A look at the new Passive Gingerbread House standard : TreeHugger

It’s been another quiet year on the modern gingerbread scene, that wonderful intersection of healthy edible building materials and the tiny house movement. However there is one important trend of note: the development of the Passivlebkuchenhaus standard, or as they call it in North America, the Passive Gingerbread House. The first demonstration of the new standard is actually in Finland, where Kasper Stromman has built what he calls a pasiivienergiapiparkakkutalo. It has all of the well-known passive house features:

It’s a simple design without a lot of bumpouts and gables.

© Kasper Diem

Every time you do a jog or a bump, there is the possibility of a thermal bridge or an air leak. That’s why most Passive House designs are what Bronwyn Barry calls #BBB or Boxy But Beautiful. The designers note that it is designed to the Finnish taste, with a tasteful brown color.

It’s loaded with insulation.

© Kasper Diem

The walls can be quite thick to get the kind of R-values you need in a Passivlebkuchenhaus, particularly in cold Finland. There is also the great debate about the respective insulation values between metric European marshmallows and those exceptional American marshmallows that are somehow different. Designers on both sides of the Atlantic worry about the use of foamed insulations like merengue.

Windows are carefully sized and placed.

© Kasper Diem

Stromman notes that marshmallow insulation alone does not make an energy efficient house. It also has what he calls “depressingly small windows”. This does not have to be the case; windows facing south are often large to capture the heat from the sun. There must be a bug in the program. (they often get into our gingerbread).

© Kasper Diem

However the interior is cozy and comfortable, no matter what the weather outside. More (in Finnish) at Kasper Diem.

Also this year: Tiny house movement + sharing economy + modern gingerbread = GingerbreadBNB!

2013: Let’s get edible

© Henry Hargreaves

The modern gingerbread scene has seemed quiet this year, other than the remarkable work of food stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves reconstructing the great museums of the world.

However, the experts at McSweeney’s have been analysing the situation and Keith Wisniewski reports that in fact, things are looking up for this greenest of building materials that is so popular in the tiny house movement. He writes:

What once seemed like the worst gingerbread housing crisis this nation has ever seen, has finally taken a dramatic turn toward a full recovery. According to this month’s housing report, sales of gingerbread homes for the month of December have shot up an incredible 2000% over the previous month. This breaks the drought of near zero growth that has plagued administration officials for almost eleven months.

“Not going to lie, it didn’t look too good over the summer,” said Department of Gingerbread Housing Deputy Assistant Secretary William Bates. “But now we’re finally starting to see some traction in the market. This is just the beginning. The administration expects even better news throughout January and February.”

More in McSweeneys.

I was seriously criticized by recognized building experts when last year I proposed that our building materials should be so non-toxic that we should be able to eat them. And while this year saw green building experts Carl Seville, Alex Wilson and Michael Anschel dine on mushroom insulation sandwiches, it did not look appetizing. That’s why I have been saying since 2007 that the future is gingerbread.

2012: Gingerbread: The Greenest Material


Everything in a healthy home should be non-toxic, from the building materials to the finishes. That’s why I am such a fan of the modern gingerbread movement- totally edible, if fattening. The other great thing is that gingerbread structures tend to be small and can be considered part of the tiny house movement. Because they sneak under the building code and planning guidelines, they have promoted an explosion of architectural creativity.


Over at Architizer, they have just revealed the winner of the Pritzker for Gingerbread, their annual design competition. The winner was the late Oscar Niemeyer, or at least his National Congress Building. An icon of modernist design that also functions as a candy dish. See all of the short list at Architizer.

The history of the modern gingerbread movement has been covered in detail in TreeHugger over the years. Here’s a revisit of some of our peer-reviewed research and documentation:

2011: Report on the State Of Modern Green Gingerbread Design

Friends of the High Line/via

Where we look at the introduction of gingerbread to the non-residential and multi-family sectors.

In times of economic hardship, architects and designers often have to explore new niches. In my seminal 2009 study A Brief History of Modern Gingerbread Design, I discussed the roots of this growing movement, which at the time was primarily serving early adopters, building single family gingerbread houses for suburban settings.

More in TreeHugger

2010: Green Modern Gingerbread Housing Industry In Crisis

© Hometta

Where we look at the impact of the housing crisis on the gingerbread industry.

The modern gingerbread house industry looked so promising a few years ago; I eagerly followed every launch. But this year, it seems to have tanked as deeply as the modern construction industry. I would have thought that, along with the tiny house and shedworking movements, gingerbread would thrive in tough times; they are small, relatively economical and so very green, probably automatic cradle to cradle platinum given their edibility.

More in TreeHugger

2009: A Brief History of Modern Gingerbread Design

An earlier roundup, led off by yet another Hometta design. More in TreeHugger

2009: More Green Modern Gingerbread

Well, it is a stretch to call this green gingerbread, it doesn’t have solar panels or turbines or heat pumps, but it is modern, and is even called the Cake Study House in homage to the Case Study houses of the early sixties. It’s from Kristina Hahn Atelier, who call it “a study in responsible development” even though it has a two car garage and a sparkling pool.

More in TreeHugger

2009: Green Architects Invade Gingerbread Market

Times being what they are in the architecture biz, nobody is going to miss the rapidly expanding gingerbread world. In Vancouver, some of the greenest architects around have entered the fray. East Side Design and Solus Decor’s Earthship Lollipop “is the world’s first LEAD™ (Leadership in Edible Architectural Design) Platinum residence.

More in TreeHugger

2008: Michelle Designs McMansion Gingerbread

Although Michelle was a pioneer in the use of GAD (gingerbread-aided design) and used this to prototype her famous MK-solaire, I was not impressed at the time.

We wrote a year ago about Michelle Kaufmann’s assault of the booming prefab modern gingerbread scene, noting that “as the mortgage crisis deepens, this may be the only modern prefab market left.” We are disappointed to note that whereas last year her house was a modest, one storey number, she has gone all McMansion on us with her GingerLotus, which is definitely more than we can chew in a sitting.

More in TreeHugger

2008: Green Gingerbread House Smackdown: HOK Enters the Fray

Trust HOK to go all gizmo green. This had everything: licorice rainwater barrels, a jelly bean green roof, gumdrop wind turbines and our favorite LEED checkmark: a sparkly ground source heat pump. More in TreeHugger

Around the Gingerbread World 2008: Hot and Not

Here is the opportunity to ask the question “why is this on TreeHugger?” Yet another modernist single family home with floor to ceiling glass and a flat roof, demonstrating our bias toward impractical modernism over green, sustainable and affordable. Shame on you, Inhabitat and Liz Bruwin, for showing such a thing.

More in TreeHugger

2007: Michelle Kaufmann Does Gingerbread

Michelle’s first.

Michelle Kaufmann isn’t just an architect of one of the original modern prefabs, pushing the envelope into google mashups, books and new models in all shapes and sizes. She is never one to miss a market, and has set her sights squarely on the booming prefab modern gingerbread scene. After all, as the mortgage crisis deepens, this may be the only modern prefab market left.

More in TreeHugger

2007: Midcentury Modern Gingerbread House

Red envelope/Promo image

Perhaps the one that started it all, found by Laura Sweet of NOTCOT. Of course, the price per square foot in green modern design is always a big issue:

Since it is such an important indicator of the value of real estate, at $88 bucks we calculate this to cost $176 per square foot, which is pretty cheap for good modern design. Like many prefabs, delivery is extra. Gingerbread as a structural and cladding material is completely biodegradeable for LEED points (as is the xeriscaped garden) and compostable for C2C certification.

More on TreeHugger

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23 December 2014 | 6:55 pm – Source: treehugger.com


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