Hammer & Hand’s Passive House Pilgrimage to Austria, First Installment

Sam, Skylar & Zack are on the road, at the 2011 International Passive House Conference in Innsbruck, Austria.

This post is part of a series, “Hammer & Hand’s Passive House Pilgrimage to Austria”:

  1. First Installment, by Zack
  2. Second Installment, by Sam
  3. Skylar’s Magical Passivhaus Tour, by Skylar
  4. Skylar’s Tour of the Optiwin Factory, by Skylar
  5. The Tradeshow Floor, by Skylar

As many of you know, Hammer and Hand’s co-founder and President Sam Hagerman serves as (the first) President of the national Passive House Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and supporting the Passive House building standard throughout the United States.

As a national leader in this burgeoning green building movement, Sam has become part of both the national and international Passive House communities.  The International Passive House Conference in Innsbruck, Austria this past weekend presented a key opportunity to network with national and international Passive House practitioners, learn lessons from the more established European Passive House scene, and meet other Passive House leaders from around the world.

I’ve been assisting Sam with his work with the Passive House Alliance, so I got to make the trip too.  And Skylar Swinford, Hammer & Hand’s building energy expert and a Certified Passive House Consultant made the trip as well.  Over the next few days we’ll be blogging about our experiences at the conference.

Rainy train ride from Munich to Innsbruck.

I arrived in Innsbruck on Thursday of last week, the only rainy day of our stay.  The landscape was stunning even when soggy, with mountains rising on both sides of the narrow valley that train glided through.  And the weather made me feel  at home, with its steady drizzle.  In fact, with the highest peaks obscured by clouds, the place is pretty reminiscent of Oregon’s mountain ranges (that is, if they were dotted with beautiful hamlets, cliff-hugging castles, and Columbia Gorge-like waterfalls and rock walls).  But when the clouds clear, the towering peaks take your breath away.  This ain’t the Oregon Coast Range after all … it’s Austria’s Tirol mountains.

Panorama of Tirol mountains, taken from footbridge at outskirts of Innsbruck.

The similarity in climate between the Pacific Northwest and Germany/Austria is fairly significant when it comes to Passive House, actually.  While Passive House buildings can be (and are) built from Arctic to desert climates, the German building standard was developed in a part of the world with weather patterns fairly similar to the ones we live with.  Granted, there are important differences, like the colder winters in Central Europe and fewer gray days.  But the standard is easily applied in Oregon and Washington

For green building geeks like ourselves, this trip was a pilgrimage to the Passive House mecca – and the International Passive House Conference delivered, with a weekend of inspiration, camaraderie with fellow Passive House practitioners, and solid lessons learned that we’ll take home and apply to Hammer & Hand’s projects.  Stay tuned for more blogs from Sam, Skylar and myself…

– Zack

Sam, me and Skylar preparing blogs and emailing back to the states from our hotel room in Innsbruck.

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