Harold Orr, Passive House pioneer, gets recognition in his own home town 40 years later

Saskatchewan conservation house then
© Saskatchewan conservation house then

While being interviewed by CBC Regina about air conditioning, I mentioned that the real answer to the problem of AC could be found right there in the suburbs of Regina, where Harold Orr and his team built the Saskatchewan Conservation House. They had been asked to design a solar house, all the rage back in 1977, but he pointed out that there was not much sun in Saskatchewan in winter. So they went in another direction: super-insulation and air tightness so that it wouldn't need much heating of any kind. To get enough fresh air, they installed a heat exchanging ventilation system. The CBC journalist interviewing me had vaguely heard of it, but didn't realize such an important house was in her own backyard. Orr then gets interviewed and tells the story:

The building attracted tens of thousands of people in the first couple of years, Orr recalled, and acted as an incubator and laboratory for the development of many unprecedented building techniques that have now been adopted all over the world. "Engineers from Germany came to see the building and went back and said 'this is how we need to build homes,'" Orr explained.

Saskatchewan Conservation House© Harold Orr

Orr also explains why it never caught on in Canada or the US, until it was imported back from Europe as the Passive House:

Orr said if Canada wants to get serious about energy conservation, all new homes should be built to Passive House standards — concepts that were born right here in Saskatchewan, but were more eagerly adopted abroad than at home. "There are more than 10 million housing units in Canada and 99.9 per cent are totally inadequate," Orr said. He admits, however, that the low cost of energy here means Canadians do not have the same incentive to build homes that conserve energy in the same way Europeans do.

At last, this pioneer of sustainable building is getting recognition in his own country. His own city, even. He deserves more; give this guy an Order of Canada already. Read in at the CBC. But don't read the inane comments.

Saskatchewan Conservation House© Saskatchewan Conservation House section

Tags: Canada | passive house | Wayback Machine

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