Steubenstrasse, Oldenburg, Germany
Jan Boos owns a company that sell energy management systems for smart houses. No wonder he chose a passive house when moving his home and office to Oldenburg.
The neo-modern white house on Steubenstrasse in central Oldenburg differs from the surrounding 1940s and 1950s buildings not only by its appearance. The new house is also different because it’s a passive house equipped with an intelligent energy management system.
This is the home and workplace of Silke and Jan Boos, who together with his father, operates a company that sells energy management systems for smart houses. Lighting, indoor climate and music are controlled from a panel on the wall, which can also be regulated through the Internet. For Jan, taking the step to living in a passive house was hardly a difficult one. In May 2010, he moved both the office and his home to Oldenburg. We visited the couple when they had lived in the house for a few weeks. “It feels like living in any other house, but the indoor climate is definitely better,” says Jan Boos. But naturally, sometimes you have to think in a different way.
On one of the first evenings in her new home, Silke Boos placed the exercise bicycle in front of the TV and started cycling. “When I wanted to have fresh air, I opened the window, even though I knew that a passive house constantly gets fresh air through the ventilation system, and therefore no one needs to open windows.” And there are certainly visual differences. On the top floor of the house on Steubenstrasse, there is an entire control room where heat exchangers and the ventilation system can be controlled in detail. And just as in other passive houses, the windows facing south are gigantic in comparison with those facing north. The dining area, in a corner out toward the garden, is bathed in light, as is the living room one floor up. Only the window glass marks the boundary between the house and the outdoors.
Knowledge transfer takes time
The choice of architect was easy, as Jan’s father knew Ulf Brannies, an architect who is a real authority in this area. Based in Oldenburg, Ulf Brannies has been interested in environmental and energy issues ever since the early 1990s, and planned his first passive house all of 15 years ago. He says that it wasn’t until the past five or six years that interest in this has really taken off. “But it’s still difficult to find construction firms with experience in this technology. Knowledge transfer takes time, and is also slowed by architects who often feel insecure with someone who is building his first passive house.”
“In my experience the optimum size for a passive house villa is around 200 m2, when you build smaller it becomes difficult to get an economical overall cost result,” Brannies says.
Record low energy consumption
The house in Steubenstrasse was 10-15% more expensive to build than a conventional home. But Jan Boos now also has a house with an annual heating requirement of only 14 kWh/m2. “If the solar panels don’t provide enough energy, a geothermal pump is used to top up the store of solar energy. In the summer, we can do the opposite, using the cold ground to cool down the rooms,” Ulf Brannies explains. Ulf Brannies is now building about two passive houses a year, and feels that interest is constantly increasing. “I see a clear correlation with oil prices. Every time oil prices rise, so does interest in passive houses. But we are still far from a passive house norm.”