I went to Germany to interview Wolfgang Feist. As well as possessing an amazing name, he invented something called PassivHaus. He was quite a character, as I hope comes across…
The Passivhaus, which is like a vacuum flask, conserving its heat without much need for further energy, has been marketed as the home of the future and is becoming increasingly popular across Europe. Jess McCabe travels to Hannover to meet its creator, Dr Wolfgang Feist
Dr Wolfgang Feist is darting about a construction site in the leafy outskirts of Hannover. In a few months, this will be a kindergarten filled with children, built to meet the ‘Passivhaus’ standard that Dr Feist invented. Now it is part of a tour he is leading of the city’s newest, super-insulated, airtight buildings – visiting a school, a home and this kindergarten.
Shoulders slightly hunched, a woolly hat covering his mop of grey hair, it quickly becomes clear that Dr Feist is hands-on and approachable, stepping over the uneven, unfinished floor to take pictures and inspect the site. The architects who designed the kindergarten are here, and he quickly grabs them to ask a series of pointed technical questions.
An instantly relaxing presence, he cracks jokes and tells unexpectedly gripping stories about such topics as the history of triple glazing and the effects of installing windows at an angle. Credited as an ‘energy magician’ in the German press, there’s something of the showman about him.
‘There are so many Passivhaus projects that I don’t know everyone anymore,’ he says with a grin, peeking out from under bushy eyebrows, as he ponders some of the fruits of his creation.
About 40,000 buildings around the world are certified to Passivhaus standard. But this is a recent development – almost all of them have
been erected since the turn of the century.
Getting to this stage has been a lifetime’s work for Dr Feist. It is more than 30 years since he started working on the idea of a ‘passive’ home, which could be kept warm and comfortable without much ‘active’ help from central heating.