When it comes to tamping down on emissions in the building sector, the future is passive.
Passive Houses, ultra-efficient dwellings that use a fraction of the energy used to heat regular homes, are increasingly seen as a solution to rising greenhouse gas emissions as cities take the lead on fighting climate change.
Some expect the industry to surge as demand for low emissions buildings rises, especially in cities that are adopting more stringent zoning requirements for new development, such as in Vancouver.
Passive Houses are houses built to rigorous efficiency standards that in some case consume 90 per cent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings.
This is typically done through designs that capture or reflect heat from the sun, heat exchangers, heavily insulated walls and airtight windows.
A recent analysis by the Pembina Institute’s Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze found the number of Passive House units in North America (including those under development) has grown six fold since 2015, from 500 to over 3,000 units. Passive House technology was once confined to single family homes but is increasingly being used in more complicated, multi-unit buildings.
Construction activity could surge as the costs for Passive House technology decline. According to Archinect:
“Research by the Pembina Institute pegs the cost premium of Passive House in North America at 6% compared to conventional construction, but when project teams are compelled to innovate, through competition for example, that premium is already dropping toward zero.”
Premiums for Passive Houses are expected to shrink even further as more people are certified to build them, driving down design and labour costs. British Columbia is the hotbed of the Passive House industry in Canada, according to the Pembina analysis, with 120 certified practitioners, more than any other province.
As of April 2017, there were 300 Passive Houses built or under construction in Vancouver. The Heights, an 85-unit rental building under construction in the city was set to become Canada’s largest passive housing complex.
By Jonny Wakefield, 29 June 2017
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This article was written for Clean Capital News a free bi-weekly publication dedicated to producing topical articles on sustainability and clean technology that advance our understanding of issues like climate change and help generate solutions for a more sustainable future.
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