It's a Passivhausapalooza in Vancouver

Bernhardt Passive House
© Bernhardt Passive House

There are over 25,000 certified Passivhaus projects in Europe; the green building certification system is very popular in countries where people expect their houses to last longer than their mortgages. There are probably not more that 25 certified projects in North America, and not a lot of designers or manufacturers providing goods and services to it, and not a big user base if you wanted to throw a conference together.

That's not stopping CanPHI from trying to put on a show in Vancouver at the end of September. They have rounded up a great list of speakers including William Rees:

Bill Rees at Sustainable Cities Conference from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

I did an overcaffeinated interview of Bill Rees a few years ago, and consider him to be one of the top ecological thinkers of our time. ( I have since bought a tripod)

Saskatchewan Conservation HouseThe Tyee/Promo image

Wolfgang Feist is considered the father of the Passivhaus movement, (and he will be at the conference) but he followed in the footsteps of others who developed super-insulated houses in the seventies. One of the most important of these was the Saskatchewan Conservation House, built by speaker Harold Orr. It would be interesting to see the two of them together. Monte Paulsen described its influence in the Tyee a couple of years ago:

The world would have forgotten the Saskatchewan house, too, were it not for a quirky German physicist interested in energy-saving buildings. After studying the Saskatchewan house and a handful of similar buildings, Dr. Wolfgang Feist wrote a mathematically precise -- and elegantly simple -- criterion for designing buildings that require less than a tenth of the energy of average buildings. He called it the Passivhaus standard.

Other speakers known to TreeHugger readers are Mike Eliason of the Brute Force Collaborative, Bronwyn Barry (in TreeHugger twice in one day) and Henry Gifford, who I said three years ago would never eat lunch in this town again, and here he is, the dinner speaker.

Sign up for Passive House North 2013

I asked Monte Paulsen, now with CanPHI, to send me some examples of west coast Passivhaus projects that might interest readers; This post is illustrated with the Bernhardt Passive Home on Vancouver Island. It is an interesting duplex design:

The project architect is Greg Damant of Cascadia Architects in Victoria. The building program is a two-family residence for a young family of four, with active grandparents in a suite. As the front of the lot faces west, the building must maintain a suitable presence from the street while maximizing the southern orientation for solar heat gain in the winter.

Interestingly, with all the discussion in the New York Times about the high cost of Passivhaus, Rob Bernhardt says it is not such a big deal.

With the exception of a few basic elements, construction costs are identical for passive house and conventional construction. The elements that differ are design, insulation, framing, doors & windows and mechanical. More design is required, more insulation, better windows and doors, and slightly more wood framing is used. The mechanical costs are, however, significantly less. To replicate the thermal comfort of a passive house, high quality radiant heating (usually hot water) is required in the floors and under windows. An HRV is still required to ensure air quality, although a less efficient model is adequate for conventional construction.. Passive design remains slightly more expensive than conventional, but is more affordable because of reduced operating costs. If the incremental construction cost is amortized with a mortgage, the energy and maintenance savings make the residence immediately cheaper to live in, without waiting for a payback period.

Does Passive House construction cost more? Depends. The simple building form favored by passive construction may reduce costs more than what a customer may have spent creating the same amount of living space with conventional construction. There are many factors and ways of looking at the issue. Whatever method of analysis is used, it is clear Passive House is affordable and, in almost all cases, cheaper to own and operate than conventional construction of comparable quality.

More at Bernhardt Passive Home

It's a Passivhausapalooza in Vancouver
A look at what could be the biggest Passivehaus conference ever held in North America.

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