A building in full responsibility

The ChristophorusHouse in Stadl-Paura has been active since October 2003: as a three-storey wooden construction in a passive house construction a highly innovative office building. And a great example for an eco-friendly construction.

At the beginning was a vision. An organisation, which cares about the ecological operation of hospitals in Africa, should use this Know-How also in Europe. Than when the old building of the Austrian MIVA and BBM became too small, the case was clear. A new house was needed, which can resist the burden of different functions and also only should consume a minimum of energy – a “building in full responsibility”, made after the newest knowledge of eco-friendly construction.

From the beginning, the visions name was “ChristophorusHouse”. The name refers to St. Christophorus, which is the patron of the travellers. The MIVA is a catholic aid organisation, which has the goal to support young churches in the poor countries of the world with vehicles: trucks, cars and off-road vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles, but also boats, agricultural machines or – if needed- living load carrier like elephants, donkeys or mules. The BBM does the technical and logistics handling of the MIVA-projects. Furthermore, BBM offers its Know-How for other aid organisations and is in technical major projects engaged. In this way the BBM modified Ugandan hospitals into a resource-saving operation.

For example, Matany, a large hospital in the Karamoja region, in the northwest of Uganda: The hospital is there indispensable. The Karamojong, nomadic pastoralists, would be without the Matany hospital and its external station without any medical care. But the blessing also brought a threat. Because after a while the trees around the hospital were cut in order to get firewood for the hospital laundry. This started to get a problem in the dry region of Karamoja. Where the trees had gone, drought came. In addition, the laundry was a permanent danger to get infected with germs.

In cooperation with other Austrian aid organisations the BBM began to modify the problem. Medical laundry machines were installed. The water gets heated through solar collectors. And the whole hospital gets the energy with a photovoltaic plant instead of the diesel generator. Impressive is also the water concept: The main source is in a near river, which is completely dried out at the surface. But the water is pumped up from around 70 meters depth and supplies the hospital.

The experiences in Matany finally made the vision of the ChristophorusHouse a reality. Why the hospital in Uganda should get supplied with solar energy but the new house with fuel? Why should ecological awareness be an export article but at the same time has no influence in the own house? For us it was clear: The new building should also set a sign in Austria. It should not only get along with a minimum of energy but also should be built with nature –near, means renewable, building materials. Not only an own house should be built but also an eco-project should come to live.

A vision took form

The construction was a challenge for everybody involved. Because the house should combine besides all the ecological task also a number of functions: Office for MIVA and BBM, logistics centre with warehouse for the aid transports of the BBM, a car wash, to that event and seminar rooms, a Weltladen, exhibition spaces and a catering kitchen should have a place under the same roof. With the abbreviation CHH the ChristophorusHouse offers own international events with the topics of the BBM and MIVA.

The official description of the project sounds with the effort to say everything in one sentence a little bit bulky: The ChristophorusHouse is a “Multifunctional office and administration building with logistics and cultural centre according to passive house standards in sustainable wood construction”. As far as complicated. The fact that there is really a building standing in Stadl-Paura which matches all the requirements, owes a meticulous planning – and the willing of the entire involved one’s (owner, architect, companies which participated in the construction and also advising organisations) for a constant exchange. Only with the consequent teamwork and permanent discussion could the construction in all its phases get optimised, so that it is a real showcase project.

The interest in the ChristophorusHouse is great. Visitors from around the world come daily.