Canadian Passive House Institute West guides AEC community to achieve sustainable energy-saving standard

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Incorporated in 2013, the Canadian Passive House Institute West (CanPHI West) offers training and events for builders, architects, engineers and trades people, and advocates for building energy efficiency at the international Passive House standard.

This effort continues this fall as CanPHI West hosts the 2015 North American Passive House Network Conference (NAPHN15), Oct. 1 and 2 in Vancouver. The organizers are expecting more than 400 attendees, including designers, builders, suppliers, government officials and policy analysts. The program includes two days of presentations and panel discussions, and a trade show dedicated to suppliers of Passive House products and services. There will also be a day of pre-conference workshops and post-event project tours in Vancouver and Whistler.

CanPHI West president Rob Bernhardt says that more and bigger Passive House projects in North America demonstrate its profile and that interest has grown. “A 26-storey Passive House project was just announced for New York and other high rise projects are being designed.  Multi-family low-rise and mid-rise projects are more common and growing in number.

Bernhardt was pleased to see BC Passive House recognized recently in the Wood WORKS! awards. “This award showcases the role of Passive House to the future of construction. Not only is the plant architecturally beautiful but it is also producing prefabricated Passive House homes for the market.”

He says code development is moving in the right direction not only to achieve the energy efficiency inherent in Passive House buildings but for the collateral benefits of this efficiency. “Passive House creates a simpler building with lower operating costs, improved comfort and superior air quality.”

He observes jurisdictions adopting building codes aligned with Passive House. “The European Union has committed to nearly net zero energy building by 2020, which is effectively a Passive House. California has committed to net zero buildings by 2020, B.C. has made a net zero commitment and New York has clearly identified Passive House as its future. The debate in several jurisdictions is how to move towards greater energy efficiency, in several small steps, or in one step.”

To help building professionals understand how to achieve Passive House energy efficiency, CanPHI West offers a variety of courses. These range from a one-day introductory course to a new 10-day design and construction program. Bernhardt says these courses are taught in person, wherever demand exists, and are intended to eliminate the fear factor around Passive House.

“The greatest challenge in growing Passive House is not technical or financial, it is a lack of experience and fear of the unknown. The design of a Passive House may be more challenging but the construction is relatively simple.”

He says the key to achieving Passive House is an effective design including high quality windows and doors, high efficiency heat recovery ventilation and robust air sealing. Passive House is not prescriptive but simply defines the energy budget on which the building must operate, while providing increased comfort and superior indoor air quality. The Passive House designation applies for projects ranging from single-family residential to high-rise and from commercial to institutional.

Bernhardt says certification is relatively affordable because the cost primarily reflects the time of the certifier plus a minor fee to the Passive House Institute.

The Passive House Institute in Germany accredits certifiers who operate as independent professionals.

As with LEED, Bernhardt says there is value in obtaining Passive House certification. “The certification, having a project reviewed and vetted by an independent body is important for quality assurance and market reasons. How is a future buyer to know what they are getting without the label?”

For more information about the Canadian Passive House Institute West and its courses, visit www.canphi.ca. For more information about the 2015 North American Passive House Network Conference, visit http://naphn15.canphi.ca.

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