt to them.

From this starting point, “Hyperlocalization of Architecture: Contemporary Sustainable Archetypes” launches into a global journey to seek out contemporary vernacular architecture. In other words, buildings that embody an attitude of hyperlocalization. Buildings that stand in direct contrast to the asserted failings of modern architecture.

The book is a joyous and lavishly illustrated romp from the US to Australia with stop -offs along the way in Japan, Germany, Denmark, Spain and Mexico. As you might expect, the stop-off in Germany focusses on a stunning example of Passivhaus architecture.

Each location has an essay by Andrew Michler followed by a selection of building profiles. Each building is documented with multiple superb colour photographs, the majority of which are by Andrew Michler. Sometimes there are also drawings and diagrams, and in all cases, there is a written narrative by the architect.

Hyperlocalization of Architecture: Contemporary Sustainable Archetypes” is a beautiful written and visual source guide for contemporary vernacular architecture across the globe.

The Place of Passivhaus in Contemporary Vernacular Architecture

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This blog post is a review of the 3rd, revised edition of “Details for Passive Houses: A Catalogue of Ecologically Rated Constructions” published in 2009. This book is edited by the IBO, the Austrian Institute for Healthy and Ecological Building. It is a large and hefty hardcover tome at 3.2 x 24.8 x 35.6 centimetres.

People often ask if there is a catalogue of suitable details for Passivhaus construction. There isn’t one, at least not in English, that I am aware of. Of course, this might be because it is possible to build a Passivhaus with almost any construction system, so such a catalogue would be a huge undertaking. However, this book is the closest thing there is to such a catalogue.

The purpose of “Details for Passive Houses: A Catalogue of Ecologically Rated Constructions” is twofold; to provide an ecological evaluation of a range of Passivhaus-suitable construction details and to suggest alternatives that “illustrate the possibilities and limitations of ecologically motivated material selections.

The book contains 130 Passivhaus construction details, with assembly cross-sections and junction details. The details are beautifully illustrated to scale in four colours throughout.

Details for Passive Houses: A Catalogue of Ecologically Rated Constructions” is an excellent reference for successful Passivhaus construction detailing.

Successful Passivhaus Construction Details Cover

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This blog post is a review of “The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual: A technical guide to low and zero energy buildings” published in October 2015 and edited by Christina J. Hopfe and Robert S. Mcleod. Until now, there hasn’t been an English language manual for Passivhaus Designers. Training courses include relevant teaching material, but it is only available for course attendees and makes the most sense in the context of the course. This book covers all the main topics of a Passivhaus Designer course in an accessible and technically detailed format.

It is intended to provide a technical reference on important topics that often require more detailed explanations than can be found in most introductory handbooks. It is assumed that those reading the book will already be familiar with the fundamental principles of low energy design.

It is a design-focussed manual, bringing the academic and practice-based knowledge of the long list of authors together into one volume. Suitable background information is provided for each topic, but the main thrust is towards practical application in designing Passivhaus, or low and ‘zero-energy’ buildings.

Passive buildings are not all about technology. Their greatest benefits are not in avoided costs and emissions but in quality of life. Why did people meeting around our dining room table stay alert and cheerful all day, than in an ordinary office, become sleepy and irritable in half an hour?
– Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual could easily be the textbook for a Passivhaus Designers course. It will certainly become the reference book of choice for many Passivhaus Designers and the source of self-study for many aspiring Passivhaus Designers

042 Passivhaus Designers Manual sm
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This blog post is a review of “American Passive House Developments” published in 2012. It is the third book of Passive House case studies from the US that author Mary James has published.

The previous two books explained the Passive House approach, detailing nine pioneering U.S. case studies (2008) and showcased ten Passive House projects from a wide range of climates across the U.S. (2010).

This third book, “American Passive House Developments”, explores how the passive house movement in the U.S. has scaled up and expanded beyond the single-family residential sector. It contains seven case studies, covering large multifamily, mixed-use, and commercial buildings.

These are important case studies. These projects are the forbearers to the explosion of Passive House current happening in the U.S., including the Passive House residential high-rise for Cornell University. As Mary James points out in the Introduction:

[The clients] have been willing to be innovative, are concerned about the future, and know that they will own their buildings for multiple decades—and be paying the electric bills. The fact that these projects were built at a small cost premium, if any, over conventional construction made the commitment to PH [Passive House] a choice 
with very clear-cut benefits.

American Passive House Developments” is an excellent guide to a selection of seminal Passive House buildings in the U.S.

Passive House Case Studies from the US
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