Saskatchewan Conservation House precedent honored at Passivhaus conference

In 2013 I complained in TreeHugger that the Passivhaus Institute Historical Review Page did not include the Saskatchewan Conservation House, built in 1977. I wrote:

The Saskatchewan Conservation House isn't the prettiest thing we have shown on TreeHugger, but it is important in the history of the Passivhaus movement. Look at that section: thick insulation all round a boxy design with few jogs, air to air heat exchangers, heat recovery on hot water, careful solar orientation and shading. It's almost indistinguishable from a Passivhaus section, shown below. [see it here] Why is it being ignored?

© Saskatchewan Conservation House section

It has been acknowledged by the Passivhaus people before; Monte Paulsen has written in the Tyee about the house, quoted here in TreeHugger:

The world would have forgotten the Saskatchewan house, too, were it not for a quirky German physicist interested in energy-saving buildings. After studying the Saskatchewan house and a handful of similar buildings, Dr. Wolfgang Feist wrote a mathematically precise -- and elegantly simple -- criterion for designing buildings that require less than a tenth of the energy of average buildings. He called it the Passivhaus standard.

Now at last they are finally giving it the attention and recognition it deserves, honoring the building and its builder, Harold Orr, who is still alive to accept this at the Passivhaus conference happening now in Leipsig. From the press release:

Harold Orr and his collaborators already realized 40 years ago that efficiency is the key to sustainable construction, since energy which is produced in the summer cannot automatically be transferred to the winter,” says Dr. Wolfgang Feist, Director of the Passive House Institute. The methods used for improving the energy efficiency of the Saskatchewan Conservation House were an important source of inspiration for the subsequent development of the Passive House concept. "The building did not only have an excellent level of thermal protection, it was also constructed to be extremely airtight and as one of the first in the world, it had a ventilation system with heat recovery.

It should be noted that Regina, Saskatchewan is REALLY cold. This was during the first oil crisis and the committee was looking at solar powered houses, but Orr and his team figured that this wouldn't work. He writes in Passipedia: "As a committee we examined these problems and came to the conclusion that solar heating of a home in Saskatchewan was not appropriate, but we could and would build a Conserving House appropriate for Saskatchewan." The simple super-insulated solution still makes sense.

Bravo to the Passivhaus Institute for recognizing Harold Orr and the Saskatchewan Conservation House. It's about time.

Tags: Awards | Germany | passive house


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