High Performance Buildings: The Age of Transparency

Architect Enrico Bonilauri argues we must closely measure and monitor high-performance buildings to close the gap between predicted and actual benefits to health, comfort and energy efficiency. He is an expert in the international Passive House building standard, on a mission to bring advanced building science into mainstream construction.

He is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Emu Systems – https://emupassive.com

This presentation was recorded at the April 18, 2019 meeting of the Denver Chapter of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. Emu is happy to be involved with this excellent organization that promotes efficiency in conjunction with renewables.

CRES features several local monthly speaker series throughout the state, provides speakers, experts, workshops and weighs in on state energy policy.

Contact: mdcres@cres-energy.org.

Note: Under the video, click on “…More” to get access to a running transcript. Filmed and edited by Martin Voelker, CRES.

The Healthy Side of Zero-Energy: High-Performance Buildings

This presentation was recorded at the February 13, 2019 meeting of the Boulder Chapter of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. Emu is happy to be involved with this excellent organization that promotes efficiency in conjunction with renewables.

Video produced by Natural Focus Digital, an environmental video production and aerial cinematography company based in Boulder, Colorado. To learn more visit: https://www.naturalfocusdigital.com/

Presentation Description:

Buildings are for humans. We spend 90% of our lives indoors, and there is much more at stake for our health than a high energy bill. You may think that current building code effectively addresses issues such as mold, internal pollutants, and durability of buildings. However, there is a large gap between proven building science and mainstream applications.

Renewables, high-efficiency appliances, and LED lights are all fantastic and necessary innovations in the journey for humans to compensate for our high consumption of energy. But what about health, comfort, conservation, and durability? In the big push to revolutionize our built environment, we need not stop half way when there is proven data available for best practice when considering human health and comfort.

In this presentation, Enrico Bonilauri, of the Denver based international firm Emu Systems, will present cutting-edge research led by the Passive building movement and its practical and cost-effective implementation in the local building market.

Interested in scheduling this presentation in your community?

Cavriago Passive Houses

Two detached single-family Passive Houses for a three-generation family in Cavriago (RE), Italy.

This project is a demolition of an existing two-unit building that was constructed in the 1970’s, and the construction of two detached houses which will each be built to the Passivhaus standard (extremely low, near-zero energy demand).

The existing building was demolished because its design unfortunately required a prohibitive cost in order to properly insulate the many thermal bridges present in the undulating building envelope. The pre-existing was also designed prior to any modern consideration of accessibility, and was therefore not suitable to accommodate different generations in a safe way.

If you’re interested in following the construction process for these two Passive Houses, make sure to follow us on social media (links in footer below). We are especially frequent with construction updates on our Facebook page. As we write updates on our blog about this project, the articles will be listed below:

photos from the construction site:

Fondo Nizzola Specialty Food Shop

Interior architectural design for a regional specialty food shop at Fondo Nizzola in Cavriago (RE)

Fondo Nizzola is a high end, gourmet food shop, specializing in Emilian products such as Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Lambrusco wine, and balsamic vinegar. Upstairs from the shop is a boutique B&B, plus conference and event spaces, all set in a recently renovated farmhouse overlooking agricultural fields outside the town of Cavriago (RE).

Because of the shop’s geographic isolation from the town center, the personality and character of the interior design needed to draw people in and set it apart from similar farm shops in the area. We used reclaimed copper milk vats, once used to heat the milk in the process of making Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and refurbished them as tasting tables. The custom furniture, realized by Grozni+Jimmy, encases the dairy counter in warm oak planks, leaving the back wall as a display of the various cold cuts found in this region.

Fondo Nizzola - Emu Architetti - pan 001

Fondo Nizzola - Emu Architetti - pan 002

Il Casino di Canossa

Single-family passive house and “Living Building” on historic and environmentally sensitive site near Canossa Castle (RE), Italy.

This project is near and dear to our hearts, as it will be our own future residence. We are currently in design phase and are only able to work on it in our spare time. As they say in Italian, “il calzolaio va con le scarpe rotte” (similar to: “the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot”).

The concept is a house hidden into the hill beneath the Castle of Canossa. Our objective will be to celebrate the historical significance of the site while using advanced building technologies to create a home that can serve as a prototype for efficiency and sustainability in rural Italy. We will be pursuing Living Building Challenge and Passivhaus standards, two of the most ambitious environmental certifications available.

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Giocolibreria Semola

Architectural design consultation for Giocolibreria Semola, a children’s toy and book shop in Cavriago (RE), Italy.

Giocolibreria Semola is a book and toy shop in the center of Cavriago (RE), replacing the established bookshop L’Agora. By bringing down the wall between the existing shop and the empty space next door, we were able to create an open floor plan with a central service station and cash register. The furniture was custom built by Grozni + Jimmy, and the feature lighting furnished by Happy Lights.


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during construction:

design renderings:

Girondola Passive House

Design and construction of a Passive House duplex with green roof in the Pratonera Development of Cavriago (RE), Italy.

This project is a joint development with our sister company, Roverella SRL. The design phase is currently on hold until the completion of two other passive houses in Cavriago. Eventually this two-family duplex, conveniently located in the Pratonera Development near Pianella Shopping Center, will be for sale by Roverella SRL.

Casa Passiva Girondola - Emu Architetti - 001

History of the site “Pratonera”:

  • The oldest sign of settlement is a Paleolithic artefact uncovered here (1).
  • The settlement “Pratonera” is first recorded in 1337 and again in 1447 (2).
  • In 1485, the army of Guido Torello was sent to sack and burn the settlement, bringing it under the jurisdiction of Reggio until 1796 (3).
  • The original buildings constituting the historic village have largely been restored. Several of the building types located between Via Codignolo and Via Girondola still retain their original structural characteristics and volumetric surveys, including both detached and row houses, although there are no architectural details of significant value.
  • There is a nineteenth-century shrine located at the end of Via Codignolo, as well as an altarpiece on the bank of the West side of Via Girondola.
  • There are a few other notable farm buildings on Via Aspromonte.


Reggio Emilia Turismo – La Bella Provincia > Cavriago > Pratonera

  1. (1) BISI F., CREMASCHI M., PERETTO C., Catasto dei siti paleolitici della Provincia di Reggio Emilia. Studio geomorfologico dei siti e analitico dei materiali, Comune di Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia 1980.
  2. (2) TIRABOSCHI G., Dizionario topografico-storico degli Stati Estensi, I-Il, Modena 1821-1825.
  3. (3) Cavriago. Vita di un paese, a cura di autori vari, Cavriago 1980.

Casa del Marmista

Structural and deep energy retrofit for single-family private residence near Correggio (RE), Italy. 

This project is a retrofit of a three story building, where the ground floor is a warehouse and the top floor is an unfinished attic. The ground floor will be maintained unconditioned as a work space. The first floor will become a single-family residence. And the attic will remain unconditioned. This was a particular building envelope design because the conditioned space is effectively “floating” between two unconditioned ones. Construction is now underway, and multiple energy certifications are being considered to measure the final envelope performance.

Casa del Marmista - Emu Architetti - 001