Passivhaus is Climate Action

Ken in line of protest
© That's Ken Levenson in the hat on the right/ Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Architects and builders take to the streets for the Extinction Rebellion, get arrested.

After the House of Commons was bombed in the Second World War, there was some debate about whether to rebuild it as it was or use a different form. Winston Churchill wanted it rebuilt, noting that, "We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us."

For architects and designers, this is particularly true. We are shaped by the buildings we study, love, and design. Many are passionate about their work, and the most passionate I have met are usually at Passivhaus conferences, like the upcoming one put on by the North American Passive House Network (NAPHN), an organization which promotes "a sustainable, post-carbon, all-renewable energy future – supported by buildings that are efficient, comfortable, affordable, resilient and healthy."

Ken Levenson is on the board of NAPHN and is helping to organize this year's conference in New York City. He's also a founder of 475 High Performance Building Supply, which sells products used in Passivhaus buildings. He's been on TreeHugger a few times, particularly as one of the early advocates in the war on plastic foam. He's pretty passionate.

Ken Levenson getting arrested© Ken Levenson getting arrested/ Photo by Dan Yafet

He joined the Extinction Rebellion NYC in New York City last week and ended up getting himself arrested. I asked him why he was there:

Coming across the Extinction Rebellion website this spring was a gut punch that immediately reminded me of the feeling I had first discovering Passive House about a decade ago. This was a group not afraid of confronting our dire climate reality and taking proportionate action - and I had to be a part of it. The thought of actually getting arrested hadn't really occurred to me until I signed up for the group online - then it seemed obvious. So with the enthusiastic support of my two young daughters and wife, I joined a group of 60 other amazing people from 16 years old to probably near 80.

activists© Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

He was not the only passionate Passivhaus activist arrested, either.

Sitting in jail that afternoon, things came full circle as I was introduced to a local Passive House affordable housing executive. He had first been arrested protesting in the civil rights movement decades ago. It gave me the feeling that we were sitting on the right side of the jailhouse bars.

mantrasLloyd Alter/ Mantras and manifestos/CC BY 2.0

We have often talked on TreeHugger about how we have to get serious and radical if we are going to be able to deal with climate change. This was a slide I presented to my sustainable design students about what we would be talking about this year, about radical steps we can take to fight climate change:

Radical Efficiency – Everything we build should use as little energy as possible.
Radical Simplicity – Everything we build should be as simple as possible.
Radical Sufficiency – What do we actually need? What is the least that will do the job? What is enough?

I wanted my students to realize that we are in a serious crisis and that we have to get radical about everything we do. I wanted them to get passionate. But Ken Levenson shows that we have to do even more.

Jessica Grove-Smith speaking at NYPHJessica Grove-Smith speaking at NYPH conference / Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I have previously written that bikes are climate action. So is Passivhaus. Ken Levenson has asked if TreeHugger could help promote the upcoming NAPHN Conference in New York City on June 27, so I am going to call on all the subversive Passivhaus radicals to join him for some serious climate action. It's unlikely anyone will get arrested.

Chris Corson's truckChris Corson's truck/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Although I might lie in front of Chris Corson's truck if he drives it there again. Who knows what might happen then.

Posts that mention Ken Levenson are in related links below.

Passivhaus is Climate Action
Architects and builders take to the streets for the Extinction Rebellion, get arrested.

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