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EU Demonstrates Energy-Efficient Buildings with Ice Box Challenge

By Jeffery Miles

From July 7 to 20, the European Union, in conjunction with the Belgian Embassy, will host a public experiment at D.C.'s Farragut Square to show how cool and eco-friendly buildings that conform to the highly energy-efficient "Passive House" standards are. This public experiment will have two structures in Farragut Square, each with 1,800 pounds of ice inside. One structure is built to the 2015 International Building Code, while the other is built to the incredibly energy-efficient Passive House standards, which use up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than other structures. The public is invited to see these buildings and on July 20, it will be revealed how much ice is left in each.

"We're already seeing the benefits of new energy-efficiency measures in the European Union with lower energy bills, more comfortable dwellings and new jobs," said EU Ambassador David O'Sullivan in a press release. "Ensuring sustainability is in our DNA as citizens of the European Union, but it is also our duty as residents of the city of Washington and as advocates for a clean planet to promote environmentally conscious solutions in every way we can."

euicebox-1The Ice Boxes can be found in Farragut Square from July 7 to 20. (Photo: European Union)

The boxes’ original design was done by Stark architecture, which took inspiration from The Lions Peaks in Vancouver, Canada. The project has also taken place in New York City. The D.C. edition will be supported and sponsored by Nicholson Kovalchick (NK) Architects. Other partners involved in the project include the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, the Office of the Secretary of Washington D.C. together with its sister city program in Brussels, and the District Department of Energy and the Environment.

Washington, D.C., along with most American cities, emits most greenhouse gases from residential and commercial buildings. Heating and cooling is the leading contributor to CO2 emissions, and one of the most logical steps people can take to protect their communities’ air is to adopt the hyper-efficient Passive House standard. This standard requires the Ice Box to be generously insulated with Rockwood mineral wool, air-sealed with high-performance SIGA tapes and glazed with triple-pane Cascadia windows.

While the project illustrates how much money one can save with the Passive House standards, it also can educate people on the impact of pollution emitted from buildings that, contrary to popular belief, is in fact more detrimental to the environment than automobile emissions.

“This project demonstrates, in a fun way, how sustainable practices can make a difference. In the Golden Triangle, millions of square feet have been redeveloped in the last few years, with a big push toward green building practices,” said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle BID.

euicebox-2In each Ice Box, 1,800 pounds of ice was placed inside to see which structure would have more ice left on July 20. (Photo: European Union)

In a statement, Brandon Nicholson, the president of Passive House Western Pennsylvania and founding principal of NK Architects, said that "because Passive House provides a cost-effective way to create better buildings, these buildings have the potential to transform the market."

The Passive House standard’s success is evident in Brussels, Belgium. The city has instituted regulations that require new buildings to be made according to the Passive House model. In 2015, with more than 15 million square feet of Passive House buildings, Brussels was able to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent and greenhouse gases by 20 percent. "This showcases the environmental benefits high-performing building standards can have while at the same time promoting economic opportunity and well-being," said Belgian Ambassador Dirk Wouters.

euicebox-3The colorful design of D.C.'s Ice Boxes aims to draw people in and educate them on the harmful effects of heating and cooling buildings causes to our environment. (Photo: European Union)

The project has already made an impact in Brussels, Vancouver and New York City. The next stops on the Passive House standard are Pittsburgh and Seattle, which hopefully will be implementing rigorous new energy-efficient buildings in their communities soon. The EU, along with its Passive House standard supporters, hope to influence Americans by educating them on the pollution that comes from buildings and informing them of the eco-friendly and wallet-friendly technological advances that can help address the problem.

The #IceBoxChallengeDC contest for predictions, which will include prizes, will be open until July 20, when the winner is revealed. To enter, visit https://dc.iceboxchallenge.com/enter . The boxes are located on 17th Street, SW, between K and I Streets. For more information on these high-performance buildings, visit https://dc.iceboxchallenge.com/#s1.

Jeffery Miles is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.



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