Passive House Days 2019

Come visit the Maple Bay Passive House during Passive house Days, 2019!

The Maple Bay Passive House will be open on Saturday, November 9, 12-4pm. 

526 Maple Mountain Rd, Maple Bay, BC

Hope to see you there!

The house in Maple Bay is not the only passive house to open their doors that weekend. Check out the complete list of participating projects here.

Not in Canada? Check out the map of open Passive Houses internationally here


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Maple Bay Passive House – airtight!

Wowza, time is flying! And construction on the Maple Bay Passive House is coming along nicely. The envelope is made airtight with taped 3/4” plywood, Siga Majrex air barrier membrane for the roof, and windows installed. The blower-door test proved an air tightness of 0.28 arch was achieved (that’s less than 1/2 of the required 0.6 act for a Certified Passive House)!

Southeast view of house

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Why material choice becomes more important when building energy efficient homes.

About a month ago I attended the Passive House Conference in Vancouver where Chris Magwood from the Endeavor Centre presented his research on the impact of materials choice in the building of a Passive House (or any other super insulated building).

The extra materials needed for super-insulated buildings, if not carbon sequestering, could inadvertently set back the carbon footprint of a building so much that the saved energy in heating would not make up for the energy used in creating the building for over a 100 years!

He points out that a Passive House insulated with foam has an embodied carbon footprint of 75%-95% right at the start, compared to the heating energy over a period of 32 years. A naturally build, carbon sequestering building in contrary, starts off with a negative carbon footprint of -50% to -99% (depending on the heat source).

Here you can see the same presentation at Passive Buildings Canada. So glad it was recorded so more people can see and learn! Prepare to be wowed 🙂


Source: Building for climate drawdown • Endeavour Sustainable Building School

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On the drawing board: horse barn retrofit

As many green building and conservation professionals agree that ‘the greenest building is the one already standing’, it was a logical choice for these environmentally minded soon-to-be grandparents to convert their old horse barn into a secondary residence for their expecting daughter and son-in-law to move back to Vancouver Island and live on their property.

Inspired by Passive House, the barn is retrofitted with  with super insulated walls, triple pane windows, highly efficient HRV (heat recovery ventilation) and a wood stove to be resilient in extended power outages (these are still common on some parts of the Island).

The robust character of the handcrafted, open post and beam roof structure inspired to create a design that mixes new york loft with rustic west coast style.

A expansion was added for a guest room, laundry, bath room and study. 

Gross area: 1970 SF/183m2


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UN: Zero-Carbon Buildings urgently Needed | BuildingGreen

‘The numbers don’t lie. To keep global warming at tolerable levels, the building industry has to change—radically and rapidly. That’s the message of a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Global Status Report 2017 sounds a red alert: “near-zero-energy, zero-emissions buildings need to become the construction standard globally within the next decade” to ensure average temperatures rise no more than 2°C. Energy retrofits also need to become much more common.

The building sector is responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions, according to the report. That includes embodied carbon of building materials, and it makes the building sector the single largest contributor to global warming.’

Image: United Nations Environment Programme, 2017, Global Status Report 2017: Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector.

Read more: Urgent: Zero-Carbon Buildings Needed | BuildingGreen

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Passive House is for wimps : TreeHugger

‘PassiveHouse is for wimps; the Powerhouse standard is crazy tough. And these Norwegians do it in the dark.’

Powerhouse energy standard = Passive House + Net-Zero Energy, including all embodied energy over the life time of the building!

This hotel, located north of the arctic circle, will meet Powerhouse standard. If They can do it up there, it should be easy to build according to the Powerhouse standard here on Vancouver Island 🙂

Source: Svart, a gorgeous hotel by Snøhetta, will meet the world’s toughest energy standard : TreeHugger

Definition of Powerhouse.

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Niagara Market & Apartments

The Niagara Market building in Victoria, BC has been amazingly transformed!

When Seamus McKeating & Jennifer Gunter bought the building a little over a year ago it needed an overhaul. We tossed around ideas on how to refresh the building within the existing spaces, while keeping the community spirit that this market has been bringing to the James Bay area in Victoria for over a century.  

One of the challenges included making an access to the apartments upstairs that didn’t infringe on the store space. A deck on the 2nd floor with access through the private yard was created. This then created a fantastic space for a patio on the side of the building, which is quickly becoming a social hub for the neighbourhood. 

This heritage project has been taken to a new level with the talented new owners, which you can read about in this nice piece the Times Colonist printed recently.  Read it here.

Check out Niagara Market’s Instagram Feed for more photo’s of this happening place.

Below is a photo timeline of the Niagara Market project:

Niagara Store building before renovation.

Entry to apartment #2, before.

Entry to apartment #1, before.

The store was a community gathering place.

The exterior after renovations (and a fresh coat of paint).

The outdoor patio is a nice place to hang out and meet your neighbours.

Pop-up market on the patio.

Patio furniture from up-cycled pallets.

This old typewriter was found in the building and lives a second life passing on secret messages.

The new stairs up, from the private yard onto the deck.

Interior of Apartment #2 with 2 sliding door to the new sun deck.

The new deck , with sliding doors of apartment #2.

The new deck , with entry doors to apartment #1 at the end and #2 in the middle.

Entry of apartment #1.

‘Door world’ is where all the salvaged doors find a (temporary) home, if not repurposed into the apartments or the new market.

One of the repurposed doors – into a sliding door.

Interior of the new Market in the making.

The new counter in the making.

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House in Nelson, BC

Here’s a project I’ve been working on lately; a small, efficient house in Nelson, BC, designed for a young family with an active outdoor lifestyle.Nelson001

The 30′ narrow lot poses some challenges, but it’s going to be an efficient unit.

The house features a 1722 SF 3 bedroom unit and a basement suite.Watt0004

The layout of the open concept living-dining-kitchen on the main features a fireplace and a kitchen in the centre bay, accommodating a view from the living room of  Kootenay Lake’s west arm towards the north, while maximizing southern exposure and solar gain through the patio doors off the dining room.

A large mudroom combined with laundry, a deck with pergola large enough for a dining set and barbeque, dedicated bike storage below the deck, a hot tub in the back yard, and low maintenance sustainable materials will make make this house a haven of easy living for an young family with an active outdoor lifestyle.Watt000

The 2 bedroom basement suite has it’s own dedicated outdoor space in the form of a sunken patio.

Due to the small lot size and the large program the lot is being rezoned so we can have a slightly larger lot coverage, smaller setback on one side and a few extra feet in height.




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Multi-functional Building

These just in!

24×32′ multi-functional building nestled in the trees on the slopes of Kootenay Lake. One open space under a timber roof, with a porch, garage doors and a view of Kootenay Lake.

Job well done by Shawn Handley & Chris Petersen!IMG_2812
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Building Passive House with Natural Materials

Recently I had the pleasure to see Bjørn Kierulf of Createrra Architects in Slovakia, give a presentation at BUILDEX Vancouver, about Passive Houses built with natural materials.

Natural Passive House
Driven by the desire to build Passive Houses as natural as possible, Bjørn Kierulf  is building certified Passive Houses with straw panels, wood, cellulose insulation and clay plaster.


The main reason for wanting to use as many natural materials as possible, is because these would be non-toxic, and in todays building world toxicity is rampant.

Bjørn pointed out that in 1900 only 50 building materials were available on the market, while today there are more than 50,000 building materials, of which only 43% are tested for toxicity(!).


Clay Plaster
As well, he reasoned that clay plaster is a superior finishing product as it:
1. requires no chemical bonding,
2. controls humidity by its ability to absorb @>50% and desorb @<50%
3. and it’s creative!

Innovation Through Collaboration
Driven by the need for more economic, innovative components, Bjørn also collaborated with local product manufacturers to develop high performance windows, high efficiency HRV units and structural straw panels.


[Images used with permission from Createrra Architects]

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