Valentin-Senger-Straße Passivhaus School Complex, Frankfurt

As part of the Sunday excursion at the 2013 International Passivhaus Conference my tour visited four projects including this very nice passivhaus school complex.

The school was designed by Baufrösche Architekten (Building Frogs Architects) and completed in 2010 at a cost of €17m. The total treated floor area (TFA) by Passivhaus methodology (useful internal area) is 5,540m2.

Passivhaus School Frankurt

The primary school building is simple but striking with the fresh spring leaves contrasting with the red render.

Passivhaus kindergartenThe kindergarten building is separate but connected by a covered walkway.

concealed downpipeI would have missed the cleverly hidden downpipe if it hadn’t been pointed out by a more observant friend! (middle one)

gabion basket rain screen cladding

The gabion basket rain screen was not to my eco-minimal taste! The Architect justified the high cost on the grounds of graffiti resistance which I thought showed a lack of imagination.The tour group came up with lots of ideas for creative graffiti that would be far too costly to remove! However the kids are clearly well behaved and I didn’t even spot any crisp packets stuffed into the baskets.

Passivhause school night vent louvres

Sturdy louvres simply fixed to the window frame face for rain and burglar protection on the night vent windows. Interior shot to follow.

drip detailsSo many nice details! I liked the drip grooves in these rafters on the covered walkway.

passivhaus windows in kindergarden

More simple uncluttered details and rich colour and texture without pandering to an assumed children’s palette of primary colours.

Passivhaus sports hallThe third building in the complex is the sports hall which I suspect is where a lot of the budget went. It is partly under ground and has a sports pitch on the roof – an afterthought nicely integrated. The steps have wooden seats in the middle.

thermal bridge free fence connection

Very simple solution to create thermal bridge free supports for the fencing round the sports pitch on the roof. Pre-cast mass concrete blocks avoid the need for penetrations through the waterproof membrane or insulation and double as seating.

passivhaus kindergarted viewed from roof

View from the sports hall roof looking towards the kindergarten.

Passivhaus door threshold

Interesting door threshold detail into the sports hall fabricated from stainless steel sheet with what looked like a timber thermal break! Could use Purenit, Compacfoam or Accoya?

door to passivhaus sports hall

Stepping back this is the door.

passivhaus sports hall Frankfurt

Inside the sports hall, partly sunk into the ground.

concrete beams

Sorry but I do like concrete! You can just see the small radiant panel heaters in the dropped ceiling between the beams. It is a big span and there is a games pitch above!

Douglas fir cladding on passivhaus kindergarten

The planed Douglas Fir cladding on the kindergarten was much admired.

window detail

The Architects said the Douglas Fir was untreated but it did look very bright even allowing for it being protected by overhangs. Lovely window detailing.

cladding detail inside

The exterior cladding detail continues indoors in the entrance area where fire risk was considered acceptable due to escape distances.

Harry Potter inspired school stairs

Moving inside, the main school stairs were the idea of the Architect’s children who were fans of Harry Potter rather than Alvar Aalto.

sitting wall

I loved this seat alcove with digital printed wallpaper from the internet.

Passivhaus classroom

Classroom with mechanical vent, single small radiator and acoustic ceiling.


The windows in the same classroom with single side hung night vent window that opens to 90 degrees and external shading. Night ventilation is single sided with no overflow to the atrium.

classroom ventilation

The mechanical vent, heating and water feeds to classrooms were exposed. The ventilation is controlled by dampers activated by PIR occupancy sensors with supply and extract to each classroom. I must say that I prefer the simpler uncontrolled cascade approach that we developed for the Wolverhampton and Leeds Passivhaus schools with E3 consulting engineers (described in the video at the bottom of this page). I do like the exposed ducts which would be even nicer without the dampers.

sky lights

Lots of skylight but this requires external blinds to reduce overheating. The blinds were open and I didn’t ask if they are translucent or opaque.

Building Frogs

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