Just returned from my travels to Switzerland and Germany and wanted to share a little about the different people, products, companies and experiences I had. It was very inspiring to see so many breakthrough, high-end building materials and concepts for high performance buildings.
Klaus Müller from Optiwin probably makes the most energy-efficient windows in the world. We used his "Three3wood" window at Waldsee BioHaus. As a Passivhaus-certified window, it was rated at R-8. But his newest creation is the "Four3wood" window with an overall rating of better than R-10! As an option, this window can also incorporate a Venetians blind system to reduce summer heat gains. He made a sample for me to bring back to the U.S. and it boggled the minds of all family members I showed it to during our Thanksgiving get- together!
On my way from Zurich to Munich, I stopped in Kempten. That's the location of Porextherm, the manufacturer of vacuum insulation panels called Vacupor® VIP’s for the building industry. I believe this technology, based on the "thermos- bottle principle," may play an important role in the future of buildings meeting the 2000-Watt Society vision. A team from the German station SWR-TV was also present during my visit to conduct an interview with me on the "thermos-bottle principle," high-performance buildings and the status of energy in the U.S. (I promise to share some of the video as soon as I get my hands on it!)
In the outskirts of Munich, I then met with Thomas Brandmeier, from Lüfta, a company specializing in high-efficiency, air-handling units with a flat plate heat recovery unit with efficiencies above 80%.
I love to meet with and talk to people who are dedicated to taking on the challenges of today’s world and working hard to find new solutions – especially in the building sector. Besides the three product manufacturers I connected with, I also had lunch with my friend Roland Stulz from Novatlantis – now that was fun – thank you Roland!
And there's never a trip where I don’t tour a completed building or one that's under construction! On this trip I did both. I visited the construction site of the new "Letzigrund Stadium" for the City of Zurich. This multi-purpose sports stadium for the world-famous track & field event, "Weltklasse Zurich" and the location of the 2008 European soccer championship, is being built to meet all necessary functional requirements and is going to be a beautiful piece of architecture. (live webcam) It's also going to meet the City of Zurich's strict goals for building performance and sustainability such as the Minergie energy standard. For example, when I was touring the construction site, crews were installing eight inches of insulation to the ceiling of the underground parking to the occupied spaces.
The other building project I visited was the new office building "Forum Chriesbach" of EAWAG, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Dübendorf. This building is representing the leading edge of sustainability by meeting the 2000-Watt Society vision. In respect to energy, it meets or exceeds the Passivhaus standard. In respect to water, it uses the building itself as a research tool. For example, it has urine-separating toilets that collect the urine by gender to analyze residual chemical substances!
To me, both of these projects demonstrate that it is possible to build buildings with outstanding performance characteristics – that it is not an issue of technology or budget, but one of a client clearly understanding and demanding a certain building outcome.
Thanks for reading about my journey ... now back to the work at hand here in our own country!