Country: Germany, Hungary
Category: Energy
ON AIR on Euronews, Science, 29 April 2008, 5.30 GMT

Communist Heritage Turns Green

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13 March 2008

Communist Heritage Turns Green

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European architects and civil engineers succeeded to convert a panel housing block in Hungary into passive homes with a promising future

Climate change is on everyone’s lips these days and the European Union, having decided to reduce its CO2-emmissions by at least half by 2050, is no exception. To date, buildings have been among the worst culprits when it comes to “blowing away” energy. Overall, they bear responsibility for 40% of the gross energy consumption in Europe, thus making new and lasting, future-oriented building standards essential. With its sights set on panel housing, the European research project SOLANOVA has decided to directly take on one of the worst offenders in order to show: even these ailing works of concrete can be made into liveable and energy efficient homes. Within four years, panel housing in Dunaújváros was converted into passive homes with a promising future.

Dunaújváros lies approx. 67 kilometres south of Budapest. Named “Stalin-City” under the former Communist government, it became famous for being the greatest steel producer in all of Hungary. From 1950 onward, corresponding working-class housing estates shot out of the ground. Operational, yet unattractive panel houses have characterised the city until now. These poorly insulated, out-dated buildings are large-scale wasters of energy and, due to greatly increasing heating costs, residents themselves bear the brunt.

SOLANOVA (Solar Supported, Integrated Renovation of Large Residential Buildings and Heat Supply Systems) has seen German, Hungarian, and Austrian scientists, engineers, and architects joining forces, setting themselves the challenge of renovating / converting a panel house built in 1978 into Europe’s first 3-liter passive house of this dimension.

Following a careful inspection of technical possibilities and economic feasibility, the conversion was fully implemented within one summer. Today, double and triple paned windows have taken the place of out-dated, leaky ones. On the south side, 75 m² large solar surface was laid out, providing shade as a canopy and currently providing 20 percent of the entire heat necessary. The roof was converted into a green roof by way of applying a 30 to 40 cm thick layer of insulation and a distributed ventilation system was built in. In addition, the building is surrounded by a 16 cm thick thermal mantle.

The result is incredible: the entire energy consumption of the seven storey building was reduced by 86 percent!

SOLANOVA has thus proved that it is possible to turn the much discussed panel buildings into comfortable buildings of the future.

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