Passive House Canada’s 2nd Annual Conference in Toronto this October (Oct. 17-18) is an indication of the organization’s heightened focus on Central and Eastern Canada, and on high-density buildings.
De-bunking the myth that closely links Passive House with energy-efficient custom home building is one of several conference objectives for CEO Robert Bernhardt. In fact, large portions of the conference’s format are focused on Part 3 buildings.
“Listening to speakers coming in from across the country and around the world, and speaking to other attendees, such as manufacturers, distributors, designers or contractors is a superb opportunity for attendees to connect with others actively involved in delivering these projects,” says Bernhardt.
Moving its two-day conference to Toronto from the organization’s home in Victoria, B.C., is part of a national recognition strategy being undertaken by Passive House Canada, including the hiring of a National Communications Manager in Toronto in the near future.
Bernhardt suggests that the Passive House design and construction concept is a path forward for the construction industry in order to meet the objectives set out by Build Smart, Canada’s national buildings strategy.
“Build Smart lays out a strategy to transform our buildings across the country to deliver the same high performances outcome that Passive House delivers,” he says. “You already see different strategies across the country aligned with that, for example in Toronto, Vancouver and with the BC Energy Step Code. All are pointing in the same direction. All of them are starting to incorporate Passive House methods designed to achieve defined high performance outcomes.”
The other key component to the Passive House concept is the monitoring of overall building performance after construction.
“If you look at our National Building Strategy, it talks about the better air quality, the lack of mold and mildew, lack of condensation on windows, and resiliency and durability in the face of a changing climate,” continues Bernhardt, “It’s widely recognized that the ultimate level of performance required under Build Smart is similar to Passive House performance.”
There are three important Passive House myths the Toronto conference will address: cost, adaptability to varying cold climates, and capacity.
The upfront cost of energy-efficient building methods is always a major cause of concern among designers, developers and contractors. It’s something Bernhardt likes to confront head-on.
“What is clear is that performance and cost are independent — a very poor performing building can be expensive, whereas a high-performing building can be the lowest cost option for a building owner. In any reasonable life cycle analysis, these buildings are more affordable than conventional buildings. There may be a modest increase in design and construction cost. However the operating costs — not just energy but the overall operation of the building — goes down much more than any amortization of the capital cost increase. The projects are actually cash positive in the first few months. And of course, you’ve got a better building that you’re offering the occupants in terms of comfort and air quality.”
He points to increased attention and acceptance from the subsidized and low-cost housing sectors as recognition of these cost efficiencies.
Adaptability to varying cold climates
Another myth is that the high performance buildings are not achievable in colder climates.
“That is simply not true,” says Bernhardt. “In fact, it’s not that difficult to construct a building with high performance outcomes despite the differences in climates between, say, Toronto and Ottawa.”
Bernhardt addresses capacity issues by simply pointing out the number of new project rollouts across the country, encouraged by the mandate set out by Build Smart.
“Just the fact that governments and public agencies are doing these projects creates capacity. Designers get trained and contractors get trained. We’ve got the largest construction firms in the country delivering these projects now.”
The basic building science behind Passive House is not new.
“Canada has been in the business of high-performance buildings since the 1970s, when the National Research Council and the Saskatchewan government got together to design and build the highly-efficient Conservation House,” says Bernhardt. “What the Build Smart national buildings strategy is saying is, ‘We’re back in the business.’ ”