The story behind the first Active House Book

Following the recent publication of the ‘Active House: Smart Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’ book, we talked with one of the co-authors to hear more about the vision and messages the book wishes to transmit.


About the co-author:

Federica Brunone is a construction engineer and PhD student in Construction Systems and Processes at Politecnico di Milano, Italy. During her graduation she was a guest researcher at i.lab Reseach and Development department of Italcementi Group, developing new and innovative materials. Since 2015 she has carried out research activities at VELUXlab laboratory of Politecnico di Milano, in the field of integrated building design between comfort, environmental impact, and energy saving.

How did the idea of ‘Active House: Smart Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’ book appear?
The first call came from Prof. Marco Imperadori (Politecnico di Milano), in the fall of 2017. After several years of studies, research and application of the Active House Vision for Mediterranean climates, this book is meant as a milestone for the achieved results and as a method to disseminate the feasibility and flexibility of the Active House principles all over the world. Secondly, Lone Feifer, General Secretary of the Active House Alliance and an expert on sustainability and architecture, liked the idea of involving the Academic community in the knowledge sharing process. These two steps led to an intense and collaborative process among the authors and the designers/developers that made Active House a reality, in the more than 100 case studies we can refer to today.

What are the messages you are trying to transmit and who are you trying to reach?
Springer is a scientific editor, with a technical and expert audience, mainly in the academic sector. Within the different chapters of the book, the authors transform the Active House Vision for better buildings into a “quantifiable” perspective, towards the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings idea. The dense technical contents –  requirements, performances, case history – combine well with the architectural and design aspects. This is mainly due to the ability of the Active House vision to embrace both technicalities and aesthetics. The resulting book shows a scientific methodological approach toward construction, giving a feeling of the infinite potentials that Active House has for sustainable development. This is a message for everyone.

In the book, you talk about the Active House vision post 2020. Could you give us some more detail on how you see this sector evolving and why it’s important to have this discussion
For several years we have been talking about the environmental issue, and specifically of what effect the construction sector has. 40% of energy consumption is related to the construction sector; only in Europe one third of CO2 emissions can be accounted to the building industry. We have a negative impact on our planet. The ‘#indoorgeneration’ campaign has shed light on the issues of current ways of living: 90% of our life is indoor, mostly in unhealthy spaces. We are badly impacting ourselves. We need a drastic change, and strategies for a more sustainable development for our future. Active House has the potential to work on pursuing that in the construction field, promoting a design of better places, putting the people and the planet first.

What are the main elements that should be kept in mind when designing the ‘Active House of the future’?
We design for people. This was the first aim of architecture: create homes, so that people are sheltered. “L’uomo, insoddisfatto dei rifugi offerti dalla natura, è diventato architetto” Renzo Piano.

How do your activities at Politecnico di Milan relate to the Active House concept?
The first time I interacted with the Active House world was during my last year at University when I was asked to design a project able to satisfy the Active House requirements. Today, as a Ph.D. researcher, I am involved in the Active House Alliance within the research team of Prof. Marco Imperadori, trying to integrate the evaluation process into the BIM environment and methods. Personally, I think that the Active House design approach is really forward looking, and I appreciate its focus on sustainability as a matter for people.

Could you give us some examples of buildings which, as reflected in the book, represent benchmarks for future design?
Several projects can be referred to.  For existing buildings, RenovACTIVE is one of the most interesting experiments as it gives 7 strategies for possible improvements, defining a project guide. It is adaptable and achievable. In terms of new constructions, I had the opportunity to visit the Active House by Great Gulf (Centennial Park) in Canada, interview the occupants and see first-hand what “quality architecture” should mean. When referring to the Active House principle on a bigger scale, Copenhagen International School and Green Solution House represent the best examples of great design and fulfillment of the Active House requirements.



How can house owners make best use of this book?
This book resumes the Active House Vision and experiences of the last years, showing the concrete and feasible potential of it. Its collection of case studies is a good portfolio of examples to refer to as a benchmark for design practices. Moreover, we are currently working on a newer and implemented book about Active House for dry constructions in Italy, edited by Maggioli for the Italian market, ACTIVE HOUSE Progettazione e innovazione con tecnologie di costruzione stratificata a secco, that would have more details and additional examples, and a richer portfolio of references for future design.

Interested in purchasing the book? Check out here.

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