Pioneering project upgraded to Passive House Plus

DARMSTADT, GERMANY – The world’s first Passive House building has increased its already high energy efficiency level and now relies on renewable energy.

A year ago, a photovoltaic system was installed on the roof of a row house built in 1991 in Darmstadt. Since then, this pioneering Passive House project has been producing its own electricity, thus fulfilling the criteria of a Passive House Plus building. The official certificate was recently issued.

The certificate was accepted by Dr. Wolfgang Feist and his wife Witta Ebel (left). Photos: Passive House Institute

“Passive House buildings are perfectly equipped to utilize renewable energy. With their extremely low heating energy demand, it is even possible to derive as much energy from the sun on-site as is consumed in the house over a year,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Feist. Together with his wife Witta Ebel he recently accepted the Passive House Plus certificate.

Photovoltaic system for the anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, building physicist Dr. Wolfgang Feist built the world’s first Passive House, and with it established this energy-efficient, construction standard. Since then, the founder and director of the Passive House Institute and his family have lived in the terraced housing complex in the Darmstadt city district of Kranichstein. In the year of its 25th anniversary, the Feist family installed a photovoltaic system on the roof of their house in order to utilize the sun’s energy.

Efficiency plus renewable energy
With the Passive House Plus Standard, Passive House has contributed to the second step of the energy revolution. In addition to being highly energy efficient, it also generates on-site renewable energy. What matters here is that the energy demand of a building is considered and optimized separately from the energy generation.

The details:

Good basis for Passive House Plus –
In a Passive House Plus building, the upper limit for the total demand for renewable primary energy is 45 kWh/(m²a). At the same time, at least 60 kWh/(m²ta) of renewable energy must be generated based on the projected building footprint. From the very beginning, the Feist family equipped their house with extremely efficient devices. The electricity consumption is therefore very low, even with the operation of the ventilation system.

Heat pump with reduced energy use –
The same also applies for the air-to-air heat pump that was recently installed for test purposes this past autumn, which is used for heating as well as ventilation in the Passive House. This electrically operated heat pump should use approximately 30 percent of the energy consumption that was previously required with natural gas for the gas heating system.

Electricity surplus into the grid – 
In the summer the surplus electricity produced by the photovoltaic system in Darmstadt-Kranichstein is fed into the public grid. In theory, the produced amount would suffice for supplying the whole house for one year, and the surplus electricity in summer could be stored for the winter.

Saving in network is useful
“For a single household, this kind of seasonal storage is not a reasonable option, but in the network, this “gap” becomes smaller and storage becomes much more cost-effective. This is what needs to be done in future”, explains Dr. Wolfgang Feist.


In 2015, the Passive House Institute introduced the Passive House Plus and Passive House Premium building classes which combine the classic Passive House Standard with renewable energy.  Both classes provide building owners with reliable orientation for combining energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Energy generation and energy demand are balanced separately. 

Direct accounting of the electricity generated by a photovoltaic system in the summer to the heating energy required in winter falls short of the reality since seasonal storage is always associated with losses.  The PER (Primary Energy Renewable) concept forms the basis of this calculation: PER factors are specified for the individual energy applications.  These state the number of kilowatt hours of renewable primary energy that are required to generate one kilowatt-hour of energy. 

In a Passive House Plus, the upper limit for the total demand for renewable primary energy is 45 kWh/(m²a). At the same time, at least 60 kWh/(m²ta) of renewable energy must be generated based on the projected building footprint.  In a Passive House Premium the energy demand is limited to 30 kWh/(m²a) while the energy generated must amount to at least 120 kWh/(m²ta).

For more information about Passive House, visit  

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Watch Clark College’s STEM building from ground up

Clark College has formally opened their new STEM Building to the students at their Vancouver, Washington campus. Skanska USA Building, Inc. chose Work Zone Cam to document the construction of the 70,000-square-foot building from January 2015 to August 2016. To celebrate the building’s completion, Work Zone Cam produced a professional time-lapse movie detailing the 19-month construction process in less than 90 seconds.

The new building will serve students in a wide variety of science and technology studies.  The state-of-the-art building will house a cadaver laboratory, 26 instruction spaces, and a 44-foot drop tower for experiments by the engineering and physics students.

The building was designed with sustainability in mind, with the university pursuing the building being given LEED certification.

“Courtesy of Work Zone Cam” 

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Chicago’s Riverwalk is complete!

CHICAGO – The final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk officially opened to the public on October 31.  It was designed by Ross Barney Architects in collaboration with landscape architects Sasaki Associates. 

Once an industrial space in disuse, the Chicago Riverwalk, a 1.5-mile promenade along the Chicago River, has been transformed into a public space lined with amenities, restaurants, cultural activities, and access to natural habitats for city residents and visitors alike.

Design leader for the 15-year project, Chicago Architect, Carol Ross Barney said the goal of the project was to “return the river to Chicago and return Chicagoans to the river.”  In 1909, the river was its lifeline, brimming with traffic and a civic waterway and promenade along the river was planned. That vision was finally completed, transforming what had become a postindustrial leftover into a 21st-century urban waterfront.

The final phase of the Riverwalk marks the reclamation of the Chicago River for the ecological, recreational, and economic benefits of the city. 

Phase 1, completed in 2009 by Ross Barney Architects, included Chicago’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, Wabash Plaza, and the Bridgehouse Museum Plaza, connected at river level.  Phase 2 was completed in 2015, and Phase 3 is six conceptual, outdoor “rooms” designed to embrace the river in a variety of ways. 

Each of the six spaces in the project generates a distinct experience with the river. Phase 3 additions will complement the Marina, the Cove, and the River Theater, which were completed in Phase 2. The highlights of Phase 3 include:

Water Plaza – The sunniest portion of the park walk features a sundeck to enjoy the views and a children’s fountain where families can interact with water.

The Jetty – An interactive environment for learning about the ecology of the River with a series of piers, floating wetland gardens, fish habitat, native plantings and opportunities for fishing.

The Boardwalk – A space for relaxation and enjoying the view, the Boardwalk has a great lawn for lounging and a striking sloping bridge over floating gardens.  An accessible walkway and new marine edge creates continuous access to Lake Street and sets the scene for future development in this critical space at the confluence.

The design of the Chicago Riverwalk acts as a seam between Wacker Drive’s Beaux Arts architecture and the natural landscape of the River. This connection to the River, with remarkable views, water sports, and recreation, and ecology promotes stewardship of this vital natural resource. The Jetty not only educates the public on the ecology of the river, but also helps to foster the river’s healthy growth. The Riverwalk was designed to be forward thinking for resiliency and plans for a future when the water is clean and swimmable.

The myriad of activities offered along the Chicago Riverwalk have already been embraced by the public. On high traffic days, restaurants report 45-minute waits for tables—time easily passed on the waterfront—and water boat and bike tours are sold to capacity. The Chicago Riverwalk has already proved to be an economic and recreational success while providing a beloved public amenity in the heart of an urban core for decades to come.

About Ross Barney Architects:

Ross Barney Architects ( is a Chicago-based architecture and urban design studio. Established by Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, the studio occupies a unique place within the panorama of contemporary practice that is characterized by a reputation for work in the public realm.  The studio’s ideas and projects have been recognized, published, and exhibited around the world, receiving more than 60 major awards.

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Perseus II: A new icon for the Greenwood neighborhood

Today, Seattle artist Miguel Edwards’ new moving 30-foot-tall kinetic sculpture is being installed at the corner of Northwest 85th Street and First Avenue West, in the Greenwood neighborhood.  Dubbed ‘Perseus II,’ the sculpture is situated just east of the new 105-unit Janus Apartments building, Seattle-based developer Security Properties commissioned the artwork as part of its commitment to enhancing each new project and neighborhood with unique and local artwork.

About “Perseus II”
Solar panels built into the artwork will supply all the electricity needed to move the pendulum and power the light.

The sculpture is composed of a steel tripod base with a curved center pendulum.  A slow kinetic rotation is created by the pendulum which is weighted at the top by a stainless sphere and at the bottom by a stainless cone.  Solar‐powered LEDs will illuminate two tiers of glass spheres and fins.  All glass elements will be set aglow either internally or by adjacent LED lights.

About the artist
Miguel Edwards has lived in the Ballard-Greenwood area for about a decade and has had several exhibitions featured in local galleries as part of the Greenwood Art Walk.  

According to Edwards, “Perseus II” draws on references to mythology and duality: exploring man’s relationship with things beyond his physical grasp.

For this project, Security Properties was particularly compelled by artist Miguel Edward’s vision of “Perseus II” due to its potential to become an icon for the neighborhood.  The aim is for all Greenwood residents to feel ownership of the sculpture and for Seattleites to someday associate it with Greenwood.  The sculpture is also intended to boost a sense of pedestrian safety and walkability along First Avenue and 85th Street.

To Carkeek Park regulars, the sight of Perseus II may invoke a sense of déjà vu.  The installation’s younger and smaller sibling, “Perseus I” was temporarily installed near Carkeek Park’s playground in 2010 as part a Center on Contemporary Arts exhibit.  

About Janus Apartments
Janus is the Roman god of gates, transitions, and new beginnings.  He was depicted as having two faces: one facing the past, and one facing the future. To Security Properties, this aligned nicely with the Janus Apartments site and the building. The building itself has two faces, one facing single-family homes to the south, and one facing 85th Street to the north, each with a distinct façade.  The site can be seen as a sort of gateway between the neighborhood and the commercial core. 

The building seeks to honor the transition that Greenwood is experiencing, paying homage to its past while celebrating its present and future.  The name Janus stuck immediately and has driven much of the team’s design and art decisions.

City living is full of options – always growing and changing.  Janus Apartments is part of the artful and eclectic neighborhood of Greenwood, just 10 minutes north of downtown Seattle.  “Perseus II” serves as a constant reminder of life in motion.  

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Construction industry takes another look at substance abuse policies

The following post is by Wendy Novak, President, Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington

Construction companies are continuously looking for effective ways to prevent and deal with substance abuse, but the available information can be confusing and in some cases, there are conflicting opinions. Companies of all sizes need to be clear in their policies to ensure that they are dealing with their employees in a compassionate and legal way.

Alcohol use on construction jobs has long been banned and most company policies maintain that drinking on or coming to a jobsite under any influence can result in termination of employment.  Although marijuana use (medical and/or recreational) has been legalized in a number of states, including Washington, it is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the Federal Government and its possession is therefore against federal law.

According to a report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance and alcohol abuse has been negatively affecting the mining and construction industries by way of lost productivity, workplace accidents and injuries, absenteeism, low morale, and illness. The Dallas-based International Risk Management Institute reports that substance abusers have accidents about four times more often than their non-impaired counterparts. Investigations of construction site accidents show that 50 percent involved at least one person who was impaired by drugs or alcohol.

As a result of these and countless other studies, the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 was developed and requires certain federal contractors and grantees to have a drug-free workplace policy. Labor and employment laws that relate to substance abuse policy for construction employers can vary from state to state.

Education has proven to be an effective deterrent to drug use in young people, but by the time people come into the workforce, their decisions about and use of drugs and alcohol are established. People begin using or abusing substances later in their lives for a variety of reasons, and if that happens, employers must have policies in place to ensure a drug-free workplace, promote worker safety and prevent losses.

Tom Pool of Drug-Free Business says that in order to have a drug-free workplace, employers must develop a comprehensive policy and make certain that every employee reads and signs it.

A comprehensive policy should include the following five components:

  1. The written policy must be posted prominently at every jobsite.
  2. Drug testing policy. This should include but is not limited to: mandatory pre-employment drug test; testing if a person appears impaired when they come to the jobsite; following any onsite accident in which drug use can’t be ruled out and random testing for safety sensitive or security-sensitive positions.
  3. Training for supervisors to help them recognize the potential of abuse such as performance problems, absenteeism, and tardiness, as well as obvious signs of impairment.
  4. Employee education about the employer’s drug policy including getting a signed receipt from the employee attesting that they have read and understand the policy.
  5. Providing an employee assistance program (EAP) that can help employees manage their personal and business lives more effectively and provide them with an environment that supports their success. Employers who don’t have a format EAP should at least post information about the free Washington Recovery Help Line: 1-800-789-1511 for 24-hour help for substance abuse.

Drug Free Business is a nonprofit, third-party administrator in Washington State with certified substance abuse program administrators (CSAPA) on staff. For more information about their services, go to

Contractors can also access the ABC 2016 Safety Performance Report at

You may contact Kim Trautman at or (800) 640-7789 for additional resources.

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