By Belle White | Photos by LSPMedia
On your dream-home wish list, you may have written down ‘modern design’ or ‘west coast style’. But you may want to consider adding ‘passive house building standard’ to it.
Passive homes are a rising trend that highlight homeowner’s positive attitude towards sustainable design and cost-effectiveness in custom homes. The goal of a passive home is to provide the occupant comfort and health using minimal energy.
Getting a PHI (Passive House Institute) certification for your home requires an auditing process where software inputs the annual energy demands of the design and models the intrinsic energy-efficiency of the home.
Griffith Homes is a Comox-based, family-owned business that has just completed the first passive home in Comox, B.C (pictured above). Griffith Homes owner, Tavis Giffith, tells Spruce that the passive home approach to design results in approximately an 80 percent reduction in energy needed for heating.
“Most homes are designed with curb appeal from the street view, however, homes like this are designed around the people who live in the home. First from a health and comfort perspective, followed by the features to support that comfort. The design then evolves to include aesthetically pleasing elements, making these homes not only sustainable, but very desirable,” says Griffith.
A great example of the aesthetically-pleasing elements of the 2217 square foot Comox home is the beautiful, sweeping staircase that appears both heavy and weightless simultaneously. But the stairs are a style-choice, they don’t have anything to do with energy and air flow.
“Most of the things that make a home meet the passive house building standard are not visible,” says the architect on the project, Mark Ashby of Fold Architecture.
We asked Ashby to share with Spruce readers what really does make a home passive, using the beautiful Comox home by Griffith Homes as an example.
Induction Range for Energy Efficiency
The bright, modern kitchen includes an induction range cooking line. “Induction range has a fast response similar to gas but they use electricity instead,” says Ashby. “The home is 100% electric, which avoids a lot of cost and energy demands.”
High-Quality Windows for Airtightness
The windows are triple-glazed, high-performance units in PHI certified fiberglass frames. Using high-quality windows is a crucial part of the passive house building standard because there is a minimum airtightness level required.
This Comox home has an an overall airtightness of 0.21 ACH (air changes per hour), well below the certification limit of 0.6 ACH for the passive house building standard.
The high-quality windows are not just for airtight certification and quality though, they also make the house nice and bright.
“We put in south-facing windows so we could let plenty of light into the house,” says Ashby. More natural light means the homeowner’s need fewer lights on to keep their home well-lit, another sustainable strategy in this home.
Air Flow and Fresh Air
As mentioned with the fiberglass-framed windows, the entryway door is also of the highest quality to keep the home’s airtightness level consistent. The home is then heated using a PHI Certified HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) that provides fresh, filtered air to all the rooms at a comfortable temperature.
The PHI Certified HRV combined with the superior airtightness of the home means there is whole-house ventilation throughout the space. “The owners even opted for no dryer,” says Ashby, “With the excellent ventilation the home can air-dry any laundry, which saves money in the long run.”
This new process for home building certainly opens up options for custom home builders to create more sustainable, longer-lasting homes.
“In the past, homes had a shelf life of 50 years. With the emergence of passive home standards, we are now able to build homes that stand the test of time with a lifespan of 200 to 300 years. We look forward to applying what we’ve learned to future builds,” says Griffith.
Learn more: Passive Homes with Local Architect