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Bessancourt Passiv Haus Certified (France)

Credits: ©2010 Karawitz Architecture

A home in Bessancourt, France, is oriented on its site to take advantage of the southern exposure. Designed by the French firm Karawitz Architecture, the house has a double skin with an outer layer of bamboo shutters that can be open or closed depending on the weather. The openwork second skin is comprised of untreated bamboo that envelops an inner skeleton made of prefabricated wood panels. The bamboo will become gray over time, which was inspired by local barns typical of the region. The north side of the home has limited window openings to limit energy loss, and the south side is mostly glazed to benefit from the free sunshine. The outer skin covers the windows on the north and continues onto the roof; identical shutters cover the large picture windows on the south, creating light and shadow during the day or night. This is the first green building in the Ile de France region around Paris to certify to the European PassivHaus Insitut’s high performance, low-energy consumption program. Photovoltaic panels are incorporated into the roof, producing about 2695 kwh/yr in electricity.


Bessancourt Passiv Haus PVs

Photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Passiv Haus in Bessancourt, France, produce 2695 kwh/yr in electricity. ©2009 Hervé Abbadie / Karawitz Architecture

Passive House in Bessancourt
04 November 2010 by N. A. Hilal , Architecture List
The town of Bessancourt lies about 28 km north-west of Paris. An old and intact town centre with narrow alleys, courtyards and small houses surrounds the church, which dates from the 12th-13th century. Due to the urban planning regulations, the simple cubature of the house soon became clear. With a fine and airy membrane of bamboo poles, a sculptural form emerges, the transparent facing disperses the mass, lends lightness and creates depth. The light is broken up by the bamboo poles attached at intervals, and a special atmosphere is created inside, subject to te position of the sun.

A very important element in the planning is the “spine”. It consists of 60 cm wide wooden discs arranged at intervals of 90 cm and divides the floor plan in two parts having a ratio of 1:2. The larger part is situated on the southern side and contains the living and sleeping areas, the smaller part is on the northern side and accommodates the sanitary and service/utility rooms. The division of the rooms is clear, the distances are short, materials are natural and untreated; a clear principle is observed even for the lighting – the energy-saving fluorescent tubes and technical cables run along the “spine”, partly visible.

Some parts of the spine serve as load-bearing supports and accommodate the technical installations. This central element which is sometimes closed and sometimes open, is accessible from both sides and serves as a cabinet, shelf or partition. It houses the kitchen, the washroom, and the lighting and ventilation ducts. The latter are partially visible as part of the aesthetic concept and make the ventilation system comprehensible and clear.

Along the southern facade there is a catwalk of metal lattices which serves as a balcony and mounting support for the folding shutters. In this way a space is created which lends additional depth to the interior. The house was implemented using mainly natural materials – wood panels for the construction, cellulose and wood-fibre for the insulation, plasterboards, biopaints for the interior finishing. The photovoltaic panels on the roof make this house an energy-plus-house, according to the French standard.

Project information
Certified Passiv Haus single-family house

New construction | 95550 Bessancourt, France

Living area (Treated floor area) according to the PHPP: 161 m²

Year of construction: 2008

Property developer:

Mischa Witzmann | Milena Karanesheva

Architects Cabinet d’architecture Karawitz Architecture
External wall: cross-laminated timber | airtight steam brake | 24 cm I-joists

with cellulose | wood-fibre insulating board | under-roof membrane |


Roof: cross-laminated timber, airtight steam brake | 30 cm I-joists with

cellulose | wood-fibre insulating board | under-roof membrane | bamboo

or PV module

Floor slab: screed | 20 cm EPS | concrete slab

External wall: 0.14 W/(m²K)

Roof: 0.12 W/(m²K)

Floor slab: 0.17 W/(m²K)


  Passiv Haus Residential Criteria (82 kb)

  Passive Homes Guidelines Ireland (9,757 kb)

  The Passive House (Passivhaus) Standard—A comparison to other cold climate low-energy houses (531 kb)


Passiv Haus Institut (Germany)

Karawitz Architecture