Luisa Drope on Passive House and Building Performance
Luisa Drope is Entuitive’s newest Building Performance Analyst sitting in our Vancouver office. She is also a certified Passive House Designer. We sat down with Luisa to discuss her background and experience in Passive House, a few of her favourite projects so far, and where she sees the industry going.
Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Luisa. Can you tell us about your background in the industry and why you chose to focus on Passive House?
Luisa: Thank you for having me, and of course. My educational background starts in Germany, where Passive House Certification was invented in the 1990s.
I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and Renewable Energy Systems at HTW Berlin, followed by my Master of Engineering in Energy Efficient Buildings at the Technical University Cottbus, also in Germany.
I started learning about passive design concepts during undergrad and then chose to focus on it during graduate school because I love the complex and creative process, where a wide range of various disciplines needs to work together as a team to achieve a high-performance building. The Passive House certification for buildings is also quite demanding, which makes it a great challenge for each new project.
In my previous role at Stantec Engineering, my supervisor, Andrea Frisque, who is now Dean of the School of Energy at BCIT, was the consultant on the first project in Canada that achieved Passive House certification in an extremely cold climate in Canada. This also opened the door for me to become more involved with these projects.
What makes Passive House different from other stringent energy codes, and why are you such a proponent of this model?
Luisa: As I mentioned, Passive House is one of the most demanding, voluntary, energy-based certifications a building can achieve in Canada. In a Passive House, the heating and cooling loads are minimized through passive strategies that will massively downsize the need for HVAC systems. Some codes, such as BC’s Step Code 4, do have the same energy target as Passive House, but PH goes even further to really focus on the details and requires all building components to perform at a very high level. For example, PH focuses on the performance of every thermal bridge.
I became a Passive House Designer because I believe Passive House is an opportunity for the entire AEC industry to work together to reach that next level of precision in building performance.
Can you tell us about your biggest challenge in a Passive House project, and what did you learn from it?
Luisa: Of course. One project I’m proud of is a visitor center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that I worked on before joining Entuitive. This building targets Passive House certification in an extremely cold climate and therefore was very challenging for the whole team.
What I liked the most is that those extreme targets in this harsh weather require intense collaboration between all disciplines. For example, the Passive House requirements greatly impacted the architectural design, meaning we had to develop an architectural solution that increased the passive heating and cooling approach.
In this case, the architect was happy to experiment with us during the early design stage, and we landed on a triangle-shaped building design that minimized the north-facing wall. This allowed us to maximize the solar heat gain, which helped us keep the heating demand low.
I would love to advocate for more of this in the future. Passive design considerations must be included at the earliest project stages because they can have such a profound impact on the final performance of the building.
What projects are you currently working on?
Ecoville Townhouses, Squamish
Luisa: One project I’m currently enjoying working on at Entuitive is the Ecoville Townhouses in Squamish, British Columbia. This project involves 25 townhomes that are focused on carbon neutrality and affordability. While it won’t be officially Passive House certified, it is aiming for Step Code 4. Additionally, solar panels on the roof will offset 100% of the operational energy consumption.
Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre, Surrey
Luisa: I’m also really enjoying working on the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Surrey, BC, which is aiming for the Zero Carbon Building Certification. The Centre will offer access to a gymnasium, multipurpose and maker spaces, a fitness studio, and a community kitchen.
Menno Hall, Vancouver
Luisa: Finally, I am enjoying working on Menno Hall, a six-storey development located between the University Endowment Lands (UEL) and UBC. The project is targeting BC Step Code 4 and is consisting of 86 rental housing residences, 101 student housing units, institutional and academic space, common areas, and space for concerts.
What do you hope for the industry and Passive House moving forward?
Luisa: With its high requirements, Passive House is a significant force in the Canadian market to push for higher performance. Not only for the designer but also the components like windows, heat recovery ventilation, or balcony connections.
These are exciting times. The requirements in the Canadian Building Code are changing a lot, and high-performance building standards, like the BC Step Code, Zero Carbon Building Standard, or Net Zero are becoming more and more the norm. The world needs this chance, and I am rooting for it!
Thank you so much for sitting down with us, Luisa.
To learn more about Passive House consulting and how Entuitive can support your project, reach out to Luisa Drope at email@example.com.