Ultra-low energy passive house

A new educational resource centre in a remote and mountainous part of the Czech Republic has become a flag bearer for modern ‘passive house’ design combined with traditional construction techniques and materials. The Hostetin Centre for Sustainable Rural Development uses as much as 80% less energy than a conventional building.

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Plant gasifies timber to produce heat, electricity and synthetic diesel fuel Plant gasifies timber to produce heat, electricity and synthetic diesel fuel

"Completed in September 2006, Hostetin is still the only public building in the Czech Republic that can be classified as a 'passive building'."
Yvonna Gaillyová, Director of the Ecological Institute Veronica

Completed in September 2006, the centre offers practical education and training for authorities, general public and firms undertaking similar initiatives elsewhere in the region and nationally. It attracts many visitors from far and wide to learn about sustainable development and serves as a community centre for its small host village.

A model ‘green’ village

Hostetin has long been involved in environmentally friendly projects, from solar power to the insulation of buildings with strawbales, and so on. Its new centre continues the tradition by becoming an institution of life-long environmental education – especially on 'passive house' energy efficiency. It was built by Skanska CZ, under contract to the centre’s managers, the Ecological Institute Veronica (Czech Union for Nature Conservation). EU funds covered 54% of the budget.

A further goal was to create a platform from which to manage regional sustainability projects in the Zlin province, where job opportunities are limited and the population is in decline. Most of the 36 workers and craftsmen were local residents, overseen by a skilled master builder. Wherever possible, they made use of local suppliers and materials to keep costs down and support the local economy – including larch wood from nearby forests for cladding parts of the building and adobe bricks recycled from old farm buildings on site.

The centre was built to the latest standards to minimise energy for space heating, with features such as superinsulation and triple-pane insulated glazing to reduce heat leakage. It is also airtight, has a heat-recovery ventilation system, and systems to reduce use of water and artificial lighting.

Hosts 5 000 annual public events

The Hostetin Centre – which includes a 45-seat auditorium, offices, library, space for creative workshops and a 10 room guesthouse – attracts several thousand visitors annually to learn about its energy efficiency features and environmental sustainability through use of environmentally friendly materials. It is also notable for being the first passive house building to be supported by EU funding and the first non-residential passive house to be constructed in the Czech Republic.

The centre has created five permanent jobs, including full and part-time project and course managers, and administrative staff. It annually consumes less about 15 KWh per square metre for space heating supplied from the municipal biomass heating plant and the Centre’s own solar-power system.

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