A Gorgeous Passive House That Consumes Almost No Energy [Slideshow]

Restricted by building codes and a small site, Amunt still delivered sustainability, flexibility, and lots of living space.

When we come across a compelling architectural project, we think about how to frame the story. Will it be about sustainability? About overcoming building regulations? Meeting the needs of a specific set of clients? Or just plain beauty? Occasionally, it’s all of the above. As is the case with this truly energy-efficient home inserted into a tight plot in Tübingen, Germany.


“Using every space in the best possible way is the most eco-friendly act.”

The first question the architects at Amunt had to figure out was how to keep the structural footprint small while creating enough space for a family of six. The area’s building code prevented them from building out, so they built up — tapering the upper floors to keep from blocking the neighbors? view of nearby Tübingen Castle. (While the house appears quite modern, its gray color and hipped roof respectfully mimic the surrounding 1920s tuff buildings.) “To design a building that uses every space in the best possible way is the most efficient, environmentally friendly act,” Amunt’s Jan Thiessen tells Co.Design.

But the architects didn’t stop there. Hewing to passive-house principles, they made the house — constructed entirely of local wood — fully insulated and virtually airtight to retain the heat generated by passive solar gain and the bodies of the inhabitants. The living spaces were done up in sanded construction-grade wood (to keep costs down), and the rooms were staggered in height to create various microclimates in the winter: Cold air remains trapped in the lower entrance area, moderate temperatures prevail in the living room, and the sitting room commands the toastiest environs.

Amunt seems to have considered every conceivable condition, even what happens to the house when the kids move out: Because the two living units have separate entrances, the house can easily be split in two to yield a rental apartment. Check out the slideshow for more details.

About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.