A Semi in Ottawa goes 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.



  1. Hey Annegret,
    I have a 6’8″ x 9’0″ lift and slide Gaulhofer natureline from a recent project that didn’t get installed. Could you use it on your project? I will sell it at cost.

  2. Thank you for mentioning us in your blog !
    Would you buy a car A for 5-10% cheaper than car B which consumes 90% more fuel ? Nobody is that foolish right ? Yet our entire building industry is chugging along blindfolded working with outdated principles and technologies.

    The cost of building a house in only a part of the TOTAL COST. I wonder why professionals don’t consider the cost of operations, durability and comfort when building a house. It has been shown time after time that the PH system makes economical sense from day 1 of home ownership, please this engineer’s study :

  3. If You look at the sliding patio door at Annegret’s house You will easily realize that it is really good looking an in spite of the higher weight very easily to handle. In addition it also preferable for safety reasons. I do not have figures about safety resistance but if You consider the triple 6 mm glazing You will agree that such a door or such a window will not be the preferred entrance for a housebreaker. I had to lern that in Canada white varnished wooden windows in general they use shifted wood. If You ask for natural wood at least at the inside the price would be much higher (in our experience it was an increase by almost 50 %!) Taking this into consideration the ratio between the above described versions of Windows will be reduced significantly.

  4. Hey Annegret,
    As a builder that promotes green solutions in our custom homes I look forward to learning from your experience. Keep up the good work 🙂

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