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Each of the exemplary projects was selected for a special feature.

The Lindas row houses in Sweden are impressive because they achieve high-performance in a cold northern climate with long winter nights. Equally notable is the courage of the client and architect to build not just one prototype house, but a whole housing tract of row houses. It is also interesting to see solar hot water production given the very short and often overcast days during half of the year in Sweden. This is offset, however, by the other half of the year, with long days and an equal demand for domestic hot water (DHW).

The row houses in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, provided an ideal field laboratory to examine how effective different constructions and design are in achieving high performance. Of interest here was not just the energy consumed over the operational life of the buildings, but also energy consumption over the whole life cycle, from construction through 50 anticipated years of service to demolition at the end. It was also interesting to see what proportion the infrastructure (streets and utilities) make of the total energy picture of a community. The project also served as a demonstration project, promising the transition from a coal and heavy industry economy and fossil fuel dependency to a new era based on solar energy. This was one of the first of an ambitious state programme to build 50 solar communities.

Sunny Woods in Zurich shows that engineering housing to require very little energy can also lead to prize-winning architectural design. Integration of vacuum tube solar thermal collectors in the balcony balustrades, large windows for passive solar and daylight gains, and a full surface photovoltaic roof for electricity production are aesthetic qualities belonging to this project. The project also demonstrates that very low energy housing can also fulfil the high expectations of buyers on the high end of the real estate market.

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Source: VARIOTEC GmbH & Co. KG, DE-92318 Neumarkt, http://variotec.de

Figure I.2 Installation of a vacuum-insulated roof panel

The Wechsel apartments in Stans, Switzerland, by contrast, are for the middle of the market buyers. Photovoltaic and thermal solar collectors, as well as mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, were also possible within the building budget.

Most challenging was to build high-performance housing as social housing, given the budget constraints of the state. Ingenuity was called for because techniques to solve problems such as thermal bridges and fire breaks had to be developed in order to save costs without compromising performance.

Lastly, the single family detached house in Thening, Austria, as a house form, achieved the same level of performance as with larger structures. 'Small' also means a very high area to volume (A/V) ratio of envelope surface area losing heat to the heated volume.

These projects demonstrate that there are many approaches which can achieve high-performance, very low energy housing. Part I of this book examines a selection of technologies to achieve this performance.

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