A (Massive) Passive House Retrofit For The Netherlands

Because Passive House standards are so demanding in terms of basic building components — e.g., a super-tight building envelope, and tons of insulation — retrofits to the standard remain rare. However, more builders are starting to embrace the challenge, as the first commercial Passive House retrofit in the U.S. was recently completed in Portland, Ore., and now the first large-scale Passive House retrofit in the Netherlands has reached completion in the northern part of the country.

Known as Veilige Veste, this former police station now serves as a safe house for victims of human trafficking and child prostitution, providing home for 48 girls that have suffered as victims of prostitution or abuse.  This large-scale renovation was designed by KAW Architecten&Adviseurs, which believes Veilige Veste to be the first large office block in the Netherlands to be renovated according to the Passive House standard.

Veilige Veste

image via KAW

According to Dezeen, the layout of the former police station posed some serious challenges on that account. That’s because the substructure of the building was placed outside the building, creating a thermal bridge that worked pretty much like a tunnel, sucking in cold air in from outside. The designers responded to that challenge by wrapping the building with the diamond-cut square panels, which brought that substructure back within within the blanket of the building, so to speak, as the whole building is covered by a thick layer of insulation. (At some points, the façade is over three feet thicker now.)

Thanks to this focus on improved insulation — as well as draft-proofing, and the use of highly energy-efficient equipment where needed — Veilige Vest consumes “exceptionally little  power” and also requires a minimum of energy to heat.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.