The Ice Box Challenge shows the effectiveness of passive house design

The Ice Box Challenge was a visual representation of the effectiveness of passive house design elements, presented as a collaborative effort of the iPHA, Glasgow City Council, Passive House Institute, Napier University of Edinburgh, the Passivhaus Trust and the Construction Scotland Innovation Center.

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The exhibit consisted of two small houses, placed side by side in Glasgow, Scotland’s town square. One house was built to the standard Scottish building code, while the other implemented four of the five passive house design elements. Each structure was filled with the same amount of ice, which was measured at the end of a set period.

Related: Explore The Sweet, Sustainable Design Of The Saltbox Passive House

A small house with a green design is lowered by a crane.

The results were undeniable, with the ice melting completely in the standard house within 11 days. Viewers could see the ice void a few days before the final bars. In contrast, the passive house still had two large blocks of ice. In the end, the Passive House still had 121 kg of the original 917 kg of ice placed two weeks before, even with unusually hot weather.

A small house with a red design is lowered by a crane.

This demonstration highlights the effectiveness of energy-saving passive design elements, as no active cooling systems were allowed. The passive design incorporates five standard elements to significantly reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling. This not only reduces the use of limited environmental resources, but also saves money for the homeowner.

Different stages of construction, with an image of two people in front of a wooden frame at the top.

For this challenge, the houses looked almost identical from the outside, but the passive house relied on window glazing, insulation levels, airtightness, and reduced thermal bridges to keep out the summer heat and maintain a fresh and comfortable interior. Due to the nature of the competition, the passive house did not include the fifth passive design element – a ventilation system with heat recovery – which adds to the energy efficiency of the building.

A pile of blocks of ice.

The passive house standard is becoming more and more common in projects developed by Glasgow City Council and local housing associations. Michelle Mundie of the Housing Investment Group at Glasgow City Council said: “Housing associations in Glasgow are looking at this very closely and what it means for new building programs. For tenants, this means more comfortable housing with lower running costs.

+ Icebox challenge

Images via © Passivhaus Trust, Kirsten Priebe

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