Compared to their fellow Europeans, Bulgarians are no energy hogs, using about half as much power per capita as the EU average. The challenge is to bring their standard of living up to that of their neighbors, with little to no increase in energy consumption -- a problem passive-house design seems tailor-made for solving.
Last week, Passive House Bulgaria announced the winner of its international design competition for an ultra-low energy home in the village of Lozen, near the capital city of Sofia. Such houses can reduce heating and cooling needs by approximately 90 percent through super-insulation, natural ventilation, site planning, and energy recovery.
The winning design, by the firms dontdiy and AEE Asian European Engineering Ltd., features largely buried "mechanical, storage, and sleeping" areas to improve insulation and an open-plan second floor to optimize natural ventilation. It "utilizes freely available snow in winters to offset summer cooling load" and incorporates solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, rainwater collection, greywater recycling, a wildlife-friendly green roof, and outdoor lighting that minimizes light pollution.
According to the judging panel of architectural professionals from various countries, the winners employed an "excellent design and sustainable concept" and a "well-thought-out integration of mechanical systems, daylighting, and architecture."
Designs that won honorable mentions incorporated additional sustainable features, including food-producing gardens, natural building materials such as strawbale and sand/cob plaster, increased permeable surfaces, and recycled-paper insulation.
Overall, the judges said the entries showed "a high level of design creativity with a combination of both beauty and energy efficiency that is very exciting and promising." While they may not break new ground on an international level, seeing green ideas for buildings spread to new places is always a hopeful sign.