A passive house has been erected in the center of one of Chicago’s most active plazas. Das Haus is an energy-efficient structure designed to demonstrate the latest technologies and methods for making homes heat, water, and energy-efficient, and ultimately “passive” — meaning they draw no resources from the grid.
Das Haus was inspired by the work of students at the Technical University of Darmstadt who participated in the American solar decathlon. Solar is one of the house’s main sources of energy. Like many solar homes, it has photovoltaic panels on the roof, but it also has long thin strips of PVs on the exterior walls, angled to the sun. They harvest light and heat, turning them into electricity while insulating the main body of the house.
The “haus” isn’t actually a functioning house, but slices of different aspects of a home built into a shipping container. It does, however, include a photo gallery of actual homes built or under construction around the Midwest that achieve the goal of being “passive” homes.
There’s a lot of inspiration to be had for those who are interested in green building technologies. Things like new materials for insulating walls and windows, and an interesting miniature kitchen that the Haus staff uses on a daily basis for their snacks.
The only non-green thing about Das Haus is the Das Haus brochures. Printed on thick, glossy card stock, there is no indication that they contain any post-consumer recycled material. But the big sticking point is that they could have just been tiny flyers. Because of the 16 thick pages that make up the brochure, only two half pages are about Das Haus. The rest is a list of biographies of people and agencies patting themselves on the back for making this happen. Everyone from the president of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest to the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building an Urban Affairs gets a nod. But the actual project gets only a cursory description.
Fortunately, the Das Haus web site has a little more information. You can check it out here: http://dashaustour.com/