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Green Building Curmudgeon

Das Haus Tour

Several German organizations work hard to put together a curious green building exhibit

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Das Haus exhibit includes one complete habitable structure and one display unit, all covered by an awning.
Das Haus exhibit includes one complete habitable structure and one display unit, all covered by an awning. One of the few commercial products on display is a "natural" prefabricated wall panel from HIB systems. A wall section from the 2007 German entry into the Solar Decathlon competition is on display along with a key to the different components.

I attended an event in October called the Das Haus tour – a prefab “house” sponsored by the German Consulate General that will be roaming the country for about a year. The first stop was in Atlanta, so although I was one of the first people to see it, I don’t understand the point of the venture.

Quoting the glossy brochure distributed at the event I attended, “Central to the exhibition is an integrated, fully functioning structure that applied real-world technologies and solutions that meet ultra-low energy building standards.” What I saw didn’t even come close to resembling this.

The actual exhibit, on the lawn of the World of Coca Cola, an enormous, if entertaining, pseudo-museum dedicated to the biggest purveyor of sugar water on the planet, was an assembly of modified shipping containers that sort of resembled a building.

Not much there, there

Seeing the exhibit in person provided me with little, if any insight into what it was intended to explain to visitors. I did get a little more information once I downloaded the technical brochure from the website. The two-pronged approach of the project is to promote energy efficient and renewable technologies to the general public. The technologies on exhibit were inspired by Germany’s entries into the 2007 and 2009 Solar Decathlon, so it bears some resemblance to those mobile home sized projects.

What it didn’t appear to have was a particularly coherent message or story to tell to visitors. One section was a fully enclosed living module that resembled many uber-modern compact homes. Another section displayed various types of high efficiency walls sections with explanations of the various components. Sprinkled around were a few displays of commercial products including prefabricated wall components and solar panels which appeared to be paid advertisements from invited sponsors.

I get the feeling that they had hoped to have more of these displays, but did not get the expected participation from vendors. After viewing the exhibit, few of the attendees seemed to have much of an understanding of what they had seen.

The hidden value

Disregarding my disappointment with the exhibit, there were several days of presentations while it was in Atlanta. Although I was not able to attend them, they looked interesting, including one on solar-ready housing and one on barriers to clean energy market transformation.

I would have liked to attend some of these talks, but I would have preferred even more to be invited to give one myself (I never said I wasn’t the jealous type).

To me the whole event resembles exhibits I have seen at trade shows that are organized by foreign chambers of commerce and consulates where various vendors are invited (or coerced) to show their wares in hopes of expanding their business in the US. To me, these appear to be primarily a way to spend money to justify the various organizations existence and continued funding.

Having already visited Atlanta and Houston, Das Haus is headed to Phoenix in January, San Francisco in February, then to Canada and more U.S. cities until it closes in Denver in November 2012. If anyone in Atlanta or Houston has seen it and has any thoughts to add, please share them.

And for those of you who will have the pleasure of seeing Das House next year, please keep me in mind when you do.

One Comment

  1. Brenda Pike | | #1

    Das Haus Tour
    I had the chance to see this in Cambridge. While I can see that that signage doesn't convey a lot of information, the two MIT students who were my tour guides gave great, very detailed explanations about the exhibit, and answered a lot of questions. I'm not an architect or contractor, so my knowledge of the passive house standard was very limited, and I think that's the demographic they may be going for.

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