January 19 2021
Exploring the Passive House Concept with Timothy Wong
Timothy Wong is a Building Envelope Specialist based out of our Vancouver office. Recently, he achieved his Passive House certification. We sat down with him to talk about Passive House in a bit more detail.
Thanks for sitting down with us today, Tim. What made you want to pursue the Passive House designation?
My initial exposure to Passive House was through my graduate studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. The previous graduate team led the design and construction of a sustainable and resilient single-family dwelling based on passive house concepts for a first-place win in the Solar Decathlon Competition.
Our graduate class subsequently followed with the installation of the prototype SURE House at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, which is currently utilized as an active exhibit to expand and educate the community on passive design principles.
Since then, I have been involved conceptually in a number of multi-unit residential and mixed-use projects, all of which contemplated passive house certification.
Most recently though, my move to British Columbia has provided me the opportunity to further pursue projects in design and construction that echo the Passive House standard given the province’s current and future energy targets. In line with those targets, it was clear that becoming a certified practitioner of these passive concepts would promote higher standards in the industry and ultimately healthier living standards.
How would you explain what Passive House is in the simplest terms possible?
Let’s see – there are five pillars in the Passive House Standard:
1) A super-insulated envelope,
2) Airtight construction,
3) High-performance glazing,
4) Thermal-bridge-free detailing, and
5) Heat recovery ventilation.
Given these principles, it is not surprising that many involve decision-making within the context of the envelope to maximize our energy-use and limit waste energy.
It should be noted that the Passive House standard continues to advance and factors such as energy sourcing and energy production on site are relevant to certification and support a path to net-zero design.
Are there any current Passive House projects you’re working on?
I’m currently working on two multi-unit residential projects, both in Vancouver, BC. One is market housing with a mixed-use program on the ground floor and the other is a social housing project for seniors and their families.
In one case, a six-storey, multi-unit affordable housing project was initially conceived to meet minimum municipal energy code requirements. However, during the design process, the client and design team were able to successfully adapt the project to meet a higher level of performance in pursuit of the Passive House Standard.
At Entuitive, a lot of the design and decision-making that is involved in Passive House align with the high-performance principles we already apply in our day-to-day approach to each of our projects.
Final thoughts on Passive House?
Passive House is surprisingly adaptable, and I believe many see risks or challenges with attempting Passive House project certification as opposed to opportunity.
A common misconception is that only Passive House-certified products guarantee whole building performance that will meet Passive House requirements. However, case studies have shown projects achieving certification with a variety of non-certified products. But it should be noted that certified manufacturers greatly facilitate the design and certification process as they are familiar with performance and detailing required.
Ultimately, the Passive House Standard is about finding a balance between heat loss and gains, which, depending on the scale of the project, can be tuned with several design choices.
This flexibility allows the Passive House standard to pair well with other energy and occupant health and comfort standards in our industry, each with their own strengths, such as LEED®, WELL, NetZero, and Zero Carbon.
Thanks for answering our questions, Tim! We learned a lot.
If you’d like to discuss Passive House with Timothy, you can reach out to him here.