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Building a passive house

The right energy, the right price

​Imagine building to a super-efficient standard without incurring a “green premium.” That’s what the father-son team of Bernhardt Passive Homes is doing by undertaking a project to build a very unique residence in Victoria.

The international passive house standard is the most stringent energy efficiency standard in the world. It requires the building to use 80 to 90 per cent less energy than standard construction. And FortisBC was up to the job, offering energy solutions to ensure the home’s consumption is minimal.

The Bernhardt team met with a FortisBC energy solutions manager to determine the right energy mix, which resulted in FortisBC supplying heat and hot water to the residence.

“What many people don’t know when building an efficient building is that natural gas can be part of the energy mix,” said Mark Bernhardt, builder and son of Rob. “It’s just a matter of ensuring it is incorporated into the plan from the beginning.”

With the exception of a few elements, construction costs are identical for a passive house and conventional construction. According to the team, the incremental cost of building materials above regular construction will start being recouped immediately. Then, costs will be completely recouped in anywhere from six to ten years, as the house will only consume a fraction of the gas and electricity used by standard residences.

What is a passive house?

A successful passive house relies upon the shape and orientation of the building, and features high performance heat recovery, ventilation, windows and insulation and an airtight envelope.

The resulting product is a house with superior thermal comfort and indoor air quality that requires so little heat that the building can be heated primarily by “passive” sources, such as direct sunlight and heat gains from existing appliances and building operations.

To be certified as a passive house, a building must meet the following criteria:

  • Space heat demands that do not exceed 15 kWh/(m2a)  per year or 10 W/m2. The floor area used in these calculations is carefully defined and is roughly equivalent to the heated living/working area of the building.
  • A blower door test with results at 50 pa must be 0.6 ACH or less.
  • Function within a proscribed comfortable temperature range.
  • Total energy consumption that does not exceed proscribed limits, which effectively requires the use of energy-efficient equipment and systems.

Interested in learning more?

Contact an energy solutions manager near you.


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 Did you know…?

​The passive house standard is being applied to all types of buildings. In fact, all new construction in Europe and Britain must meet the passive house standard by 2016.