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7 sustainable housing designs: Passivhaus in Western Europe

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Sustainability is a hot topic in all corners of the world.

From e-commerce to politics, industries across the globe are investigating old processes and coming up with new innovative methods to deliver their products or services while leaving as little impact on the planet as possible.

The housing industry is also following suit and it’s understandable given its huge environmental impact, with residential properties being responsible for 17-21% of global emissions.

Passivhaus: the standard for low-energy buildings

Not only is it implementing different practices when constructing or renovating buildings, but it’s also ensuring that homes are more energy-efficient and not leaving a significant carbon footprint when the occupants move in.

One example is the Passivhaus standard which is a performance-based set of design criteria for low-energy buildings.

Across Europe, sustainable housing designs are currently under construction, and several examples of buildings that have managed to apply the Passivhaus principles and create eco-friendly social and affordable homes. Here are just a few standout examples of great sustainable housing designs across Western Europe.

1. Bondy, Saints, France

This initiative was a part of the Saints urban renewal plan. The building replaced an outdated high-rise complex with a sustainable social housing solution. It’s not just the timber-clad that provides a natural feel for residents and onlookers. Each unit also contains a terrace, balcony, or garden. There are also solar arrays and rainwater collection systems to keep costs down and minimize the impact on the planet.

2. Torre Placa Europa, Barcelona, Spain

Completed in 2010, the Torre Placa Europa isn’t another gray-looking housing block. The building uses 100 percent recyclable materials. Evaluations were also made to assess the amount of energy waste as well as the recovery policy of surplus energy generated during the production process. The building is naturally ventilated to limit the use of devices to manage the room temperature.

3. Rue Legendre, Paris, France

The Rue Legendre was previously a dance school. The city of Paris purchased the site and designed ten affordable housing units. The architects incorporated some of the Passivhaus principles when installing metal panels that also act as shutters and allow residents to manage the sun and light. It also helps reduce thermal bridges and maintain low-energy requirements.

4. Savonnerie Heymans, Brussels, Belgium

Another example of employing the Passivhaus standards is the Savonnerie Heymans. This social housing project created an environmentally friendly neighborhood. It includes lofts, maisonettes, and duplexes, which all feature energy-efficient properties. The two most prominent include solar power panels and rainwater harvesting. It also has glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias that act as a thermal barrier to reduce energy consumption.

5. Elmas Social Housing, Sardinia, Italy

A lot of planning went into the Elmas Social Housing project. The materials were chosen to be not only affordably priced but also long-lasting to reduce the need for future renovations. The building includes a brise-soleil screen to manage the climate and shutters on the north end to protect the structure and residents from chilling winds.

6. Sint-Agatha-Berchem Housing Project, Brussels, Belgium

The Sint-Agatha-Berchem district has been dedicated to social housing since the 1920s. The project found a balance between technical, economic, and social criteria by offering high architectural quality that is also sustainable. It features excellent energy performance through its use of solar panels, rainwater recovery, and recyclable materials. The buildings are also optimized when it comes to insulation and ventilation.

7. Harold Housing Project, Paris, France

Despite the strict land rules, building restrictions, and tree preservation requirements, the designers behind the Harold Housing Project created three separate apartment blocks connected as one. The structure contains a shopping district on the ground floor and first-floor apartments that are wheelchair friendly. All three areas include green roof elements. The most prominent sustainable feature is the rooftop solar panel heating system that provides all residents with more than half of their hot water requirements.

The future of sustainable housing designs in Europe

There is some debate over the environmental impact of the construction industry. While data is getting collected, the sector has begun making changes to be more eco-friendly. Whether it’s the use of recycled materials or employing the Passivhaus principles, these small changes are making significant impacts.

One of the best ways to continue to innovate the construction industry is to share ideas with decision-makers and stakeholders. The Europe Housing Forum continues to collect and collate ideas to help build a sustainable future for all. You can receive all the last news and updates direct to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter. Click this link to sign up today.