Yep, Russia, a notoriously energy-wasting nation where the notion of green living is novel and usually of the imported variety, just received its first super-efficient “active house” located on the outskirts of Moscow in the proposed eco-community of Zapadnaya Dolina.
So who exactly imported this rare bird of a home to the Moscow suburbs?
Thank Denmark, or more specifically, the Russian arm of Danish solar panel and roofing company Velux Group. Velux Group is a major player in the active house movement, a Denmark-borne green building standard that’s essentially a holistic, European spin on net-zero energy housing in that an active house generates more energy than it consumes (a passive house relies primarily on energy savings through super-tight insulation and building orientation, not on renewable energy systems). Or, as Jørgen Tang-Jensen, CEO of Velux Group explains: “The Active House concept is the way forward. An Active House is designed to work in harmony with nature, to use the energy of the sun and wind intelligently and to encourage a sustainable lifestyle. And we must make sure that architecture and good indoor climate get just as high a priority as energy saving.”
This prototype active house, Activny Dom, joins nine other homes built to adhere to rigorous, zero-carbon active house principles. Aside from this special new edition, all existing active houses are located in Western and Central Europe including the U.K. The first was completed back in the spring of 2009 outside of Aarhus, Denmark, as a “more comfortable and user-friendly response” to a passive house.
Designed by Alexander Leonov of Polygon Lab Architects and built by Zagorodny Proekt in less than six months for $1 million, Activny Dom is a handsome A-frame abode influenced by classic Russian wooden houses and chock full of green bells and whistles normally found in Western European homes: a geothermal heat pump, solar thermal collectors, a rooftop photovoltaic system, and what The New York Times calls a “a slick touch-screen system in the living room that automatically raises and lowers window shades depending on the carbon dioxide levels in the interior.”
All and all, the home uses to seven to eight times less energy than the standard Russian dwelling … about 110 kwH/m2 per year according to Velux Group. Additionally, the well-insulated home was built primarily from recycled, local, and sustainable materials including FSC-certified woods.
“People are always saying there’s no quality of life in Russia, and everyone wants to emigrate. We’re bringing Europe to Russia,” Dmitri Aksenov, CEO of Zagorodny Proekt, tells the NYT. He adds: “We spent quite a long time in the Soviet era, where functionality was the issue and aesthetics were out of the question. It can be green, but it has to be nice-looking as well.”
Green and nice-looking, indeed. A huge congrats to Velux Group and the Russian build/design team who gamely embraced some unique new challenges for this project. For more on Activny Dom, a groundbreaking project that recently received an official ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by none other than His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, head on over to The New York Times or to the project's Active House profile page. Contemporist also has a ton of photos of the home.
And who exactly is moving into this history-making new home, you ask? Like with other active homes, a pilot family has been selected to “test-drive” the home for a year while its energy-performance is extensively monitored and open to tours for government officials, engineers, and the like. Says Aksenov: “It’s a design platform — something we can show. Politically, there’s been a lot of talk about energy efficiency in Russia, but there’s not much you can touch and see.”