A Semi in Ottawa goes Passive House

Author: Annegret (page 1 of 4)

The team

For every great project you need a great team!

The times of the universal “Baumeister” of the middle ages, who was the designer, the engineer, the contractor and craftsman on site are long gone. So even a quite small project like mine, needs the the input of many different disciplines.

I have a created a new page to list all the consultants involved and I am sure there will be more companies added, once I move ahead with construction in the spring.

#24 of 24

The last advent calendar post!

Personally I am looking forward to taking a break for a few days and spending time with my family. Comes January I will hopefully get a building permit and start serious conversation with contractors and suppliers. And once construction starts I hope to shift my blog from more theoretical rants to hands-on experience and construction photos!

Thank you for following me and my blog and please keep sharing, liking and commenting.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the best for 2017!

Door #23 – Christmas Reading List

As we all start to wind down for a few days off, I thought I give you some ideas for your Xmas reading:

The Passive House Brochure – Active for more comfort: Passive House an informational booklet published by the International Passive House Association

Passivhaus: an Introduction and Why choose Passivhaus, both published by Passivhaus Trust – the UK Passive House Organization.

Door #22 – Can we afford Passive House?

At a dinner party a while ago, one of the guests started asking me about what I do, my job and what project I am currently working on. So of course, the conversation turned towards energy efficient buildings and how much more could be done here in Canada. Well, my guest was not agreeing with me – that would be way to expensive to build such high quality buildings and there would be no way anyone could still afford to construct anything. And that whole climate change thing might not be happening anytime soon….

But then he went on to ask me how the building code addresses the fact that Ottawa is in a seismic zone and earth quakes could happen anytime. I was happy to tell him that in 2006 there was a big change in the Ontario Building Code to improve the seismic performance of our buildings in the event of an earthquake. This of course results often in more expansive foundation design, thicker columns and shear walls, more steel reinforcing and so on. And makes the construction more expensive!

The latest update of the Ontario Building Code in 2012 made big changes to address the accessibility of our buildings for everyone – that means for example wider doors, more clearances in barrier free washrooms, more elevators and the new Universal Washroom, that has to be provided in every new building over a certain size.  I think you can agree with me, that this adds cost to the construction.

Strangely this never came up in discussion on construction budgets with any of my clients. No one ever questioned those changes and the necessity of adjusting the design and construction of our buildings to make them safer or more accessible.

Which tells me that if we as a society decide to improve our build environment – we can do it. So if we accept that climate change is here and happening then the question is not can we afford passive house – the question really becomes can we afford NOT to do passive house.

Door #21 – More on windows

At a job showing yesterday one of the contractors approached me and said “I hear you are a passive house designer, that is very interesting. I would like to learn more about passive house myself.” So we started talking and I told him about this blog and my project. Then he said “I actually have some clients right now, they want to build a passive house, but I told them that they can’t afford it.”  I guess I looked a bit surprised, especially when he mentioned their reasonable budget. He went on to say ” The windows already will cost twice as much as the windows I usually install.”

Right. But they will also perform much, much better. And they will last much, much longer.

Imre Mate, who is working for Internorm Canada, importing Austrian windows and one of my most loyal readers, has the following story to tell:

“Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a customer from 2 years ago that installed our products in his own home, we discussed energy costs over the last two years. In a 1600 square foot home he saved about 550$ annually vs. his neighbors in the same new construction house with inexpensive windows.
The cost of the window package (energy-star rated) was 12,000 CAD$ for the neighbor and his was about 24,000 CAD$, we calculated that difference of 12,000 CAD$ would cost about 40 CAD$ a month or 480 CAD$ per year on a mortgage payment. The savings on heating and cooling alone already offset the difference, and this is in a province where electricity is still cheaper and cleaner than then the rest of the country.
Instead of R-3 center glass value we offered R-12, triple glazed 6mm glass, this makes a HUGE difference in thermal performance, soundproofing and general comfort.
As an added bonus, they now have a more comfortable home, HVAC system not working overtime, therefore less maintenance and servicing costs involved and last but not least, our windows will last 50-60 years instead of 10-15 years.
So looking only at the bottom line and not considering OVERALL VALUE and LIFETIME OWNERSHIP COST people make costly mistakes. European performance requirements today are 3 times more stringent than North American ones. Perhaps the Europeans understand certain principles better than we do.
By all means this is not a scientific study, and we understand that there are certain variables that we don’t control, but it is still worth considering the logic of trying to purchase quality products that would also last longer and have less impact on our environment as well.”

In my own house we had to replace our Energy Star rated sliding patio door after 10 years – we chose a new European made door.  Some of our other windows aren’t in great shape either. They certainly won’t last 50 years…

Maybe my contractor will read this post and reconsider the information he gave to his clients, maybe he will send the clients my way, so we can have a conversation and see if their vision to build a passive house can become a reality.


Today a short video, where Wolfgang Feist himself gives you an overview on the passive house concept.

Door #19 – Performance

In the November issue of the “Canadian Architect” magazine, Douglas MacLeod argues there is an urgent need for architects to come together and improve energy efficiency in buildings.

I couldn’t agree more!

One issue he raises is that it is very hard to predict how buildings are performing “A 2014 study, entitled Do our Green Buildings Perform as Intended?, studied nine green buildings from across Canada. In three of those buildings, the actual performance (in terms of kWh/m2/yr) was significantly worse (by a quarter or more) than the predicted performance.”

That is were I am NOT in agreement with this article – with Passive House we exactly know how the building will perform! 25 years of experience with numerous completed buildings that have been monitored over extended periods of time, we can be very confident, that a building designed and build to the passive house standard performs exactly as predicted. The energy efficiency of the passive house standard has been confirmed by measurements in practice over and over again and is well documented by the Passive House Institute.



Door #17 – On the other side of the world

The great thing with social media – you can reach people everywhere ! I made a new friend through this blog on the other side of the world in New Zealand. He is writing a great blog on passive house, highly recommended. His writing is a bit (a lot)  better than mine and you can find many interesting posts on his website.

Architect? Get into Passivhaus

Today I am sharing one of his posts – addressed at architects…

Door #16 – Movie night

Does your family watch a movie on Friday night? Here is an idea for you, Passive Passion is a 22-minute documentary that examines the Passive House standard for buildings – a design method that results in 90% reductions in the energy needed for heating and cooling.

“Charlie Hoxie is a filmmaker and video editor based in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been nominated for two New York Emmy awards and he won a NY Emmy for a profile he made of Guatemalan-American artist Carlos Pinto. Other works have been featured as a Vimeo Staff Pick and screened at film festivals all around this globe.”

Door #15 – No heat

When we came home from work yesterday our boiler had stopped working. It was supposed to go down to -12 last night and the house was starting to get cold. We have radiant heat throughout and the floors felt freezing. The temperature in some of the corner rooms fell quickly down to 17-18 degrees. Thankfully we have a Danish wood burning stove, that kept us warm all night – and right now we have already someone here to fix the problem.

But what does this have to do with passive house? Well if we would have been living in one, it wouldn’t have been a big issue – the house would have held the temperature over night. And with a family of 4 living in it, cooking, having the lights on and a sunny day coming up we probably would have been fine for a few days.

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