February Monthly Meeting Recap – Sustainable Building through Passive House Standards with Miwa Mori

FEW FEB MM 2021 Screenshot 1

For our February 2021 monthly meeting, we very much enjoyed welcoming Miwa Mori, President of Key Architects. Hearing about sustainable and effective ways to make houses in Japan better insulated and thus more comfortable was fascinating. Mori-san explained how Passive House design and strategies have been highly effective in both new builds and retrofit designs. Hearing that 17,000 people die in Japan annually due to cold shock, with the temperature differential being greater than 11 degrees inside the house, certainly shocked us all! 

Having historical family roots in architecture and engineering with companies such as Nissan, Mori-san talked about her experience of pursuing a graduate studies in architecture and urban design at the University of Stuttgart through a German Scholarship. Miwa worked in Europe for the first ten years of her career, first in Germany before moving to Ireland. It was during this time when she met and was influenced by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, the German physicist and inventor of the Passive House. The whole concept began with the questioning of the use of central heating systems and air-conditioning units and whether the use of these can be entirely eliminated. 

What is Passive House?

The Passive House Institute (PHI) launched a simple tool in 1997 to evaluate energy consumption of the building so that every architect can optimize his/her building design. Consideration of building shape and size, orientation of windows, insulation, air leakage/vents and thermal bridges are some of the countless factors that play into the Passive House standard. 

Miwa Mori explaining “Passive House”

Understanding the energy consumption and the energy conservation while the house heats and cools is the key to creating the ultimate energy efficient home design. Passive House designs can impressively achieve 90% less energy consumption than what a regular home would use. Not only is it considered savings for the homeowner, more importantly this plays an enormous contributing role in the reduction of releasing heat into the atmosphere. This is revolutionary for slowing climate change that threatens billions of people’s standard of living and quality of life. 

Mori-san further explained her passion for Passive House designs by presenting how there is a co-existence of the ECO-logical and EGO-logical benefits. Inhabitants can expect better sleep, less chance of catching colds due to temperature differences, and better maintenance. In fact, with such a home design the smallest conditioner on the market can heat/cool the entire house. This favourably makes more savings and affordability. 

Humans are wasting too much energy and Mori-san strongly encourages us to rethink the purchases we make both large and small to help slow climate change and encourage more sustainability particularly revolving around the UN SDGs.

We left the meeting with much new knowledge and many tips, not least to wear our slippers! Thank you to Mori-san for such an enlightening meeting and for sharing the challenges you face working in such a male dominated profession.

Please view some of Miwa Mori’s inspiring creations:

  1. The very first Japanese Passive House is located in Kamakura. 
  2. Located in Kurizawa, this famous house belongs to an American. The owner is impressed with this Passive House home which has a low annual energy bill although it is in a cold climate. 
  3. This apartment building is retrofitted. Miwa Mori’s firm remodeled this Kurobe building to bring it to Passive house energy standards.