Edmonton-based ReNü Engineering achieves sustainability with economical Passive House and Net Zero Energy building design

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Edmonton-based ReNü Engineering is achieving the sustainable ideal – building a solid, environmentally responsible engineering practice on sound scientific knowledge.

Principal Stuart Fix is a pioneer in the Canadian Passive House movement, turning the energy savings concepts into a diversity of successful projects in the western provinces.

“ReNü’s focus has always been on pragmatically delivering the most cost effective, high performance buildings possible,” Fix says. “We use a blend of building science and mechanical engineering to find the right balance between building envelope and HVAC systems to deliver comfortable, healthy and low-life cycle cost spaces for our clients.”

“Sometimes the outcome is a Certifiable Passive House building, sometimes it is a Net Zero Energy building, and other times it is simply a ‘damn good’ building,” he said.

The story behind ReNü’s practice goes back a decade, when Fix was focusing his career as a mechanical engineer designing oilfield sector machinery, clearly at the opposite end of the environmental movement.

“It was enjoyable work, and I learned a lot about detail-oriented, practical design in an international setting,” he recalls. “I didn’t, however, enjoy the boom/bust cycle of that industry, nor that I was ultimately contributing to a sector that we know must eventually play a lesser role in global energy supply.”

“I sought out a new industry, and decided that buildings would be something we’ll always need, and that the construction sector is a focal point for a large portion of the environmental movement.”

Fix moved to Toronto for two years and completed a master’s degree in building science. He also connected with the Passive House movement in its earliest days, founding Passive Buildings Canada (PHC) in 2009. (He has served on PHC’s board for many years since, and he continues to serve on the US Passive House Institute’s technical committee.)

Fix returned to Edmonton in 2010 “to practice the blend of building science and mechanical engineering that we still use today.”

Today, ReNü Engineering has a team of five with technical, engineering, and sustainable construction experience, and the organization is working on a diversity of challenging and innovative projects.

Completed ReNü projects include several memorable initiatives, including the Cottonwood Passive House, in Fort Saskatchewan, AB, which was the province’s first certified Passive House.

This single family home, completed about four years ago, uses about 90 per cent less energy for heating and cooling than a typical home. It has 20-inch-thick walls, intelligently angled to the sun. The maximum energy needed to heat the house is equivalent to running five hair dryers – and the building has superb air quality, its owners say.

Another significant ReNü project is the Mosaic Centre in Edmonton, the first Net Zero Energy Commercial building in Alberta, for “which we provided energy modelling, life cycle cost analysis and Net Zero Design.”

Powered by an array of over 213 kW photovoltaic (PV) panels, and heated/cooled by 32 geothermal wells, it is one of the most environmentally-conscious buildings in Canada, a building description says. “It has achieved LEED Platinum Certification, the highest possible level of recognition for environmental stewardship on a construction project. The building is also a bright, fresh-air, positive energy environment designed to help building occupants feel happy and inspired at work.”

In Fort St. John in Northern BC, the 50-unit BC Housing Passive House “is the largest cold climate certified project in Canada,” Fix said. Also impressively, another 50-unit social housing structure in Alberta is “likely the most exciting, as our design build team responded to a traditional housing RFP, offering Net Zero Energy construction for no increase in project budget.”

“This paves the way for major industry change,” Fix said. “We’re offering proof at the provincial level that higher performance buildings offer excellent economic value.”
ReNü provided Passive House and mechanical engineering design for the Valleyview Townhall, the first commercial building in Alberta receive Passive House certification.

“I believe major change is coming to the construction industry, and within 10 years you’ll see Net Zero Energy and Passive House type projects become the new normal,” he said. “Building codes are pointing in that direction, and we’re proving today that the economics work in many cases.”

For more information about ReNü Engineering, see http://renu.engineering/about-us.

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