You want technical?

Okay. Some of you like details. Since Passive House building standards are created by physicists and building scientists, have I got technical details for you about Passive House Standards.

First, some background: buildings consume up to 40 per cent of global energy use and contribute up to 30 per cent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) – those are the emissions that are causing the climate crisis. In Toronto, it’s estimated 53 per cent of annual GHG emissions are related to buildings. That’s 13 per cent higher than the international average. Argh! Worse, a United Nations agency concerned with the climate crisis found buildings around the world on average will have to reduce energy consumption by 60 per cent if we are to meet our Paris Accord targets. Sigh.

Passive House (PH) standards can help. PH is internationally recognized to be the most rigorous voluntary energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today. passive House buildings consume up to 90 per cent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings. You can understand why Canadian governments are adopting our standards for their building codes.

Here are some promised details.

Space heating: 15 kilowatt hours per square metre floor area per year

Air tightness: 0.6 air changes per hour (in both over-pressure and under-pressure scenarios at 50Pa)

Primary energy: 120 kilowatt hours per square metre floor area per year

Want more?

Build better: super-insulated building envelope; hi quality windows with solar orientation; ventilation systems with heat recovery; thermal bridge-free; air tight.

Feel better: Year-round stable indoor air quality and temperature; quiet and comfortable throughout the changing seasons; substantial reduction in energy use and operating costs; simple to use, durable systems; priceless peace of mind.

So who is Passive House Canada? We’re the national Canadian association advocating for the PH high performance building standard. Through our advocacy, education programs, national-wide events, and by fostering the high performance building community, we accelerate adoption of the Passive House Standard. Become a member today.

And get ready, I’ve got lots more numbers for the high performance building afficianados.

But what is a Passive House?

I’m asked often “what is a Passive House?” Below is our simple explanation. But in these times of pandemic, with COVID-19 devastating so many lives and damaging national economies, now does not seem to be the time to talk about the benefits of Passive House building standards when we have immediate concerns about survival.


Except that Passive House design offers more than a better ecological footprint – it also delivers superior quality of health and hygiene for hospitals, government offices, commercial buildings and our homes. The mechanical systems in Passive House buildings are far superior and provide fresh air circulation that is HEPA filtered.

As we deal with COVID-19 we are all getting just a taste of disruption that looms because of the climate crisis. What this crisis teaches us is the need for healthy, hygienic, resilient buildings. And Passive House standards deliver that in spades.

Here’s how we answer “what is a Passive House” on our website. Knowing what I know today, I would probably highly emphasize the health and resiliency of our buildings.


From Passive House Canada website.

Passive House (Passivhaus) is considered to be the most rigorous, voluntary, energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today.

Climate change is the challenge of our generation.  Growing evidence is driving international consensus for action to limit global warming below 2°C.  Buildings consume up to 40 percent of global energy use and contribute up to 30 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions – they are a key piece of the puzzle towards a low-carbon future.

Passive House (Passivhaus) buildings consume up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings.  Applicable to almost any building type or design, the Passive House high-performance building standard is the only internationally recognized, proven, science-based energy standard in construction. Certification ensures that designers and consultants are expertly qualified to design buildings to meet the standard.

The benefits of employing Passive House standards include fine-tuned control over indoor air quality and temperature with simple to use and durable systems, making them extremely quiet and comfortable throughout the changing seasons. The reductions in operating costs quickly make up any additional costs associated with construction, and the reduced carbon emissions provide priceless peace of mind.

Passive House (Passivhaus) is at the foundation of how we build better. It is how we feel better.

For technical criteria for the Passive House, EnerPHit and PHI Low Energy Building Standard click here.

COVID-19 = Trying Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating. Lives lost. Economies crushed. Misery and fear. While we here in Canada have not yet felt the full fury of this corna virus, its affects are already evident.

Passive House Canada, the not-for-profit advocacy group I lead as CEO, has been particularly hard hit. The majority of our revenue is derived from classroom education for building professionals and government decision makers. With hundreds of students suddenly wanting to cancel, we were in trouble.

Fortunately I’m blessed with fantastic staff and understanding clients. Our strategic plan had us moving many of our courses online by spring of 2021.

Boy, did we accelerate that!

Within one week, we were able to offer an important 24 hour course via webinar. It is going on right now – six days of four hours per day.

At Passive House Canada, we are familiar with video technology. We have staff in Victoria, Vancouver, Brazil, U.S., Toronto and Aurora, and work across three time zones. Video conference is a daily occurrence, as is the use of cloud based software.

My concern has been that online education has to deliver the same quality and outcomes as classroom education. That’s not easy when you’re moving to a new delivery platform. It’s not easy when delivering highly-technical content.

Here are a few of the things we’ve done to ensure a good educational experience:

1. The webinars are live and interactive. We have TWO Passive House experts on the webinar – one is instructing and the other is facilitating the event, answering text questions and making sure folks are heard when they have a question to ask.

2. The webinars are taped and students have access to them for future study, especially as they near writing their exam.

3. There are online discussion groups that past and current students can meet in to talk problems and share solutions.

4. Before we went live, we practised, practised, practised. No software fumbling on day one. No hesitant instructors either. (Although, ironically, the video of the CEO welcoming folks to class started without audio. It was like someone was telling me something. That was fixed for day two.)

5. We have great instructors and chose one for this inaugural webinar who knows how to present to the computer. To be good, they must be engaging, even though their students are spread across the continent. Teaching for 24 hours to a computer is tough.

Early feedback is good. One participant told me he enjoyed working alone in his room, able to focus on the course without distraction. Others have said they enjoy not having to travel to a larger city and paying for hotel and meals. One of the important reasons I included moving online is to offer our programs to those who don’t have the ability to travel to a large city for class. I thought northern and rural clients would love this most, but it turns out folks in big cities are very happy to stay home and go to “school,” too.

On the downside, it’s been noted that students who are quiet in the classroom are quiet in the webinar – but it’s harder to identify them. We’re working on that. As these students progress through our 120-series and take the Passive House Institute exams, we’ll be monitoring their success to compare it to students who took the in-class route. I have a feeling that, with good instructors and good curriculum, graduation rates will be the same.

In the meantime, we’re rolling out a full bundle of courses with a deep discount. Our Pathway to Certification program is now online. In today’s world of net zero, near zero and high-performance buildings – whatever you may call them – the clearest path to understanding and creating these buildings is by taking Passive House Canada’s 120-series courses that lead to certification as a Passive House Professional.

Here’s a writeup in the popular Passive House Accelerator newsletter about the launch of our new online series.

While COVID-19 has devastated the economy and shattered many lives, I am relieved that our staff remains healthy. At the end of the day, what matters more?


Welcome to my first post.

In my new role as CEO of Passive House Canada I have the unique opportunity to criss-cross our country, meet many interesting people and advocate for affordable, comfortable, low energy buildings.

Why Passive House Canada? Because this organization brings together two of my great interests: building better and addressing the climate crisis.

I’ll write more in future about Passive House building standards. For now, can you imagine living or working in a building that has no chilly, cold drafts in winter, stays cool and dry in summer, does not promote mould growth, has air cleaner then the outside air, and doesn’t need fossil fuel to heat? Imagine a new building that uses 90 per cent less energy then a similar, code-built home. Imagine a renovated home or office that uses at least 75 per cent less energy than it did before.

These are the proven Passive House building standards. They’re being used around the world and Canadian builders are jumping on-board, as governments set strict energy consumption levels to address the climate crisis and the public demands more of their buildings.

Canadian buildings are, generally, energy hogs — emitting carbon pollution that contributes directly to the climate crisis. In Toronto, about 57 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are from buildings. So, retrofitting old buildings to be much more energy efficient and stipulating new buildings be built to high standards should be easy for governments to do. And some are moving in that direction.

Interestingly, the ancestor of today’s Passive House is Canadian. During the energy crisis of the late 1970s, Canadian scientists built the forerunner to the passive house, called Saskatchewan Conservation House. It is still in use today.

The Regina house was extensively reviewed by European Union scientists who were looking for low energy building techniques, as Europe faced its own on-going energy crisis.

The EU developed its own building codes, but a couple of the scientists went further and built the first Passive House in Austria. It, too, is still in use today. In order to continue to develop these building standards, the Passive House Institute was formed to conduct research into high-performing buildings, develop standards and to help spread the word that about these amazing buildings.

Trust me, once you step inside a Passive House building, you’ll be forever impressed. Quiet. Comfortable. Cozy. And energy costs so low your mind with be boggled. Example one: imagine heating and cooling your home in Fredericton, New Brunswick, for less than $80/month … and that includes running your stove, fridge and freezer. That’s the Naughler House. There are dozens of more example.

British Columbia leads the way in Passive House building. In fact, last year in Vancouver more than 20 per cent of proposed buildings were to be constructed to certified Passive House standards. That includes twin towers of 60 storeys each. Passive House standards just aren’t for single family residences, they’re for virtually all building forms.

Stay tuned for more updates about my advocacy for Passive House standards.