Architrix Design Studio embraces simplicity in designing Passive House projects

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Canadian Design and Construction Report special feature

Founded in 2007 in Vancouver, Architrix Design Studio has grown to be a well-established design firm with a network of exceptional builders, suppliers, consultants and municipal planners. The company offers planning and design services for all types of residential construction projects from renovations to new homes to boutique multi-family projects.

Principal Khang Nguyen says the company “started out doing small, simple projects, additions, renovations and the like, and through creating effective and functional spaces through sensible design practice we have gained an impressive portfolio of projects, large and small.”

He says as the company has grown in its technical focus and experience, its primary interest, and what has moved the company forward, is a practice of functional, sensibly creative, and environmentally conscience projects, including Passive House construction.

“We got involved with Passive House first through seminars and courses provided by CANPHi as we are convinced that the homes we build are an excellent starting point for a more environmentally conscience future.”

He says an opportunity to work with clients to design their Passive House in Whistler, BC. allowed the team to put into practice theories about high performance envelopes, air tightness, energy sources, solar gains, and other interesting aspects “that one does not typically look into when designing and building a home.”

From this project he says they have been able to implement many theories and techniques of Passive House in a simplified manner to create higher performance homes for other clients.

“The biggest difference in our approach to Passive House design and construction is to pursue elegant simplicity, Nguyen said. “There are complex Passive Houses out there, so not all designers will agree with me, but I truly feel that conservatism requires that unnecessary, overly complex processes be abandoned.”

He says starting with a non-complex form allows for the construction process to be more efficient, which relates to a more air tight building, and also allows the budget to be put into higher efficiency, more durable systems and products. “Spending too much time and money on a complex form will deter most homeowners from higher performance materials and systems.”

He says ‘mis-priorities’ about materials and space is one of the reasons for the perception that Passive House construction is more costly. “To build a small high performance home could be the same cost as building large triple gabled, four winged home.”

In his experience, he says high performance homes typically are built for those who plan on living in them, and not so much for re-sale or the development game. He says they are also typically constructed for more progressive homeowners who are keen to live a more sustainable life.

“As our population becomes increasingly more environmentally aware I feel that high performance homes will become the norm, already there are new policies enacted to mandate higher efficiency of our homes.”

Nguyen says Architrix’s team are experts at understanding and communicating with its clients and builders. Ideas flow freely between clients and the design team and information is clearly produced for the builders to build with he says.

“We also have much experience in creating small, spatially effective homes which lend themselves well to the Passive House route. The combination of simple design and small space planning are the starting points of many successful Passive House projects.”

Architrix is primarily involved with single family projects, but also has a growing number of small boutique multi-family projects diversifying its portfolio.“We have a project in Vancouver on a 25 ft. lot where we are retaining and refurbishing an existing character home on the lot, and building a new duplex on the same lot.”

For more information about Architrix Design Studio, visit architrixstudio.com.

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