Risan Eco-House Project

Concept & Background

This project is about planning and building the first eco-or low-energy house in Montenegro. The aim of the project is not only to illustrate how such a building is constructed and operates, but also to initiate the transfer of the necessary skills from countries where the technology and legal requirements are in place for such buildings and are not yet in place in Montenegro. This Eco-House will thus become a practical demonstration for sustainable building practice combined with environment for the various trades and professions involved in the construction industry, from building contractors, architects, and equipment/material suppliers, to government agencies and the educational establishment.

The concept of the house itself is that its construction is passive – ie making use of the design to minimise energy consumption throughout the year. The principle is that with a closed highly insulated shell, comfort levels can be achieved by heating and cooling the flow of fresh air coming into the building. Recovery of the waste heat in the exhaust air is an essential part of this. Additionally, the demand on external power supply will be minimised by the use of solar energy for water heating and, possibly, electricity generation. With water in short supply in the country, especially during the summer, rain-water harvesting and the recycling of ‘grey’ water will also be an essential part of the house.

The current situation in Montenegro is that modern energy-saving technologies are hardly used. Given the construction boom which is likely to last into the medium term (five to ten years) and beyond even with the current economic crisis, this means that on-going demand for energy in a region already suffering from power-supply shortages will get more severe than it would if such technologies were mandatory and implemented. The same is true for of water use. Having proclaimed in its Constitution of 1991 that it is an Ecological State, Montenegro has done little since to implement this bold statement.

There is a vast need for a mindset change and raising of awareness about the impact of building techniques on future energy and costs. This is not only at the level of the individual house owner, but as importantly at local and central government levels, as well as in the construction industry and the academic and professional services associated with it.

Specific Sub-Projects

Within the overall project, there are a number of sub-projects.

1. Identifying skills gaps in construction trades (builders, plumbers, electricians, etc), sourcing suitable trainers from Western Europe, running train-the-trainer courses in appropriate educational establishments (either public or private sector) and target construction companies, and using the construction of the house as a practical exercise to illustrate the techniques involved. This will mean that the construction companies will have to take more time than they would for their usual methods, and involve more people than economically necessary, to give more access to the techniques.

2. Sourcing materials and enabling local companies either to become agents or to set up manufacturing facilities (under licence where appropriate). This will also be the case for finding ways to re-use/ re-cycle materials from demolished buildings which tend at present simply to be dumped on any vacant piece of land.

3. Discussing with national and local government regulatory changes needed to allow/ encourage zero-energy buildings to be constructed, and encouraging and promoting such changes to be implemented, especially at the local (municipal) level. This will involve the offices of the EC Delegation and EU Member States’ embassies and their development/aid agencies (eg GTZ, ADA, etc); also UNDP, whose office building in Podgorica is being built on eco-/ zero-energy principles with the help of Austria.

4. Promoting the use of construction techniques for low-energy buildings among architects, quantity surveyors, local authority planning departments, building inspectors and other professionals associated with the construction industry, including the appropriate faculties of universities and other higher educational establishments responsible for providing the professionals of the future.

5. Promoting the use of Environmental Management Systems and assisting their introduction into companies involved in the construction of the house.

We hope with this project: to inform, educate and inspire others to build “green” .