Going Green with Passive House Design

As home owners, designers and contractors become more focused on going green and the effects the building industry has on the environment, sustainable design standards are becoming more commonplace. According to Passive House Canada, ‘Passive House is recognized internationally as the proven best way to build for comfort, affordability and energy efficiency of residential, institutional and commercial buildings, through all stages of design, construction, and livability.’

Knowing that the City of Vancouver and the District of Sechelt are looking to implement these standards, two of our Jenkins Construction team members recently attended a Passive House Building Envelope Specialization Course at BCIT. The five day course offered our staff the knowledge and practical hands-on skills that building contractors, designers, consultants need in order to build to the Passive House standard. The course focused on building enclosure optimization and provided a foundation in passive house principles, while highlighting the importance of construction fundamentals and proper sequencing and using a variety of materials. We were also introduced to heat and energy recovery ventilators.

“The Passive house design model from Europe is really gaining traction over here now as people become more aware of the benefits,” shares Kai Jenkins, our President, Owner and Construction Manager. “The next generation of consumers is much more concerned about their footprint and we’re really seeing a consciousness in those looking to build a new home more than we’ve ever seen before.”

Passive House buildings consume up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings. “What we’re working on is the exo-insulation wrap where insulation is on the outside of the walls minimizing thermal bridging heat and cooling transfer,” explains Jenkins. “Hot and cold temperatures can pass through a stud in your wall. That’s what we call a thermal bridge. Wrapping the outside in insulation stops that thermal bridging and reduces heating or cooling costs. We’re already using several of the Passive House techniques in builds we’re working on. Techniques we used at a recent Halfmoon Bay high-performance house included exo-insulation, low-carbon footprint mechanical appliances and advanced building envelope sealing practices.”

Benefits of designing to Passive House standards include control over indoor air quality and temperature through simple systems. Homes remain comfortable throughout the changing seasons while seeing large reductions in operating costs. Especially here on the Coast it’s important to keep airtight qualities in mind, executing correct application of airtight and moisture resistant membranes and tapes in wood-frames.

“Vancouver is more progressive, already implementing many of the Passive House standards but we’re not far behind,” says Jenkins. “Five step changes through 2030 will bring our local housing industry just below. In the meantime, we can encourage customers to look at some of the techniques and see if they’re interested. The technology is incredible now and results in some really compelling in-home systems.”

“Environmentally sensitive design is definitely becoming more common, and even the standard,” continues Jenkins. “It’s great having these conversations with customers willing to make investments in green practices. “Over here we live in such a beautiful spot and are so connected to nature. We want to do our part to maintain it and these techniques and materials are a huge step in that direction.”

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Kristin Jenkins