Passive Houses: The First Five Principles

OnGrowing Works is pleased to announce that our very own Matt Ashton and Justin Jantzi are officially Passive Home certified! Having completed their Pathway to Passive House Trades Certification courses at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in April, both were eager to take their certification exams in June where they passed with flying colours. Considered to be the most rigorous, voluntary, energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today according to Passive House Canada, Passive Houses consume up to 90 per cent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings, making them an ideal choice for those who value energy efficiency. With Matt and Justin certified in Passive Home building, OnGrowing Works is equipped to build your dream energy efficient home.

When it comes to achieving the Passive House standard, BuildPass has outlined five main principles. These principles are all in line with what is called the “PassivHaus badge of approval”, something that is intended to differentiate Passive Houses from their normal counterparts. With benefits such as lower utility costs, improved indoor air quality, increased home durability and more, Passive Homes are becoming increasingly popular amongst today’s homeowners, making widespread understanding of their five following principles more crucial than ever.

1. High quality insulation

The building envelope, or the separation between the inside and outside of a building, must be designed to be both highly efficient and effectively insulated. Despite the fact that many homebuilders assume additional insulation to be the solution for this, an effective building envelope is actually created when the existing insulation you have is used in a way that minimizes heat gain in warmer weather and stops heat loss in colder weather. To achieve this, BuildPass suggests that insulation be wrapped around the entirety of a building when possible and/or that a home be built with insulating materials such as wood fibre or Porotherm blocks to minimize the need for an external energy supply.

2. Heat control and robust windows

Due to their crucial role in the heat energy of a space, windows must be insulated and fitted with double or triple glazing to minimize as much heat loss as possible. When used in combination with high solar heat gain windows on the coolest sides of the house and low solar heat gain windows on the warmest sides of the house, you can fully control the amount of heat gained by your home at any point in time. Further features that can enhance this control even more include nonconductive framing, insulated framing and warm-edge spacers.

3. Airtight construction

By minimizing the heat that escapes from a building through penetrations in its construction, you will not only cut down on the cost of energy, but you will also localize any condensation issues within the building and ensure the greatest comfort overall. To achieve this, a home’s air barrier or its ‘skin’ must be made to be continuous and clear during the building’s design phase. This means that every joint must be perfectly sealed with no gaps whatsoever.

4. Heat recovery ventilation

Once a building has been made to be air-tight with zero leakage, there needs to be a way for the old, stale air to be flushed out to make way for new, filtered, temperature-managed air. A Heat Recovery Ventilation system or HRV helps to get rid of the feeling of stuffiness within a home and eliminates the possibility of condensation during colder months. These systems incorporate heat exchangers which essentially ensure that the air coming into a house is the same temperature as the air being pushed out, getting rid of the potential for problems created by temperature discrepancies.

5. Thermal bridge-free design

In order to build a Passive House, there must be zero thermal bridges. Defined by BuildPass as an area of a building shell that conducts heat or cold more readily than the rest of the structure, thermal bridges can completely compromise the integrity of a building’s insulation. For this reason, the architecture of a build must be designed and checked to ensure that there are no cracks that have the potential of becoming thermal bridges.

While these five principles provide a great introduction to the Passive House Standard, there is definitely much more to learn and understand about Passive Homes. With two certified experts now on our team, OnGrowing Works is excited to help you discover everything you could ever want to know about this growing trend in sustainable home construction. Contact us today to get started! To access even more information, check out the BuildPass or Passive House Canada websites.


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OnGrowing Works Ltd.

Head Office
125 River Avenue
Cochrane, AB T4C 2C2

Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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Canmore, AB T1W 3E9

Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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