October 30 2020
Passive House at Entuitive
At Entuitive, we have several Certified Passive House Consultants and Building Envelope Specialists with experience working on Passive House projects. Our experience to date has been on both single-family style developments, as well as mid-size, multi-storey, multi-tenant residential and mixed-use developments, in both a retrofit and new construction application.
We are seeing clients of all types considering Passive House as the platform for energy performance on their projects. Our clients include developers creating market housing, affordable housing, and mixed-use developments, as well as municipalities improving existing rental/community housing.
Larger scale projects, particularly in the residential sector, create challenges that may not exist, or are not as difficult to overcome, in single-family dwellings. Larger, multi-unit and multi-storey residential buildings typically have exterior projections, such as balconies and architectural features, and often require articulation in form and variation in the façade in order to meet local by-laws and development requirements. This type of building shape and form complexity is challenging to accomplish within the Passive House platform, while also watching cost and constructability.
One of our current Passive House projects is a six-storey, 63,000 ft², multi-unit affordable housing project in Vancouver. This project was first conceptualized as a “traditional” construction, striving to meet the minimum municipal requirements at the time. During the design process, the client requested the project be upgraded to achieve Passive House performance. The process of reimaging the project to achieve a higher standard of performance is, and continues to be, intriguing and challenging. We strive to maintain the architectural intent while creating details and efficiencies that are required to achieve Passive House performance standards.
In some cases, we have to get involved with the municipalities and building departments to push for products and systems that are not typically acceptable, in order to achieve the level of performance a project demands. We are currently working with the City of Hamilton on the Ken Soble Tower, which is a Passive House Retrofit (EnerPHit). The project is centred around an existing 18-storey affordable housing building. During the design process we needed to balance cost and performance when it came to the new window systems. It was determined that fiberglass windows were the only option that would tick both boxes. In this case, we worked with the City to obtain a variance to allow fiberglass windows on the project; a product that was not previously allowed by the municipality.
In the UK, we have Longwood House. This new build house has been designed for an environmentally conscious client. It is a two-storey house that sits within a disused quarry and it appears from the adjacent road to be only a single storey sitting above the land. The site is adjacent to woodland on one side and open countryside to the other and the ground floor is set down into the old quarry. Entuitive worked with the Architect, A-Zero, to achieve Passive House standards, including detailing wall and roof elements to accommodate the insulation layers. The superstructure is formed using a variety of materials, including mass timber elements that are expressed in the finishes.
A Way Forward With Passive House
The great thing about the Passive House platform is that even on non-Passive House projects, some of the core principals of Passive House can be, and should be, applied. In terms of the building envelope, striving for thermal-bridge-free design and increased air tightness are key to building performance and operating efficiency. Even before Passive House was on its way to becoming a mainstream platform, these were the core goals of our team as Building Envelope Consultants, and these concepts are further reinforced today by building codes and standards.
Since we strive for a holistic approach to design, we see that the principles of the Passive House platform for achieving net-zero operational carbon are in alignment with principles for reducing embodied carbon. The two approaches work hand in hand to deliver a building that truly reduces the whole-life carbon emissions. Equipped with the knowledge that the vast majority of embodied carbon in a building lives in the structure and building envelope, and understanding that the bulk of those emissions take place in the Product Stage of extraction, transportation, and manufacturing, our teams make informed decisions when selecting materials to achieve a high-performance envelope system to reduce both embodied and operational carbon.
So, whether it’s a small or large-scale project, we have the team and the tools to tackle it. We believe strongly in building a better world and creating a more sustainable built environment and Passive House and Passive House ideals, are a great way to get there.
If you’d like to learn more or have a Passive House project you’d like to discuss, reach out to any one of our building envelope leaders on this page.