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88-metre high building world's tallest Passive House

The developers and architects had set very high goals. With the Bolueta building they wanted to set a new Passive House record and at the same time ensure the quality of the building through certification. The project participants have successfully achieved both objectives. With a height of 88 metres, Bolueta in the Spanish city of Bilbao is now the tallest Passive House building in the world. The recently issued certificate is proof of its highly energy efficient Passive House Standard construction. The latest publication by the Passive House Institute appropriately relates to this topic: the Building Certification Guide.

The Bolueta high-rise building is identically named like the district of the city of Bilbao in northern Spain and is situated close to the busy railway station Bolueta. With a height of 88 metres and its conspicuous shiny black façade, the building towers over the neighbourhood. It contains a total of 32 storeys, 28 of which are above ground and thus visible.

Optimised construction

The Spanish architect Germán Velázquez optimised the design of the Bolueta construction project until it achieved the highly energy efficient Passive House Standard. An adjacent nine-storey building with 63 apartments for social housing is also part of the project.

Within budget

The challenge was to keep within the budget and use traditional materials, the architect explained. "Now that Bolueta is complete, there are no excuses anymore: it is possible to realise such a project in Bolueta, and it is just as possible to realise one almost anywhere out there," says Velázquez.

Basque Government commits to energy-efficiency

It took two and a half years for Bolueta to be completed. The Basque Government and its public property development company Visesa are the owners of the Bolueta project which also includes the nine-storey adjacent building in addition to the high-rise. All 108 apartments of the high-rise have already been sold and residents are moving in now. The 63 apartments in the adjacent building will be rented as social housing. The cost for Bolueta, which includes 171 apartments in total, amounts to approximately 12.5 million euros.

Certificate presented in Munich

A building certificate authenticating the attainment of Passive House Standard for Bolueta was also presented during the International Passive House Conference in Munich. With this highly energy efficient standard, the residents save heating costs in the winter and enjoy a comfortably cool home in the summer. In addition, a controlled home ventilation system ensures a pleasant and healthy indoor climate.

Energy efficient high-rise buildings

"All over the world people are now recognising that the advantages of the Passive House Standard also work for high-rise buildings. Besides Bolueta in Spain, many large projects are currently being planned or are already under construction, particularly in the USA, Canada and China," explains Zeno Bastian. Bastian is in charge of building certification at the Passive House Institute. With its height of 88 metres, Bolueta is currently the highest Passive House building in the world. It is two metres taller than the Passive House students' residence at Cornell Tech in Manhattan, New York which opened to residents in 2017.

Three other highly energy efficient high-rise-buildings: the Raiffeisen Tower in Vienna (left, Passivhaus Austria), the Passive House students' residence at Cornell Tech in New York (centre, M. Onder), and the retrofitted tower block in Bugginger Strasse in Freiburg (Germany), the first high-rise building in the world achieving Passive House Standard (right, Fraunhofer ISE).

Pioneers in Freiburg and Vienna

Among the first Passive House high-rise buildings are a 16-storey building in Bugginger Strasse in Freiburg retrofitted to the Passive House Standard in 2011, and the Raiffeisen Tower in Vienna. The latter was built on the premises of the former OPEC headquarters and started operations in 2013. The 78 metre tall building provides space for about 900 offices. In Spain, the Basque Government is constructing another Passive House high-rise right next to Bolueta. Although this will be smaller with 21 storeys, it will be more extensive than the first building and will have 190 apartments in total. Ten storeys of the second building, which will also be certified, have already been completed.

Black as coal

The façade of the tallest Passive House high-rise in Bilbao is also striking. The surrounding buildings and countryside are reflected in the black, glossy surfaces. "The project has a significantly "lighter" effect as a result, and the black colour symbolises the industrial past of the city. It is a tribute to the two-and-a-half century's old heavily coal-based industry," explains Velázquez. The second tower will be grey in colour to allude to the steel that was once produced in Bolueta. The architect has also designed a health centre to Passive House Standard in the Basque region of Navarra.

A concise manual

The Passive House Institute has published a manual for building certification. Certification means extensive quality assurance in order to achieve high energy savings and optimal living comfort.

Free download

"The manual offers a quick overview of the advantages of Passive House certification and its procedure, and also contains detailed explanations regarding all the documents which must be submitted for certification. That's another step to facilitate the certification even more for all those involved," says Zeno Bastian of the Passive House Institute.

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