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Green Building News

Passivhaus Combatants Continue To Speak Out

Round 4: No, they haven't stopped arguing

Katrin Klingenberg, the founder of Passive House Institute U.S.
Image Credit: Martin Holladay

UPDATED 9/15/2011 with new blog links

While most of the Passivhaus world is tired of the bitter disagreements between the Passivhaus Institut (PHI) in Darmstadt, Germany, and the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) in Urbana, Illinois, the two principal combatants, Wolfgang Feist and Katrin Klingenberg, are unflagging.

There are no signs yet that either organization has a board of directors capable of preventing their leader from issuing another press release.

It is “necessary to defend our rights”

Klingenberg’s latest volley, “Summary of letter from PHIUS attorneys regarding Dr. Feist’s allegations,” was fired off on September 1, 2011. In her latest public letter, Klingenberg asserts:

  • “We thought it necessary to defend our rights publicly.”
  • “Dr. Feist alleges that PHIUS has no license to sell the PHPP spreadsheet and manual. … PHI granted E-co Lab a reseller contract that gave it the right to sell the PHPP spreadsheet and manual to end users in exchange for paying PHI a license fee per copy.”
  • “Dr. Feist further alleges that PHIUS made an illegal adaptation of the PHPP spreadsheet. However, the facts demonstrate that PHI expressly authorized the adaptation. … PHI eventually approved the spreadsheet.”
  • “Dr. Feist claims that PHIUS is offering competing passive house certifications. PHIUS has not offered competing certifications.”
  • “Dr. Feist has stated that the passive house concept is a ‘public good’ and that he desires to keep the passive house concept ‘internationally accessible and open to all.’ Yet he simultaneously resists our efforts to promote the concept in the United States.”
  • “We … feel that PHI is creating an inaccurate portrayal of PHIUS within the passive house community. We feel he is making false and damaging allegations about us.”

A plague on both their Haus-es?

A few bloggers are beginning to tire of the PHI-PHIUS spat. Once such blogger, Roger at the EdgewaterHaus blog, recently wrote, “I believe PHI and PHIUS actions have devalued the passive house currency to nearly worthless in the U.S. … So to both PHI and PHIUS, shame on you and your board of complicitors for having cut the legs out from under the fledging passive house movement here in the U.S. that you profess to love and nurture.”

Mike Eliason at Brute Force Collaborative reacted with this Tweet: “Does PHIUS really think I care that they’ve been at their attorney’s office over the PHI split? Losing faith rapidly…”

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21 Comments

  1. John Brooks | | #1

    Gasoline & Nancy Grace
    I'm glad to see that both sides are behaving like humans...
    shame on me for finding this drama interesting

    thanks Martin for Stokin the flame
    er...I meant to say reporting the facts ;--)

  2. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Response to John Brooks
    John,
    What can I say ... these press releases just keep showing up in my e-mail In box.

  3. K Willets | | #3

    (Reaching for popcorn)
    Low energy, and a lot of sniping...it's a Passive-Aggressive House.

  4. Brett Moyer | | #4

    Yeah whatever.
    John,

    I agree, this melodrama is boring and silly.

    But, I do appreciate Martin's reporting of this he said, she said.

  5. User avater
    Mike Eliason | | #5

    if PHIUS is a non-profit, how
    if PHIUS is a nonprofit organization that provides training, education and research - how can consultants be their 'client base' and how can PHI (or Dr. Feist, there is some ambiguity in the PHIUS letter) 'interfere' with business relationships? i've talked to a few folks that were taken aback by this presumption - and even further disturbed that the latest PHIUS newsletter casually discussed PHIUS talking with their attorney. i frankly don't see how this is relevant to advancing passivhaus in the u.s. - or something that should be casually disseminated.

    time to move on, take the high road and pull up our sleeves. as greg howes sagely posted on our blog,

    "I believe resources are optimally invested in working/collaborating with other innovators to demonstrate what is possible by actually building real projects... Now back to building."

  6. User avater
    Ted Clifton | | #6

    I am bored with the whole PassivHaus concept...
    We have now built a few homes that out-perform the passive house model, at considerably lower initial cost than a typical "passive house". They have lost sight of the forrest for all the trees, and this in-fighting is further evidence that they are not working with a full deck.

    None of our homes have met the .6 ACH50 requirement of the passive house, yet our Painted Hills House (1002 sf) has now produced enough surplus energy in its first seven months of operation to power a Nissan Leaf more than 12,800 miles. The ductless mini-split has not yet been activated, even though nighttime temperatures in February averaged less than twenty degrees, with lows down in the single-digits. The house has been successfully cooled this summer, with average highs in the upper eighties and low nineties, with a HEPA filter-based balanced fan system that can be operated for less then two cents per day. The house has not been less than sixty-five degrees nor more than 75 degrees at any time, without the ductless mini-split activated. The hot water is from a solar hot water system and the electric back-up for that has not been activated either.
    We have a larger home (1915 sf) nearing completion in Ballard, WA (a neighborhood of Seattle) that will preform very similarly. Lets get over the silly names, and name-calling, and work on sharing what we have learned about building great homes. We can very easily supply all of our energy needs with renewable sources right now, if we concentrate on what is really important, instead of all the foo-foo!

  7. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    Response to Kendall Willets
    Kendall,
    Thanks for the chuckle.

    Dr. Feist wrote, "I'm only human," and we onlookers are only human too, which explains the "reach for the popcorn" impulse.

    Eventually (I hope), the combatants will stop issuing press releases and the dust will clear.

  8. Michael Hindle | | #8

    patience and humility
    It is clear that both institutions and individuals have invested an enormous amount of personal effort at advancing this approach to low-energy design in a sincere effort to mitigate damage to our climate. I have great respect for the work of both parties and I completely understand how distressing an experience this must be for Ms.Klingenberg, who has poured herself tirelessly into this effort for several years now. It is also clear that some rather serious allegations have been made. I do take these matters seriously and understand that emotions will naturally run high.
    Being mindful of this, I think we could all step back and let the dust settle, and not add our dismissive "shame on you" rhetoric to the heap. I am sincerely glad that Mr. Clifton has had such success, and I agree that the best thing to do is get back to work and share our knowledge and experience. (I also know that PH is not the only path.) But given the serious threat to our climate and the rarity of the kinds of buildings we are all trying to build, I am far from "bored" or complacent. We do need the efforts of both Dr. Feist and Ms. Klingenberg (and all of us trying to implement wise building strategies). In the Buddhist philosophy, ignorance and apathy are right next to aggression as non-virtuous actions. The best we can do at this point is work to help heal this rift and respectfully urge both sides back to the table. I am quite sure that humility, patience and good faith will be necessary to get back to mutual respect and cooperation. Perhaps the observers in the gallery could afford to practice a bit of the same.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Michael Hindle - INDRAlogic Architecture

  9. Kevin Dickson, MSME | | #9

    Irrelevant by now
    The real goal has always been conserving energy while conserving cash and minimizing poisons. Ted and others have shown that ultra rigid prescriptive requirements are unnecessary, which makes a Passive House Institute irrelevant on any continent. Let's get back to the real goals (with respect and cooperation, of course).

    The name always caused too much confusion anyway.

  10. User avater
    Ted Clifton | | #10

    Thank you for your support.
    Michael & Kevin,

    My knowledge is free for the asking, no confusing names, no rigid imperatives. This entire area of knowledge is advancing too rapidly for there to be any pre-conceived notions. One of the axioms I share with my clients is that anything I tell them today will be wrong tomorrow. Please continue to keep me humble!

    Thank you!

  11. Brian O' Hanlon | | #11

    We have lost the big picture unfortunately
    Consider a few words written recently by G.K. VanPatter, one person who seems to be breaking into a new field which combines aspects of design thinking and management consultancy.

    To compress alot of complexity here suffice it to say that many adult humans have numerous deep skills and very sharp tools from eras and contexts other than that being encountered today. Suffice it to say that under numerous headings there is a massive skill adaptation shift underway among adult humans. Presently one can see in the marketplace multiple generations of adult humans in schools, in businesses, in non-profits organizations all grappling with skill-shift adaptation.

    I believe, the subset described by VanPatter includes most of the people involved in the current Passive House saga. It includes Dr. Feist himself, Ms. Klingenberg and many, many of the architects, carpenters and other interesting parties that frequent the Green Building Advisor. Many of us have acquired those 'deep and very sharp tools' which VanPatter referred to. However, we are facing into an entirely new century. One in which technology and new modes of communication, organisation and cooperation will have to be developed, from scratch, to enable us to continue on a forward path.

    I have tried to wave this flag a little recently over at the Green Architects Lounge section of the Green Building Advisor website. In terms of 'stepping back', or taking deep breaths, or getting on with it - or whatever expression one cares to use - at some point somewhere, we have to face up to the kind of thing that VanPatter mentions. I like to think of it like this. We have a finite supply of human potential and human resource capacity. It is not good enough any longer to simply discard human resources, the way we have become accustomed to doing with other goods. Moving people around, like they are columns or rows, or cells on a spreadsheet instrument. We have to get much, much better at getting optimal levels of performance within the 'group', the collective. We have to get a way more clever in terms of re-cycling our human resources for better use, from one generation to the next.

    We can continue with announcements such as 'zero new jobs' created in north America in the past year. But where is that going to get us? Where are all of these 'green collar' jobs that were to be created? What we need in addition to green collar jobs, are more sophisticated thinking about how we cooperate and organise, in the new century. We owe this to ourselves, and more than anything, we owe it to our children. In the rush to develop new green innovation in the 2000's, it was the weak link that failed once again. The intersection point, where skill in cooperation and organisation, has advanced far enough, to give the opportunity to pursue the mission.

  12. Michael Hindle | | #12

    far from irrelevant
    I think all of us agree on the ultimate goal of performance optimization and reducing poisons. I think we could also agree that any tool that is helpful in achieving this goal is far from irrelevant. I know a lot of Passive House Consultants (and am one myself) and I do not know a single Passive House "partisan." Everyone I know who has used the Passive House Planning Package basically acknowledges it as a very useful tool - one of those sharp tools Mr. O'Hanlon is referring to.

    I went to the Passive House Conference in Portland, OR last fall and saw many presentations by individuals exploring how to use this design tool most effectively in their particular circumstances. Not a single one of them was blindly accepting any narrow prescription (indeed there are no prescribed ways of hitting the PH standard - which is, after all, only a target for reduction in energy use consistent with what climate scientists are telling us is required) or failed to mention when additional analysis or practical experience was required beyond what is currently in the PH "arsenal". It is clearly very good that there are multiple paths to get to low-energy, zero-energy, or carbon neutral buildings, but the fact that Mr. Clifton or any of us has done so once, twice, or 30 times doesn't even come close to addressing the gravity of the impending climate crisis. The effort to broadly implement such change in our design and construction culture is dramatically advanced by the thoughtful use of standards and such design/measurement tools as the PHPP. What we do individually needs to be the leading edge of a total change in the culture. Anything that can help people see and value the benefit of design decisions will help make our efforts repeatable and generate a broad culture shift is very useful.
    Therefore, Mr. Dickson, I would respectfully suggest that to call this or any useful tool or successful approach irrelevant on this or any continent is, in my opinion, to wildly under-estimate what needs to be accomplished, particularly when we have seen that it can be so successful.

    Mr. O'hanlons comments are very helpful here. "getting optimal levels of performance within the 'group', the collective. We have to get a way more clever in terms of re-cycling our human resources for better use, from one generation to the next. "

    In order to accomplish this we need ways to communicate and share, and in my limited experience the PH approach, the PHPP as a tool, and the community have been a very effective means of sharing and participating in this collective. Communities like this (like democracy) are messy and have political tensions etc. and some mistakes are made - but they are not irrelevant.

  13. Brian O' Hanlon | | #13

    New Project Delivery Systems
    Michael,

    The main thing to realize as I understand it, is that groups fail for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes groups fail spectacularly. Sometimes they fail for very subtle reasons, which are not always apparent. The issue I tried to raise at Mr. VanPatter's Linked In Group this summer, was the notion of the 'team as prototype', a vehicle for learning, at education institutions where design and engineering is taught. Having returned to third level education recently, twenty years after being a young freshman in 1992, I have seen the curriculum in universities is full of ideas about group dynamics and group assignments. However, what I have seen in terms of implementation, has left me fairly shocked.

    I could go on and on about this subject. I have written some blog entries. I have composed a few things, which I uploaded to the 'Next Design Leadership' group at Linked In for that community's attention. However, in the end Mr. VanPatter assured me that my efforts to understand the problem and grapple with it, only have scratched the surface. He assured me that there is a significant body of knowledge there now, and some well worn paths. He offered me many document links and publications of his, which I hope to follow up on, in the coming years. VanPatter's own background was in architecture, so he is very familiar with the challenges faced, by those working within long established traditional work environments and processes.

    The wonderful thing, about this new field, is that unlike America's difficulty in changing its habits in transportation, energy use and environmental design in many areas - I do think Americans can lead the world - in their contribution to research of new ways to be more productive in teams, and get more out of the available human potential. About a year ago I took a big step back, having completed an initial training I undertook, in energy assessment processes, for the 2002 European directive for Energy Performance in Buildings. I realized that most of the influence was exerted at a higher level than the designer. It happens in the procurement levels, and the project delivery levels. Sure, if one is an architect with a suitable client in the smaller scale of project, you can exercise considerable influence. Passive House is very effective in that sense. It is a great tool, and a great guide.

    I can leave you with some quick references. A useful little paper I read this summer. Gary S. Berman's 2002 paper to a national CMAA conference at San Diego in October 2002. In a way, Berman's paper is very like a spat in construction between multiple strands of green energy efficient design theory. But what Berman was referring to in his paper, was the lack of coordination between the CM institute, the Architects' one and construction industry in north America.

    "Rather than the AIA, CMAA and AGC engaging their members to update specific provisions of scope and liability, maybe each association needs to take a step back and examine their agreements in contrast to the way architecture, contracting and construction management is practiced today."

    Berman's comment about the introduction of 'value engineering change proposals' into the context of existing AIA, CMAA or AGC contracts was interesting I think. Basically, Berman is describing the difficulties that arise today, when we try to bolt positive new work processes such as Value Engineering, onto processes, which are greatly defined by traditional perceptions of roles and responsibilities. I quote again:

    "A few years later the curtain wall failed and lawsuits and allegations were abound. The issue was which party “owned” the new design – was it the Architect’s responsibility, the CM’s, the Owner’s or the Contractor’s?"

    The Morphing of the Architect's Role and How It Is Impacting the CM
    by Gary S. Berman, FCMAA
    http://www.cmaanet.org/cm-ejournal

    Another literary reference I have used in my dissertation studies this summer, was: Preparing for Design-Build Projects: A Primer for Owners, Engineers, and Contractors, by James E. Koch, Keith R. Molenaar Douglas D. Gransberg. It is the kind of book, which attempts to describe, the nature of the changes and the preparation that is required when an industry, such as the construction industry, is to alter its normal process in some way or another. In the book I refer to above, the emphasis is on state level departments of transport, much of the time. The book looks at the ways in which 'design build' delivery systems can be brought into existing organisations.

    It is funny really. Because having spoken to several 'experts' in my country about their attitude to the brand new Design-Build contracts we are getting here in the public sector, many of our experts think DB is only a new type of contract. Some of the more enlightened in the industry, tend to understand DB as a new procurement system. But the authors of the text that I reference, go to lengths to explain DB is more than a contract, more than a procurement system, and in fact, is a whole project delivery system. In order to make it adoptable in the situations I refer to above, you need to think of it in those broader terms. In a sense, we have a challenge ahead of ourselves to think about Passive design and other standards - beyond contractual types, beyond procurement systems - and to expand them into entire project delivery systems. Bearing in mind all the above, I think the area of expertise of VanPatter and others like him, is relevant, from an organisational change management point of view.

  14. Brian O' Hanlon | | #14

    The Team as Prototype
    I know very few here will have the time to go and search for my writing over at my blog, or Linked In groups. I think it might be useful to share one small piece with the Green Building Advisor community. A comment piece I made for the Next Design Leadership Linked In group, about education and the introduction of group working skills. Enjoy.

    I've been thinking about some of the anecdotes I shared recently with the Next Design group, about the challenge or making it work, when you ask groups of students to perform assignments in the education setting. I found it difficult to put my finger on exactly where the problem lies, and after listening to a podcast interview featuring Tom Kelley of IDEO (and author of 'Ten Faces of Innovation') this evening, a thought did strike me out of the blue. Kelley was talking about a defibrillator his company designed. In the initial prototype stage they thought it would be a great idea to make it like a notebook computer. However, upon testing out this prototype, they found that people struggled to figure out how to un-latch the device and open it up like a clam shell. That stopped them in their tracks, and they changed course and worked with a 'brick' form instead. The user didn't have to waste any time on opening it up.

    It was Kelley's comment about his process which I found of interest. He said with a prototype, he tries to use the feedback as a way to teach him about the problem. That is, instead of trying to defend the original idea. In my experience as a participant in many of these group student assignments down through the years, I have found there was never any grades given to students for treating their team or group, as a prototype. That is, learning from the feedback. Instead, what I normally observed was tutors and mentors who would try to defend their original idea. This approach to team work has to work. It has to work, because I came up with it. People who have worked in industries for years, and are veterans of many consecutive real life projects are often the worst to have as professors, in charge of group assignments.

    The reality may be, those professors have sold themselves in the marketplace as high value added people, with the right answers. Surely to admit defeat in the configuration of a group assignment for students, would be a major come down! The simple truth of the matter is, that groups may fail and will fail in all manner of ways - some spectacular and some quite subtle, or multi-dimensional. We can learn the most from the observation of how teams are set up often, to fail, by this setting or that adjustment. That is why I think, that at undergraduate level in education, the team should become a prototype, and a vehicle for learning.

  15. Roger Brisson | | #15

    cultural disconnect
    I think we're dealing with a huge cultural disconnect between Germany and the US, and this chasm is a big reason for the unfortunate state of affairs. The German building trades--in particular the green building trades--are so far ahead of the US that for most Germans the US comes across as a Third World country today, albeit a schizophrenic one since Americans *used* to be able to do things well. While Germany has been methodically developing standards and the infrastructure for strict environmental standards since the 80s, the US has stagnated. I generally find the low standards and expectations in the building trades here in New England exasperatingly bad. Visiting German engineers, architects, and other leaders in the building industry see this, and can only walk away shaking their heads. I think this is a big reason why PHI has not been able to work with PHIUS. It's all fine and well to be touchy-feely "we're all in this together, we're just one big team", etc, but unless you've got the expertise and skills it's pretty hard to work in the same playing field.

  16. Brian O' Hanlon | | #16

    Architecture as an Export Industry
    Guys,

    This is a bit long. But on the point of cultural differences, it is worth throwing into the mix also, some comments about Europe. In the Netherlands for instance, they tend to be very advanced in terms of architectural training. I remember when I was in architecture school in Ireland, going back 10 to 15 years ago, we were all very jealous of the Dutch schools of architecture, and some of those in the United Kingdom also. In fact, at various times as students in group travelling excursions we would visit the schools in places like Barcelona, London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Paris and so forth. I never got as far as Germany strangely enough, although I did make it as far as the architecture school in Helsinki on one of my last outings.

    But here is the point that needs to be made. The system in the Netherlands in particular was very revolutionary in terms of architectural education. The schools there managed to attract lecturing staff from all over the world, and much of public money in the Netherlands was invested in schools of architecture. Usually, it is the other way around. The best architects from Europe end up teaching in the prime schools of architecture in north America. There are many stories of Irish architects travelling to the United States, just to pursue masters level education at places such as MIT, Columbia, Princeton and so forth. Many Irish architects got as far as the United States and even met such people as Mies van der Rohe, but did not have the money to pursue their education there.

    Martin, myself and some others were speaking about Frank Llyod Wright on another comment thread today. There is one true story of a pair of Irish architects (years and years ago), who sailed a yacht across the Atlantic ocean, and then proceeded to Taliesin West to Frank Llyod Wright's architectural school. They just showed up and offered to do farm work and cooking in order to pay for some architectural training from Wright. I guess, that was in a time when borders were more open and people moved more freely than today. A time, long before, homeland security etc. But perhaps, back then you also had McCarthy-ism.

    The point I am going to make though, and apologises for taking such a long time to make it - is that many are now critical of the system of architectural education in the Netherlands. For all it's successes there are many who believed that all knowledge of construction technology was lost, in the architectural profession in the Netherlands, because of the new direction it took with its education policy. That is a very double edged sword. Because much of the time, you can read about the marvellous and famous architecture firms that have come from the Netherlands and done so many important completed projects around the world. In fact, most architects I know in their 20's or 30's want to move to the Netherlands for some time, to go and work for the famous architectural practices there.

    But one cannot escape the criticisms of the system in the Netherlands, regarding how architects are trained in terms of construction technology. In fact, I know some Irish architects who have built projects in the Netherlands. On one occasion they decided it would be good to visit their project under construction in the Netherlands. They arrived at the gates of the site, and said they were the architects. The contractor looked very puzzled. His attitude was, why would an architect ever want to come to a site? I have heard mostly the same stories from the large projects in Beijing in China, where architectural firms from the Netherlands have been employed. That is, where the architects didn't spend an awful lot of time on site during the construction stage.

    It is just the culture that has developed there, in the midst of what is a very successful architectural industry in the Netherlands. Maybe the reason that architectural firms from the Netherlands are so successful is that they spend so little time on site visits! Architecture is a sizeable export industry in many European countries. The United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands would probably be the most successful. That is why it makes sense to put so much public money into architectural education in those countries. Because it comes out, maybe ten fold in export business further down the track.

    But for much of the twentieth century, the United States was like the Netherlands is today. Many young designers from Europe wanted to go and work for the best companies in north America. That is where it was all happening. During the bubble years in Ireland, Dublin city was the location that many young architects from around the world came to work. But the strange thing was, while the designs and stuff in Ireland were performed by many very talented persons from all over the globe - when it came to doing the construction documentation for those projects - I know from working personally for property developers in Ireland, that the construction documentation was outsourced to Eastern Europe.

    Imagine that. Some of the largest projects in Dublin were constructed using documents that were written in Polish! Go figure. I mean, the Polish and Eastern European construction technicians (many of the firms were Austrian based also), never set foot on Irish soil. They merely drafted the documents at home, and e-mailed them to Ireland. At that time, not many people cared about how the thing in Ireland was built or put together - as long as they got their name on it - and some contractor 'just did it'. We were starting to use out-sourcing services from as far away as India also I recall, but that all dried up with the economic collapse.

    Leo McGarry in the 'West Wing' TV series mentions, there are two things you never want to show people how they are made - sausages and laws. I think, we could almost add global outsourced architectural services to that list now.

    -

  17. Roger Brisson | | #17

    cultural disconnect pt 2
    Brian, an interesting and informative post, a big thanks for taking the time to write it. The point I'm making, of course, is not just the education and training of architects, but rather that of the trades in general. Germany has a strict polytechnic education system that includes a formal apprenticeship that lasts several years. A formally trained, licensed plumber, electrician, mason, or carpenter is a completely different animal than their counterparts in the United States. With Festool, Metabo, Bosch or AEG in hand, they consider themselves highly trained craftsmen who are very proud of and stand behind their work. I do see this level of skill, confidence, and pride in the trades people in Boston, but it's the exception, not the rule. The homes I lived in in Germany had an incomparably higher efficiency rating, and could be heated at a fraction of the energy of homes in New England, than in the US. And these were standard homes! Passivhaus sees this already high level of German home building as a "low" benchmark to work from, to improve on. The general social norms and conditions for the Passivhaus values taking root in Germany are radically different than here. Imagine a Peace Corps team trying to introduce a new water purification system or simple electricity in an African village and you'll begin to understand the nature of the challenges involved.

  18. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #18

    Response to Roger Brisson
    Roger,
    I agree with your comparison of the skills of German builders and the skills of average American construction workers. I'd like to make two points:

    1. The U.S. builders who are now interested in Passivhaus construction in the U.S. are not being drawn from the entire set of U.S. builders. Rather, they are being drawn from a subset of builders -- namely, builders who were already involved with the construction of superinsulated buildings. These builders have been using blower doors since 1984 (or earlier), and are no strangers to achieving strict airtightness targets. Just because the average architect and production builder didn't know of the existence of this dedicated subset of builders, doesn't mean it didn't exist.

    2. The spat between Feist and Klingenberg has nothing to do with a cultural disconnect, in my opinion. For one thing, Klingenberg (like Feist) grew up in Germany. Personality issues (including one trait, rigidity, that is apparently shared by both parties) appear to be the main factors leading to this inability to work together. (Again, this is my opinion.)

  19. Brian O' Hanlon | | #19

    German Construction
    Roger,

    Reading the above comment, I am very much reminded about a course module in 'Estimation techniques' I had to sit through last year at Limerick Institute of Technology here in Ireland. I had to pass an examination in that subject at the end of my second year also. The professor who taught us that subject had worked in the United States for many years as an Estimator for one of the smaller fit out contractors in the New York city area. What was very interesting in listening to the man speak throughout last year (he teaches a subject to the construction manager and craft worker courses in the same institution), was his comparison of the trades environment in both north America and Ireland/UK.

    Working as an Estimator in north America he was keenly aware of what rules generally apply in the trade environment over there. He mentioned the fact, that things like health insurance and pensions are better organised in north American than here in Ireland. Construction goes through deep slumps followed by upturns in a place such as Ireland. You tend to find that pension contributions made by companies on behalf of their workers is not nearly sufficient to carry them through leaner periods. Instead, they receive a massive injection of cash for a limited period of time, which they tend not to invest wisely.

    I suppose, it is okay to discuss designers and architects, and green design traditions etc. But at the end of the day, the end result depends on a lot more things, to do with society and how construction workers are treated within that society. That is what I found very interesting about the Estimation course I attended. He explained to us, some of the basic mathematics that is carried out to ascertain labour, time, schedules and so forth. But he put it into the broader context of the industry and the economy also.

    From the point of view of architects who have commented in public on the subject of trades and crafts in Germany, or in Ireland, or in general, one small Irish practice does stick out in my mind. Because all through the past decade they had offices in both Ireland and Germany. There name is Henchion Reuter. The reason I offer this reference, is in case, anyone reading this, may intend to carry out proper research at a later date on this whole subject.

    http://www.henchion-reuter.com/

    Another references that springs to my mind is the firm of Bucholz McEvoy who also established an office in Germany, and in fact, during the construction boom here in Ireland did import a lot of their construction parts and features from mid European suppliers and companies. In case anyone here, again, may carry out primary research into this field I offer it as another possible reference. Mr. Bucholz in that firm, is actually the president of the school of Architecture in Limerick city in Ireland.

  20. Brian O' Hanlon | | #20

    Comment to Martin
    There is a book, I think you would like to acquire some time Martin, by a British Architect, Howard Liddell, called Eco Minimalism. I attended a couple of lectures in Dublin in the past few years by Liddell himself and some of his associates. In one instance, I encountered the same idea as Bucholz McEvoy architects in Ireland. That is, where you procure a lot of your building (and if possible in some cases, the entire building), from an outside supplier from middle Europe. That is, Austria or Germany.

    There was a school project in particular, in Scotland, which Gaia architects (Liddell's firm) built using an Austrian pre-fabricated SIP panel technique of some sort. It was a very interesting lecture I remember. But it points to this consistent theme of where architects in Ireland (during what was a time of much economic prosperity during the 2000s), went outside the country in order to procure the levels of workmanship which they wanted.

    I am reminded of a lecture I attended of Paul Leech, an Irish architect on a project for the Navan town Credit Union building a number of years ago. There again, he used an all timber multi-storey structure to create an energy efficient office building. The construction of timber floors, columns, walls, everything was imported from Germany because we didn't have the technology in Ireland or the United Kingdom. I mention it, because some of the above names are folk the Green Building Advisor may interview at some stage in the future for features etc. A lot of good information on the above is available though, using a quick web search.

  21. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #21

    JLC reports on the PHI/PHIUS split
    The latest issue of the Journal of Light Construction includes a report on the PHI/PHIUS split.

    The article quotes Michael Blasnik, who says, “There are very smart people involved with passive house who are doing good work. They’re right to emphasize the importance of thermal bridging, and they have some excellent energy construction details. But the precision they’re after doesn’t exist in the real world. Why spend thousands of dollars doing energy modeling for super-tight buildings with phenomenal R-values? You know before you start that you’ll have an incredibly efficient home. Too much mystique and dogma diverts people into minor issues that don’t matter much.”

    Read more here: Passivhaus Institut and Passive House Institute U.S. Sever Ties.

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