Interview with Marcel van den Noort from Bouw*Novum, the 2022 Active House Alliance Awards winner

The Bouw-Novum 5.4 house has been awarded the Overall Active House Award 2022. A beautiful crown on the hard work, according to Marcel van den Noort. “We want to offer residents not only an energy-positive and sustainable home, but above all a healthy and comfortable home.” The pilot project with the dismountable wooden houses in Nijverdal has proved to be a success.

We are a club of people who work together integrally from the start of a process, says Marcel van den Noort, founding member of Bouw-Novum. “With real attention to everyone’s interests in the chain, we want to deliver maximum quality.”

When Bouw-Novum was founded, a good interpretation for social housing was immediately sought, whereby many social questions were still unanswered. “With the EPC, the emphasis in the market was first on energy and then came the Environmental Performance of Buildings (MPG, ed.). But in the construction chain, unfortunately, you see that very little attention is paid to the comfort of residents. We thought that this should be the starting point.

Active House principles
Van den Noort and co-founding member of Bouw-Novum Gerrit Hospers soon arrived at Active House. “In 2015, we did workshops with SBR CUR at TU Delft and thought about defining and shaping an Active House. The comfort aspect was leading in this. We believe that people around and below the social rent threshold should live in a comfortable home with plenty of daylight and a good indoor environment.”

For several reasons, this includes a home with a decent nave size (5.4m), Van den Noort knows. “It shouldn’t be the case that you deliver a very narrow house because it has to fit on the truck. That is a real shortcoming.” It ensured that work is not done with modules, but with elements.

Van den Noort: “We build with elements and that has the advantage that you don’t need a factory. Our house has a sophisticated design and as a basic product is easy to realise. We use partial products from various suppliers and manufacturers that are assembled in an assembly hall. Here, the facade, floor and roof elements are fully prepared and then transported to the construction site.”

Decoupled construction
A home that can be disassembled was a must, as was making the home adaptable for life within a minimum dentition size of 5.4 m. We started from a one-and-a-half storey variant that we can extend. The house can grow along with the resident from the outset, but can also shrink when the household becomes smaller. This infillability, expandability and life-cycle-resilience took a lot of headaches in terms of design, but it worked.

We didn’t want any installations in the walls, floors or roof. This means we are still very flexible when it comes to the different lifetimes. We devised a technology wall, which is a hollow wall that sits in the heart of the house. It contains a skid to which all the pipes and all the wet areas are connected”.

The DucoBox Focus, amongst other things, is located in the skid. This takes care of the zonal and demand-controlled ventilation based on CO2 detection per room. This system from DUCO not only provides ventilation in the various zones in the house, but also ensures considerable energy savings compared to continuously running ventilation systems. Zonal ventilation results in smaller ventilation quantities and therefore less ventilation losses. Heating consumption is thus reduced to a minimum.

Daylight through the solar chimney
A ‘solar chimney’ creates a pleasant indoor climate in the home in the form of a large amount of daylight, natural ventilation and summer night cooling. “This is a comfort item par excellence,” says Van den Noort.

In most houses, light enters only at the front and rear. In this house, every room has natural light. “The daylight reaches through the solar chimney with VELUX roof windows, the bathroom on the first floor and the kitchen on the ground floor that are placed centrally in the middle of the house.” The daylight calculation already complies with future European regulations.

Solar chimney and air quality
Pilot projects with a solar chimney have been conducted in the past, but not in the way that it has been used here, Van den Noort says. “It’s unique just in the way it integrates with the other usp’s of the house. The chimney provides a better indoor climate when you talk about air quality. VELUX has not only done daylight studies, but also indoor air quality studies. In Denmark, simulations were made with 3D models of our house. It showed that the solar chimney really contributes to a healthy and comfortable indoor climate.”

The night ventilation shutters in the facades and the roof windows in the solar chimney provide summer evening/night cooling. After a hot summer day, the entire house can be cooled simply and energy-efficiently by thermal extraction. Building with natural insulation keeps the heat out for a long time; a light mass ensures that the heat does not stay inside the building. This makes the house climate adaptive.

The TO-Juli requirements for overheating in a new house are therefore not an obstacle at all due to the solar chimney used.

At the International Active House Symposium in De Doelen, the Bouw●Novum 5.4 house was chosen as the winner of the Overall Active House Award 2022 from 44 projects from ten different countries. Never before had a Dutch project received this honour. “That was a wonderful crown to all our hard work,” said a proud Van den Noort.

The jury, led by Italian professor Marco Imperadori, judged: “The building meets the Active House criteria for comfort, energy, environment and new European Bauhaus values. The house creates a simple but elegant environment that can be replicated as a strategy model with a well-researched degree of circularity. There is a lot of light in all the interior spaces and the facade opening creates a very well proportioned facade.”

There is no time to enjoy the prize for long, however, as a new version of the Bouw-Novum 5.4 house is in development. Van de Noort: “In this house we have, among other things, even more attention for nature inclusiveness of the facades and roofs.”

Bouw-Novum is now going a lot further. Van den Noort: “We are in the process of looking at storage options for electricity. We can also supply the houses with green façades, for example. We have also adapted the storage to nature inclusiveness and have more possibilities for storing and using rainwater.”

Ready for the next step
The Bouw-Novum 5.4 house is ready for the market, Van den Noort concludes. “Our house has many smart innovations and its lifelong learning capacity promotes social inclusion of people in neighbourhoods. Despite limitations, people can participate in the neighbourhood and really belong. The home can be expanded, reduced or fitted with home automation as required, allowing everyone to (continue to) live comfortably in their own favourite neighbourhood. I find that a great added value.

– Wooden house.
– Natural façade and roof insulation (renewable and circular).
– Vapour permeable building envelope.
– Frameless glazing.
– CO2-neutral.
– Low maintenance.
– Lifelong learning, the modules can be extended as required.
– Rainwater infiltration.
– CO2-absorbing paving.
– Nature-inclusive applications for biodiversity.
– Reduced nitrogen emissions through local production and limited transport movements.

Text by Gerard Vos

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