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Green Building News

Promoting Passivhaus in Bulgaria

Massachusetts architect Guergana Barabonkova has launched a design competition for a single-family Passivhaus project in Sofia, Bulgaria

Passivhaus and reconstruction. The founder of the Passive House Bulgaria design competition, Guergana Barabonkova, and a colleague, Miroslava Tevena, designed this Passivhaus project, called Resilient House, for a competition held last year by the web-based DesignByMany community of designers. Contestants were challenged to develop plans for code-compliant houses in the shotgun architectural style common to New Orleans.
Image Credit: Studio GB Architecture

Updated with a revised competition timetable.

With the Passivhaus standard already well established in Western Europe, Guergana Barabonkova, a Massachusetts-based architect and cofounder of Passive House Bulgaria, sees this as a good time to give the standard a boost in her native country. Bulgaria’s generally moderate climate, after all, should make building to the standard relatively straightforward, and Passivhaus is nicely aligned with the precepts of the Kyoto protocol, which Bulgaria ratified. The building standard could help Bulgaria meet the carbon-reduction goals of the European Union.

In an interview this month with urban-design forum SHIFTboston, Barabonkova highlighted these issues as part of the backdrop to an architectural initiative called the Passive House Bulgaria electronic design competition, which opened registration on January 16 and will accept both contest registrations and project submissions until March 16. The participating design teams and the public will have from March 19 to April 6 to vote for their favorites, the 10 finalists will be announced on April 9, and an eight-member jury will announce the winning projects on April 16. (Click here for more contest information.)

Making the most of a temperate climate

A principal of Studio GB Architecture, Barabonkova has recent experience as a design-competition contestant herself, having collaborated with a colleague, Miroslava Tevena, on a Passivhaus design for an affordable shotgun-style home suitable for the hot and humid climate of New Orleans. Presented by web-based design community DesignByMany, the competition attracted many entries, including Barabonkova and Tevena’s Resilient House, whose modeling showed airtightness of 0.2 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure difference; primary energy demand at 94 kWh/(m2a), and cooling energy demand at 7 kWh/(m2a).

Passive House Bulgaria contestants will be given climate data for Lozen, near Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Acquiring materials for such a project in Bulgaria should be relatively cost-effective because Europe’s running start on Passivhaus has created a solid market for building products suited to the standard, said Barabonkova, whose firm has a single-family Passivhaus project underway in Bulgaria.

Despite the EU’s current debt problems, Passivhaus has the economic wind at its back in other ways as well, she added. As are most Europeans, Bulgarians “are concerned over the high prices of the gasoline and the energy, and they are looking into finding ways to reduce their energy use. And the interest in Passive House building is growing rapidly.”


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