A Semi in Ottawa goes Passive House

Door #12 – German Engineering

One of the things I like about passive house is that it comes from Germany. No surprise here. I have been living in Canada for over 10 years now, but of course everything German is close to my heart.

We often have so called “lunch and learn” in our office, where we get a free presentations from a sales representative over a also free lunch. They are always interesting, sometimes excellent and we learn a lot about new flooring materials, facade cladding products, new cool glass for windows, curtain wall system, waterproofing membranes, green roofs….you get the idea. So we usually all listen attentively, are in awe about the possibilities with one of our current projects, and then we start talking about Germany. Why? Because often the product was developed in Germany or we see some really cool photos of buildings and they are located in …Germany!

So why is “German engineering” or “European design” such a quality attribute? Yes, this is certainly true for the car makers – as someone commented on my post on windows : the BMW of windows – German cars are great to drive and a real status symbol.

But all these other things too? Before leaving Germany and living somewhere else, I wasn’t particularly aware of this. I took all my German products and building materials for granted. Building buildings the North American way is certainly different than in Germany, but unfortunately it is very hard to achieve the passive house without importing windows, HRVs, sealing tapes, CLT panels, even insulation from Europe. So hopefully with an increase in demand, the North American market will adapt and high quality building products will become more readily available.


  1. Americans have been building cars for as long as the Germans, why aren’t they producing similar quality products ? I think a lot has to do with mentality of the people who design the products. The German customer is also more informed and more demanding. A comment I often hear when presenting a European product to the North American professionals is “what is the point ?” , the energy is cheap here. I guess that explains why people are driving F150’s and large SUV’s instead of turbo diesel or hybrid 4 cylinder BMW’s. Also I found that Europeans tend to more environmentally conscious that North Americans, not only because of the cost of energy, but for the sake of a better future for everyone.

    North American manufacturer’s aren’t building a better product because their customers are satisfied with low or medium quality products ( as long as it fits in the budget … ) I venture to say that if North American companies would start manufacturing PH rated windows, their overall quality would still be low or mediocre.
    There are PH certified windows manufactured in other parts of the world than Europe ( even China makes them ) but you aren’t getting the same quality as you would from a German or Austrian manufacturer. I think a lot has to do with PRIDE !

    • Annegret

      December 12, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Very good points! It also has to do with training. In Germany it takes three years of apprenticeship to become a “window maker”. And a lot of the window manufacturers are medium sizes companies that have been in the same family for decades.

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