The halls were packed with an enthusiastic crowd, and you could tell that the business of construction was back in a big way. The first place we hit was the Passive House Zone where a strong contingency of European companies are showcasing products that meet the super demanding needs of Passive House certification.
Doors and windows are large reasons why our homes consume much more energy than they need to. One of the latest and most interesting window companies to enter the US is Internorm. The company offers not only certified windows, but also doors and integrated solar powered window blinds. They have a slick triple pane glazing system where the glass comes right to the edge of the frame, much like a flat screen TV. Their doors are probably more efficient than your home’s wall.
Imagine a glass-based product that is not only highly insulative, but can support the weight of a building. Foamglas makes a R3.4 insulation board which can isolate the dreaded thermal bridge in places where no other product can be used. It’s a bit pricey and has been available for years, but using it where you need it makes for a real money saver—especially over the life of a building.
A super insulated wall and window is worthless without a good air seal, so 475 (named after the Passive House energy threshold of 4.75 kBTU per square foot per year) comes to the rescue with a library of air membranes and sealing tape for just about any application. The idea of using tape to air seal a house is new for the US, but in Europe not only is the practice standard, the products are extremely environmentally friendly—starting with non-toxic acrylic adhesives.
Airtight buildings need fresh air, so two companies showcased their extremely energy efficient Energy Recovery Ventilators (or ERVs). The newly released Air Pohoda iERV really turned heads with not only a crazy high 92% efficiency rate for heat exchange, but an intelligent humidity system that automatically controls indoor moisture. It is a first of its kind design.
Zehnder, the heavy weight in Passive House ERVs, showed off their Novus 300. Not to be confused with a washing machine (although amusingly they refer to its compact size in their literature) this monster has an industry leading 95% efficiency.
Now that the idea of energy efficiency is finally taking hold in the marketplace, the next obvious question to ask is ‘What do you insulate with?’ Ecocative shows off their multiple award winning and C2C certified Myco Foam, an insulation board made from mushrooms and fibers like hemp. Feel free to snicker, but their organic, raw materials are not only less costly than traditional petroleum based foam, but easily sourceable near manufacturing points. Put that in your pipe and smoke it American Chemistry Council.
Money may not grow on trees but insulation does. Another exciting development in the healthy insulation world is the introduction of cork for buildings. Not only can Thermacork be used to wrap a building in R-4 per inch sustainably harvested goodness, it can also be the façade of a building!
Vegetated walls systems are getting to be pretty common, but Greenwalls stood out for the beautiful array of plants they used. They brought up some surprising research which shows that indoor vegetation can significantly lower CO2 levels, which in turn reduces the need for fresh air that needs to be heated or cooled. Now that is green building thinking.
The always popular Big Ass Fans has gotten pretty sexy lately with their new line of Haiku Fans featuring integrated and dimmable LEDs. These slick fans use a measly 2-30 watts, and can be programmed with a remote control to change speeds automatically, such as in a bedroom where you don’t want to wake up to a blast of air.
Another product we are seeing more of are solar canopies for electric cars. The Renewz Solar Powered Carport is a sleek aluminum frame with a concrete base that is held into the ground with a couple of steel pins. The finishes and adjustability of the system were nice, and it certainly didn’t hurt them to have a BMW i3 tucked underneath.
All photos Andrew Michler for Inhabitat