What is Passive House?  Passive House is a building standard, or concept, which focuses on energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and affordability.  It was developed in Germany and Sweden, has been successfully implemented in 36 countries around the world, and has been researched and refined for the past twenty years (ie. the science and economics have been proven!). A huge focus of the environmentally friendly Passive House standard is on energy conservation, as a result Passive Houses use 80% – 90% less heating and cooling energy than a standard Canadian house.  They require so little heat to warm them, that they can be heated by passive sources (solar) or very modest active sources (radiant panels or simple heaters in combination with heat recovery ventilators).

About the course: Dr. Guido Wimmers of the Canadian Passive House Institute led the week-long intensive “Full Course in Passive House Design & Construction” which was held at the VanDusen Botantical Gardens. The course was aimed at motivated design and building professionals passionate about Passive House and sustainable construction, and some interested homeowners were in attendance as well.  The week was energizing, inspirational, and incredibly detailed and educational.  It was a privilege to meet like-minded individuals and discuss sustainable ways to improve the way we build and design.

Helpful Tips for Passive House Design and Construction:

  • Start with a great team. Hire a Trained Passive House Design Professional (such as One SEED!) to design the home, provide complete construction documentation (drawings, details, and specifications), and guide you through the construction and certification process.  Your architect should help you round out the team by finding a great builder and mechanical / HVAC designer.  Your team should work closely together throughout the design and construction phase.
  • Focus on a smart and compact design. Limit unnecessary corners and intersections.
  • Think about solar orientation.  Use strategically placed windows as solar collectors and design site specific shading devices to avoid overheating.
  • Incorporate thermal mass to regulate temperature flux and store heat.
  • Create an air-tight envelope to minimize heat loss.
  • Super-insulate the envelope (the outside shell including walls, floors, roofs, windows, and doors) of your house with high-performance assemblies.
  • Avoid thermal bridging and penetrations. Create a thermal break wherever a structural element needs to penetrate the house’s thermal envelope.
  • Details, details, details.  A Passive House needs to be properly planned, designed, detailed, and energy modelled before construction begins.

Dr. Wimmers aptly described the building code as the worst case scenario for construction that can legally be considered acceptable, and even then 67% of new single-family homes don’t meet code by a significant amount!  ‘Code compliance’ is not a target we should be aiming for…Passive House is.  At One SEED we are committed to working on Passive House projects, so please contact us with any questions or to discuss designing your Passive House… Passive House is a better way to live.

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