Since architect Mies van der Rohe led the European expansion of the International Style into the U.S., Germany has held its prominent place as innovators of modern architectural design. Such is the case with Active House B10, a prefab “power plant” that can be built in a single day. Architect Werner Sobek introduced the name “active house” to serve as a philosophical and literal contrast to the German “passive house” concept, in that this tiny prefab can actively generate enough power for multiple properties through its rooftop photovoltaics grid. The material it’s made of is also fully recyclable.
In 2014, the Frankfurt Museum of Architecture honored the Bosco Verticale towers in Milan with its prestigious International Highrise Award. To create this “vertical forest,” Boeri Studios installed more than 800 trees, 2,000 shrubs, and 1,200 insects to maintain a balanced ecosystem. The flora filters dust particles, absorbs carbon dioxide, serves as a protectant against radiation, and adds an impressive 3.5 million acres of vegetation to the Milan skyline.
Design teams at Honda and UC Davis built a 1,945-square-foot house, 15 miles west of Sacramento, that uses experimental and on-the-market technology to accomplish net-zero energy consumption. The Honda Smart Home features a 9.5kW solar array, which produces a current directly from the panels to the electric car charger without any conversion loss.
On a 500-acre plot on Bruny Island, off the southeast coast of Tasmania, two New Yorkers built a second home on land with no municipal water, power, or sewer connections. The result was this modern sustainable design that has a tilted roof to easily collect rainwater in two 2,600-gallon tanks. The house also integrates passive solar design principles, with six photovoltaic cells mounted to a shipping container parked some 100 feet from the house. Portable gas cylinders fuel the hot-water system and the cooking appliances, while the bathroom and kitchen waste is collected underground and processed in a septic tank before being dispersed around the garden via a network of subterranean trenches.
This Bessancourt farmhouse was one of the first German-concept Passive Houses built in France. Modeled after the area’s countryside dwellings, and utilizing non-native, sustainable materials such as bamboo to accentuate its rural design, the 1,733-square-foot home uses only 4,200 kilowatt-hours per year of energy — the average American home uses approximately 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month.