A two-part presentation on Passive House (PH) at the recent Buildings Show in Toronto provided the audience with the insights of a consultant and an owner.
“Passive House is the world’s leading high-performance standard,” said Andrew Peel, founder and managing principal of Peel Passive House Consulting Ltd., and one of only a handful of Canadian Passive House certifiers accredited by the International Passive House Institute.
“Passive house has market value,” said the consultant, adding there still is a perception the additional costs are prohibitive despite evidence to the contrary.
As an example, he referred to a Passive House affordable housing project in the United Kingdom. Despite higher rents than comparable buildings, it has lower rent arrears and turnovers. Another example is a market townhouse project in Burquitlam, B.C. which sold for 10 per cent above comparable properties.
“Customers are seeking out developers who do PH,” said Peel, noting the list of Passive House structures in Canada includes community centres, fire halls, office towers, industrial buildings and even a car dealership that his firm was the consultant on.
However, the How to Deliver Passive House Cost-Effectively seminar was not intended to be vindication of Passive House. Rather, the focus was on the measures to reduce the costs and the planning, design and building steps that owners and developers need to consider.
One is choosing the Aligned Procurement Method — the CCDC 5b contract is the most suited to Passive House, said Peel, who recommended selecting a construction manager with Passive House experience and including it in the project right from the start.
Other safeguards include using climate-specific Passive House-certified products, avoiding complicated junctions, designing compact mechanical systems, plus installing the right-sized mechanical equipment, ensuring proper specifications, and keeping the building form compact to save construction costs and to minimize energy losses.
“Large apartment buildings are better than very small ones.”
Sometimes compromises have to be made in the design and delivery of Passive House projects, the audience was told. One of the firm’s clients was a car dealership, whose initial design called for seven overhead doors.
“We proposed a design with only two. The client ultimately agreed to four,” said Peel, adding the operational feedback later received from the client was, “it was better than the original design.”
Many of the points in Peel’s presentation were reaffirmed in the second part of the seminar by YWCA Hamilton capital projects manager Sarah Borde, who related the agency’s experience in delivering the Passive House Putnam Family YWCA in that city.
Designed by Kearns Mancini Architects and built by construction manager Schiltuis Construction Inc. using Passive House trained employees, the building opened in the summer of 2021 and features 50 two- and three-bedroom units for women and their families, 15 of which are reserved for women with developmental disabilities. All of the units are fully occupied.
It was actually the architect who recommended Passive House and that proposal was supported by the YWCA’s own development consultant. Initial research showed the cost premium could range from zero to eight per cent, but the energy savings could be as high as 75 per cent, she said.
The construction manager was brought on board early in the design process and the YWCA’s project manager conducted regular site visits to ensure the specificities of Passive House were adhered to, she added.
“We are very proud (of this building). There were no compromises on quality,” said Borde, adding it compares very well with Passive House buildings owned and operated by City Housing Hamilton and Indell, a non-profit affordable housing developer.
An ongoing post-occupancy evaluation of the building is being conducted in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the University of Toronto, and The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), she said. TAF is agency that finances and supports initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
A $10.6-million CMHC grant and $5.25 million in provincial funding through the Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario Program partially financed the $24.6-million facility. As well, the City of Hamilton waived $1 million in development charges.
The one caveat for owners and developers considering Passive House is the shortage of experienced trades and, “there is no incentive for trades to take time for training,” said Borde.
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