Ice Box Challenge DC completed by the EU, Belgium, Golden Triangle, and NK Architects

A remarkable demonstration of the power of Passive House wrapped up today, just a stone’s throw from the White House: Ice Box Challenge DC.

Ice Box Challenge DC took place REALLY close to the White House.
We love that Ice Box Challenge DC took place REALLY close to the White House, on Farragut Square.

(Are you new to the Ice Box Challenge concept? Check out this video from the Seattle event for an overview. It’s pretty “cool”.)

At the Ice Reveal event today, the Ice Box Challenge team unveiled the results of the DC Challenge in Farragut Square. After two weeks in the summer sun, just 460 pounds of ice remained in the code-built box (out of an original 1,800 pounds of ice). By contrast, 838 pounds remained in the Passive House-built box: nearly 2x more ice.

Ice Reveal results
Ice Reveal in DC showed 460 pounds of ice remaining in code-built box (left) and 838 pounds remaining in the Passive House box (right).

NK Architects co-presented the DC Challenge with the European Union Delegation to the United States, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, and DC's Golden Triangle BID. During the two week period of the Challenge, WiFi location data collected at the park showed that over 300,000 (cell-phone carrying) pedestrians passed by the boxes: lots of exposure for Passive House and the role that buildings can play to combat climate change.

One of over 300,000 passersby at Ice Box Challenge DC.
One of over 300,000 passersby at Ice Box Challenge DC. (Photo courtesy of Golden Triangle BID)

Our own Alyssa Swisher played a pivotal role in making it all happen, so it was fitting that she joined the group of Ice Box dignitaries today to make formal remarks before the Ice Reveal. Speakers included: 

  • Dirk Wouters, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium; 
  • Caroline Vicini, Dupty Head of the European Delegation to the United States; 
  • Tommy Wells, Director of Washington DC’s Department of Energy and the Environment; and 
  • Leona Agouridis, Executive Director of Golden Triangle BID.
Ice Reveal dignitaries, Ice Box Challenge DC
The Ice Reveal dignitaries, from left to right: Tommy Wells, Leona Agouridis, Dirk Wouters, Alyssa Swisher, and Caroline Vicini. (Photo courtesy of Alliance To Save Energy)

Here’s what Alyssa had to say:

"On behalf of NK Architects, it’s an honor to be working with this distinguished group to share the Ice Box Challenge with you all, here in the nation’s capital.

When we think about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, we tend to think about cars and transportation. But the single biggest source of energy-related emissions is our buildings. An estimated 74% of Washington, DC’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from heating, cooling, and operating buildings. And DC is not unique in this regard. The number is 81% for my hometown, Pittsburgh, with similar numbers for New York, Boston, Chicago, and elsewhere.

So, buildings are clearly a big part of the climate problem. But the good news is that they can become part of the climate solution. And because building codes, incentives, and consumer choices are made at the local and state levels, we don’t need to wait for the federal government to act. We can build buildings that are a form of climate action, today. Cities, counties, and states can play a starring role. Homeowners, building developers, and architects can, too.

Passive House is the definition of Building As Climate Action. By harnessing building science and robust energy modeling, Passive House design reduces building energy use by 50-75% compared to conventional code-built buildings. Most importantly, Passive House is cost-effective. Construction data from 179 project budgets shared by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency suggests that the construction cost premium for a Passive House apartment building is tiny: less than 2 percent. Once you factor in ongoing utility bills savings, Passive House buildings are actually cheaper than conventional ones.

That’s why Passive House buildings are exploding in popularity in the United States today, with over 6,000 units already built or under construction right now. And that unit count doubles every year, following an exponential growth curve. We at NK Architects are currently working on one of the largest Passive House projects in the country, just north of here in Montgomery County. It will provide hundreds of families with affordable and market rate units that boast the superior indoor air quality, thermal comfort, and energy performance that are hallmarks of Passive House buildings.

As the Ice Reveal is about to show, Passive House is simply a better way to build.” 

Ice Boxes on Farragut Square: Ice Box Challenge DC.
The code-built box (left) and Passive House box (right) graced DC's Farragut Square for two weeks this July. (Photo courtesy of Golden Triangle BID)

Generous sponsorship support for the Ice Box Challenge was provided by Rockwool, SIGA, and Cascadia Windows & Doors. CruxHomes provided vital onsite construction assistance during setup and takedown. The Ice Boxes themselves were designed in 2017 by Vancouver, BC's Stark Architecture and later painted by Belgian street artist Oli-B when the boxes visited Manhattan.

The Ice Box Challenge Tour continues! Where will the torch be passed to next? Stay tuned.