46 Unit Passivhaus Apartment Building Opens in the Hot and Steamy Yangtze Delta

©. Passivhaus Institute

"Passive House" has always been a silly name for a terrific idea and a bad translation of the German Passivhaus; not only because it is not truly passive, but also because haus does not just mean house as we think of it in English; it can be any kind of building.

For instance, this Passivhaus Bruck in Changxing, China, in the hot and humid Yangtze River Delta, contains 46 residential units, including 36 one room staff flats for employees of builder Shanghai Landsea, 6 two room executive suites and 4 model apartment suites that people can check into to try out living in a Passivhaus environment. Designed by Peter Ruge Architekten, it's part of the company's plan to develop a research center to "test, improve and implement innovative, energy saving and sustainable building practices in China."

There are some people in the Passive House US gang who keep saying that the passivhaus standard doesn't work for hot humid climates, but it seems to work here:

cladding detail passivhaus bruck

© Peter Ruge Architekten

In the hot summer, the pilot project, which has been certified by the international Passive House Institute, is protected from too much sun by fixed shading elements. Pleasant indoor temperatures at all times of the year are further provided by a well-insulated building envelope, a highly efficient ventilation system and triple-glazing of the floor-to-ceiling windows. The rest of the will is shaded by coloured terracotta rods.
typical floor passvhaus bruck

© Peter Ruge Architekten

Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of Passivhaus and Director of the Passivhaus institute, enjoyed his visit and says in a press release: "My stay there was very satisfying, and I'm sure that many Chinese guests will also be impressed and convinced by the experience of an overnight stay in this Passive House building."

But then he certainly is biased.

wall detail

© Peter Ruge Architekten

It is an interesting wall design, with the terracotta rods providing both shading and aesthetics. In a BASF press release we learn a little more about how this building keeps people cool in the hot weather, where Dr. Feist explains:

Passive Houses make efficient use of the sun, internal heat sources and heat recovery, rendering conventional heating systems unnecessary throughout even the coldest of winters. During warmer months, Passive Houses make use of passive cooling techniques such as strategic shading to keep comfortably cool. Special windows and a building envelope consisting of a highly insulated roof and floor slab as well as highly insulated exterior walls keep the desired warmth in the house – or undesirable heat out. A ventilation system imperceptibly supplies constant fresh air, making for superior air quality without unpleasant draughts.
Corner detail Passivhaus Bruck

© Passivhaus Institute

The walls and ceiling appear to be insulated with BASF's polyurethane foams, with the graphite-infused Neopor panels in the walls.