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April 25, 2013

Qatar celebrates opening of first ultra-low energy villa

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Following months of planning, design and construction, Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), Kahramaa and Barwa Real Estate Group (BRE) have completed Qatar's first Passivhaus, marking a major shift in the country's burgeoning construction industry.

The Passivhaus ‘passive house’ in English) villa is an ultra-low energy building, derived from a super insulated airtight building envelope, that requires little energy for cooling, reducing its environmental footprint. The building was officially opened recently, alongside a conventional villa, under the joint project 'Baytna.'

Under the Baytna project, two 225sqm villas have been constructed side by side in BARWA City for a comparative study on the benefits of the Passivhaus design in Qatar's hot and arid climate. The Passivhaus villa has been designed with all the comforts of modern living while consuming at least 50 percent less energy, water and operational carbon dioxide emissions.

Work began in August 2012 and after eight months of construction, Baytna has successfully limited additional capital costs in construction of the Passivhaus to approximately 16 percent more than the conventional villa. The project's initial aim was to keep the additional capital costs for the Passivhaus within 15 to 20 percent over the conventional villa's costs.

A six month period of testing and commissioning will now commence to compare the villas' base line performance without occupants.

As a vehicle for advancing sustainable building research for the region, the project will also serve as a platform for comparative studies on cutting-edge sustainability technology and practice in a variety of areas including; converting sunlight to electricity with a photovoltaic array, alternative irrigation systems, localised water recycling, and sustainable soft-landscaping using local species of trees and shrubs.

QGBC, BRE and Kahramaa have established a scientific working committee to collaborate on the project's many experiments, and conduct extensive monitoring of the Passivhaus principles and low-carbon technologies being implemented.

Following this testing and commissioning period of six months, the two villas will be occupied by two similarly-sized families, with at least one child, where further monitoring will take place for one year, as a real life demonstration of environmental principles in practice. The two families are expected to move into the three-bedroom demos by autumn 2013.

Texas A&M University at Qatar and Qatar Solar Technologies were among the partners involved in the construction of the villas.