What's a Passive House, Anyways?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In Vancouver we are lucky to have beautiful British Columbia as our extended backyard. Scroll through any Vancouverite’s Instagram feed, and you’ll likely encounter at least a few pictures of snowcapped mountains, a wooded hike, or perhaps a glimmering lake (all likely within a two hour radius of Downtown Vancouver). With such easy access to nature like this, it’s not surprising that Vancouverites tend to be an environmentally conscious bunch.

As our city strives to reach its target of becoming the greenest municipality in the world by 2020, an industry has begun to develop for the green design and construction of family homes. Cue, the Passivhaus (or Passive House, for us Anglophones). First conceptualized in 1990 in Darmstadt, Germany the primary goal of a passive house is energy efficiency. Specifically, a passive house is designed to be insulated and airtight to the point where it is comfortable year-round without a primary heating system, even in cold climates like ours. Instead of relying on a heating system, a calculated combination of design elements are used to maximize the energy performance of a house by minimizing heat loss and optimizing the thermal performance of the building’s structure. These design elements include high performance windows and doors, extra thick insulation, a building shape that is conductive to heat retention, and strategic solar exposure.

Our good friends at Lanefab Design/Build are leading the way in Vancouver, and recently designed the first single family home (with laneway!) built using passive strategies to be put on the BC market. It was sold after just one day, and it’s not hard to see why – on top of the environmentally friendly design, passive structures typically save 80–90% on the cost of energy.

Given that the City of Vancouver has set a target for all new construction to be carbon-neutral by 2030, it’s likely that passive building strategies will become more popular in the near future.  For the time being, keep watching as movers and shakers like Lanefab bring passive design to the Vancouver housing market.

 For more information about certification and standards in passive design, check out the Canadian Passive House Institute

Images courtesy of Lanefab Design/Build





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