Passive Homes: The height of energy efficiency

Passive Homes: The height of energy efficiency

Passive homes are built with one goal in mind: energy efficiency.

The simplest way to understand this process is by comparing it to the ways to keep coffee warm. You can either leave the pot on a burner all day or pour it into a thermos, trapping the heat inside. Like coffee in a thermos, passive homes must be extremely well insulated so there is no thermal bridging and the building is airtight. A Saskatoon company is passionate about driving sustainable building practices and is currently working on getting its fourth passive home certification in Saskatchewan.

The Green Builder Inc. is a member of Passive House Canada, and its goal is to use 80 to 90 per cent less energy than current building energy codes require. They have been advocates for passive houses since their establishment 13 years ago. Owner Robin Adair lives in his own passive house near Pike Lake outside of Saskatoon. He was heavily involved in the building of the province’s first certified passive home on Temperance Street in Saskatoon.

Adair describes the feeling of walking into a passive home as a place of near-total comfort. “You do not need air conditioning, there are no drafts or cold areas and the indoor air quality is really noticeable.”

  • The five key principles during the construction phase include:
  • Thermal bridge-free construction
  • Air tightness
  • High levels of insulation around the whole building
  • Certified passive house windows and doors
  • High-efficiency air-to-heat recovery (achieving 90 per cent heat recovery)

The Green Builder Inc. is currently working on the Lancaster passive house in the Montgomery neighbourhood in Saskatoon. The home is currently in the drywall stage and all the energy required for the building is electric, with a proposed 10.4 kW solar PV system to generate most of the home’s energy demands. Certified passive house windows will be installed, along with a certified energy recovery ventilator system.

When asked why the new homeowners opted for a passive house instead of a more conventional home, Adair said “They wanted to make a difference in their community after touring the Temperance passive house. The everyday savings speak for themselves, and their corner lot in a well-treed neighbourhood will capture the attention of anyone passing by.”

New distribution channels for passive home-certified materials are also on the rise. This means contractors have increasing access to materials to build passive homes or to simply build homes that are more energy efficient than minimum building code standards.

For more information on passive house building standards, visit the Canadian Passive House Institute’s website.

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