I recently judged the international ISOVER Multi-Comfort House Competition for architecture and engineering students from Philadelphia University. CertainTeed Insulation sponsors this program and takes the winning team to compete with university students from 16 other countries. There were five teams vying for the opportunity to present their projects at the Multi- Comfort House Competition from May 19- 22, 2010 in Innsbruck, Austria.
The competition project was to renovate an existing commercial building that sits on a canal along the Seine River in France. The teams were to retrofit the existing building to create a sustainable structure. While the teams were given carte blanche in creating their projects, all were surprisingly viable.
In general, projects that were offered by engineering students focused more on function and form while architectural students initially approached the project from a design and visual beauty perspective. The winning project “Purity of Division” balanced the design between a community library overlooking the canal and several living machines that cleaned the canal water, converted CO2 gas into oxygen with a bioreactor and produced algae for sale to the pharmaceutical industry.
Superior building envelope thermal performance was achieved through high levels of insulation, whole building air tightness, triple-glazed spectrally selective windows and the isolation of thermal bridging.
A comprehensive whole building energy analysis was performed using Energy10 simulation software. The results predicted 50 to 65 percent energy savings due to the passive house design techniques alone. The buildings HVAC system, a geothermal heat pump, used the canal water in a unique heat exchanger array along the canal wall to reduce electricity needs by an additional 20 to 25 percent. The winning Team also incorporated roof top photovoltaics and a thermal hot water system.
It was very interesting to judge these projects and each project had different strengths of design or engineering but in the end “Purity of Division” won the day.
There were three major categories for judging which included several components but basically it was:
- Design and function
- Multi-Comfort House Criteria
All of the projects were creative and comprised very forward thinking concepts. As a Building Scientist, I was very happy at the depth of knowledge illustrated by these projects and based on what I experienced, the future of design and architecture especially with regard to Passive House and sustainability is in very good hands.