Living in the Sea to Sky Corridor communities of Squamish and Whistler offers an extraordinary lifestyle, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling during the winter months or hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing in the other three seasons, residents have easy access to a wide array of outdoor adventures. Squamish and Whistler boast a strong sense of community spirit and a vibrant arts and culture scene, providing ample opportunities for social engagement and enrichment.
If you’re planning to build a custom home in BC’s Sea to Sky Corridor, the Passive House standard offers some notable advantages for maximizing energy efficiency, comfort, and sustainability. With superior insulation, airtightness, and advanced ventilation systems, passive house buildings significantly reduce energy consumption, resulting in substantial cost savings on your hydro bills. They provide exceptional indoor air quality, maintaining a constant supply of fresh air while effectively filtering out allergens and pollutants.
Their exceptional thermal comfort, with stable temperatures and no drafts, provides a cozy living environment year-round. From an investment standpoint, passive houses offer exceptional durability, resilience and a high resale value.
In 1988 two men – Professor Bo Adamson of Lund University, Sweden, and Dr. Wolfgang Feist of the Institute for Housing and the Environment, Germany – had a vision of creating a house that would provide comfort, affordability, outstanding air quality with ventilation and reliable performance, without compromising on design options. Their vision became the Passive House (Passivhaus) standard we have today.
Passive House has evolved to become a voluntary energy-based standard and is considered the most rigorous in today’s design and construction industry. Passive house buildings consume up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than conventional homes.
The international Passive House standard requires:
These heating and cooling calculations are based on the net usable floor area of your home. If air conditioning is required, the annual cooling energy demand must still not exceed 15 kWh/m2.
Energy modelling and ongoing performance testing play a paramount role in the design of your passive house building. They enable architects, designers and engineers to optimize homes for energy efficiency, comfort and sustainability. Energy modelling involves the use of advanced software tools to simulate and analyze various design variables, including insulation, airtightness, ventilation, solar gains, and thermal mass.
By creating virtual models, high-performance home designers can assess the home’s energy consumption, predict its thermal behaviour, and identify areas for improvement. Performance testing involves rigorous evaluation of the passive house as it’s being constructed to ensure it meets the desired standards. This entails measuring for air leakage, conducting blower door tests, and verifying the performance of heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
By implementing energy modelling and performance testing, the Coast Essential Construction team can make informed decisions, fine-tune design elements, and achieve a highly efficient and comfortable Squamish or Whistler passive house that will significantly reduce energy consumption and minimize your environmental impact.
Passive house buildings are designed to minimize heat loss or gain, ensuring excellent thermal insulation and airtightness. The result is a significant reduction in the required energy needed for heating, cooling, and ventilation, leading to lower energy consumption and reduced reliance on traditional BC Hydro’s energy.
Superior insulation, high-performance windows, airtightness, and minimizing thermal bridging all play a crucial role in minimizing heat loss in a passive house. Insulation and the elimination of thermal bridging are key factors in designing the building envelope, effectively preventing heat transfer through walls, roofs, and floors. With high R-value insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors, your passive house can achieve exceptional thermal resistance, reducing the need for heating during colder months.
Airtightness prevents uncontrolled air infiltration and exfiltration, which traditionally has caused significant heat loss. Airtight construction, including careful sealing of joints, windows, and doors, helps maintain a stable indoor climate – free of hot and cold spots and drafts – and minimizes energy loss. High-performance triple-pane windows with low-emissivity coatings and insulated frames are designed to reduce heat transfer while allowing natural light to enter. These windows are strategically positioned to maximize solar gain and minimize heat loss, contributing to the overall energy efficiency of your home.
Passive solar design is also integral to optimizing solar gain in the building, harnessing the power of the sun to passively heat the interior spaces, reducing the reliance on mechanical heating systems. Orientation is also a fundamental consideration, with the building’s layout and window placement factored in to maximize exposure to the sun’s path.
South-facing windows are ideal, allowing for optimal solar gain during the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky. Overhangs and shading devices are strategically implemented to block direct sunlight during the summer, preventing overheating. Thermal mass, such as concrete or stone floors and pillars, is often incorporated in the design to absorb and store heat, releasing it slowly into the space when temperatures drop. Well-insulated windows, with their low-emissivity coatings and insulated frames, also help retain captured solar heat.
Passive houses consume much less energy for heating and cooling, leading to substantial savings on hydro costs over time. The reduced energy usage not only benefits the budget but also has a positive impact on the environment. Real estate buyers are increasingly drawn to properties with lower energy requirements, so passive houses retain their value, or even appreciate over time, due to their superior energy performance, durability and sustainable features.
The passive house design principles of airtight construction, triple-glazed windows, super-insulation and advanced ventilation minimize heat transfer and prevent cold air infiltration. This eliminates the cold spots and drafts commonly found in conventional homes, resulting in a stable and pleasant indoor temperature regardless of external Canadian west coast weather conditions.
Maintaining a comfortable and balanced temperature throughout the year helps promote better sleep, relaxation, and overall physical and mental well-being; reducing the fatigue often associated with the body having to expend energy coping with drafts and chills.
Passive houses are equipped with a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery (MVHR). Ventilation units with heat recovery are at the heart of your home’s energy savings, ensuring that the warmth carried by the exhaust air is not wasted, but first transferred to the incoming fresh air, without the two air streams ever physically mixing. Even during the winter, when windows are kept closed, the indoor air remains fresh and free from allergens and pollutants, creating a healthier living environment.
The ventilation system constantly exchanges fresh air with filtered outdoor air while recovering the heat from the outgoing stale air. Replacing this stale and damp air means that even during winter, when windows remain closed, humidity is managed, avoiding the build-up of moisture and mould.
Owning a passive house represents a significant step towards achieving environmental sustainability and reducing your family’s carbon footprint. These homes minimize your need for mechanical heating and cooling by employing airtight construction, super-insulation, high-efficiency doors and windows, and advanced ventilation. A passive house can reduce your energy usage for heating and cooling by up to 90% when compared with traditional homes. These substantial energy savings also directly translate into reduced demand for fossil fuel-based energy sources, thus lowering greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
Your passive house can also play a significant role in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The use of sustainable and low-carbon building materials, as well as the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines, further enhances the environmental sustainability of these efficient homes.
Passive house buildings also promote sustainable living through their extended lifespan and durability. The rigorous design standards and high-quality construction ensure that your passive house is built to last. Increasing your home’s longevity reduces the need for frequent renovations or extensive remodels. Long-lasting homes also require fewer raw materials over their lifespan, reducing the extraction of natural resources and the associated environmental impact.
By constructing an exceptionally durable home, we can also avoid the energy-intensive process of demolishing and rebuilding structures, which releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Contrary to the common misconception that passive house design is rigid and very limiting, these homes offer a surprising level of design flexibility and customization options. There are of course passive house design principles that must be followed to deliver energy efficiency and comfort, but there is still ample room for creativity and personalization within these parameters.
Passive design principles, such as optimal orientation, superior insulation, airtightness, and ventilation strategies, can be implemented in most architectural styles, ranging from modern to traditional. The exterior aesthetics, building layout and interior design can be tailored to your preferences and the architectural style of your subdivision or neighbourhood, ensuring that your passive house seamlessly blends with its surroundings.
The passive house emphasis is on open, light-filled spaces and the integration of large windows for natural light creates a sense of spaciousness and connection to the outdoors. Floor plans and interior layouts can be customized to suit your lifestyle, accommodating specific needs such as home offices, multi-purpose rooms, or adaptable spaces for needs that will evolve over the years. With careful planning and collaboration with a designer-builder, the design possibilities for your passive house are almost limitless.
Customization options also extend to the selection of materials and finishes. Your passive house can incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly materials, such as responsibly sourced wood, low-VOC paints, recycled materials, and energy-efficient appliances. You will be able to choose from a wide range of interior finishes, fixtures, and fittings to create the desired aesthetic and ambiance while ensuring environmental sustainability.
Certified Passive House buildings in Canada can be certified by the Passive House Institute (PHI) or PHIUS, the US certification system. Both certifications share the same three primary concepts: a fabric-first approach to reducing heat loss, high levels of insulation, and airtightness. Where the two paths diverge is in how they evaluate the performance standards.
Passive House Building Certification is an internationally recognized building certification program that provides third-party verification that your home meets or exceeds the high performance and comfort levels of the Passive House standard. The certifier’s role is to provide an independent and objective evaluation, with various audits to implement to ensure levels have been met.
PHIUS has become the largest and fastest-growing passive building certification program in North America. PHIUS certification focuses on meeting rigorous energy performance standards and uses climate-specific criteria to ensure optimal efficiency and comfort. It places particular emphasis on addressing the challenges of extreme climates, balancing energy efficiency with cost-effectiveness, and promoting resilience and durability in buildings.
The BC Energy Step Code is a framework that outlines energy efficiency requirements for new construction and provides a pathway toward net zero ready homes by 2032. The Step Code establishes a series of 5 performance steps, each representing a higher degree of energy efficiency. Achieving Step 5 indicates the home has been constructed to be net zero energy ready (NZER).
‘Net zero ready’ homes are built to the same efficiency standards as ‘net zero’ homes. All that’s required is the installation of a renewable energy system, such as solar panels, to bring the home up to fully net zero. A net zero home generates as much energy as it uses, so the net amount of energy purchased from BC Hydro over a year is zero. Passive House buildings already achieve remarkable energy efficiency, and many recent passive houses have been net zero ready without even targeting it in the design process.
Choosing a design-build contractor offers several benefits compared to the traditional approach of hiring an architect and a separate builder for your construction project. Design-build provides an integrated approach where you work with one primary contact throughout, and the same company handles both the design and construction aspects of your project. This streamlined approach offers numerous advantages, including enhanced communication, increased efficiency, cost savings, and a simplified project management experience.
With a design-build process, your architect/designer and construction team are working together from the project’s inception. This close collaboration ensures seamless communication, efficient decision-making, and effective problem-solving throughout the entire process. Tight coordination between the design and construction team members allows for real-time adjustments, quicker problem-solving, and a faster construction process.
With a design-build approach, your contractor is involved in the project’s design phase, providing valuable insights into construction costs and feasibility. This early collaboration ensures that the design aligns with the project budget, minimizing the risk of design changes or costly modifications later on.
From a project management perspective, hiring a design-build contractor simplifies the overall process for you and can reduce stress during the construction of your custom passive house. Instead of juggling multiple contracts and coordinating between the architect, contractor and trades, you only need one person to call.
Experience matters. Passive house construction requires specialized knowledge and meticulous attention to detail. You’re looking for a Squamish builder with a proven track record of successfully completing high-performance custom home and retrofit projects. Please familiarize yourself with our portfolio.
Based out of the North Shore and Squamish, Coast Essential Construction has over 25 years of building experience. From the age of ten Coast Essential Construction owner, Reid Madiuk, worked alongside his father building some of Whistler’s first condominium complexes and townhouse developments and he has continued building ever since.
Coast Essential Construction is a registered BuiltGreen builder, has been a PassiveHouse Canada member since 2019, and is a NetZero Home builder with the Canadian Home Builder’s Association. We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
If you have a passive home idea and need it brought to life, we provide in-house drafting and design services which can streamline the transition from design into construction, to get your project underway quickly.