It’s a chilly day when I meet with David on his four acre lot in Kelowna. From the first moment I stood on it, I knew that I wanted to build for him there. The plot of land is a quiet, peaceful, beautifully bucolic setting, but still close to ‘it all’. An area that inspired reflection on just how long it had existed before us, and how long it will continue to exist after we’re gone.
David has owned the lot for many years, waiting for the perfect time to build. He went through a few design processes over the years, but couldn’t find exactly what he was looking for. Energy-efficient, relatively small, high quality. The home that he will have forever, and meet his needs as time goes on. One that takes into consideration the rising costs of utility bills, and one that meets his tastes in design and architectural aesthetics. And last but not least, one that is as environmentally responsible as he is.
As I stood on the lot with him, listening to his story and what he wanted to accomplish, it became clearer and clearer to me what would meet his goals on all levels.
“Passive House”, I said.
It didn’t take David long to do his due diligence and research on what a Passive House is. And agreed. It could be nothing else.
This home will look like a “regular” home, however, there are some simple differences that will make it extraordinary. “Passive” refers to the mechanical and structural systems that are typically necessary in standard construction. This home will use more “passive” solutions to cut down on the requirements for heating and cooling. Advanced insulation application techniques, for example, as well as positioning on the lot for maximum solar gain in the winter, and minimum solar gain in the summer. Smart, simple, efficient design that reduces the draw typically required from mechanical systems in standard construction.
It eliminates what is know as “thermal bridging” through it’s design… those pathways through the studs in the walls that lose heat in the winter, and air-conditioned cooling in the summer. These thermal bridges typical in standard builds (shown in the thermal-image picture on the left), and are what makes standard builds so inefficient.
A great benefit of this home is that it will have the best indoor air quality and ventilation possible. But the true beauty of a Passive House is it’s unparalleled comfort, all by using ‘Passive’ building strategies. Due to it’s design, it will be quiet.. it will reduce the noise coming from outside of the house (traffic, sirens, partying neighbours, airplanes..), and reduce the internal noise typically emitted from active mechanical systems.
Perhaps the most intriguing things about Passive House is that the benefits are measurable. It employs a relatively simple ideological shift in design & build techniques, however, Passive House standards are some of the most stringent, measurable principals in building today.
A Passive House cannot be built without it going through a relatively sophisticated design module that takes into account everything from your location on the map to the number of occupants in the house. For it to be a Passive House, it must be tested by a third-party during the build to ensure it meets the strict guidelines set out by the International Passive House institute in Germany. Beyond many ‘energy-efficient’ type of buildings we hear about today that only employ what is called ‘green bling’ strategies (solar panels, geo-thermal etc), Passive House solves many of the problems at the start- eliminating the need for ‘green bling’ solutions. Solar panels and other energy-efficient add-ons can most definitely be used on top of Passive House design for additional benefits, but the goal of Passive House is to “reduce, reduce, reduce!”
Passive Houses have been in Europe for 30 years: they have had higher energy costs than us lucky-ducks here, but that’s changing. Just look at your electric bills. They are high now…imagine what they will be in 10, 20, 30 years.
Which brings us to this…heating and cooling bills are estimated to be around $300-400 for this Passive House. Annually.
There is so much information out there on Passive Houses and their benefits, so Google away if it interests you. And if you would like to follow this exciting build as it progresses by all means do so: www.kelownapassivehouse.com .
If you have questions, comments or inquiries, please let us know.
priMe haBitat Builders. Custom Home Design & Build. Kelowna, BC.