All houses have personalities… but passive? It’s not a word that is commonly used to describe the places we call home… until now.
According to Dr. Guido Wimmers, we are poised on the edge of a revolution that will see the number of passive houses in our neighbourhoods increase dramatically.
“Passive houses were largely developed in Germany in the early 1990s— comfortable, compact houses that are better insulated and better oriented to harness the power of the sun,” says Wimmers, who is arguably Canada’s leading passive house specialist. “Not only do they provide a healthier living environment, they operate on approximately 80 per cent less heating energy. That can translate into a 50 per cent reduction in your energy bill annually.”
There are now about 40,000 to 50,000 purpose-built passive residential, commercial and institutional buildings in Europe compared to a handful—perhaps 20 to 30—in BC to date. Wimmers started teaching passive-house-building science three years ago at UBC, SFU, and BCIT, and founded the Canadian Passive House Institute to offer training for professionals. He expects to see more passive houses popping up soon.
“Comfort and well-being are the biggest drivers when someone decides to build a passive house,” he says, “but cost efficiency is also a deciding factor. It’s the most affordable way to build today. Passive houses are better built and more durable. Yes, you have to spend more up front, which means slightly higher financing costs on a monthly mortgage. But from day one, you’re saving that or more on energy costs. Over the long run, energy prices are going to go up, so you’re better off building a passive house. Its resale value is much higher than an ordinary house.”