Although the Passive House approach to construction has been developed and refined in Europe over the past 20 years, perhaps the most important ancestor was the Saskatchewan Conservation House designed and constructed in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1977 by a team including researchers from the National Research Council and Saskatchewan Research Council.
It’s ironic that Canada was a world leader in energy efficient construction practice during the late 70’s and early 1980s, but we then lost interest, and certainly failed to incorporate any of the successful features of the Saskatchewan Conservation House into later residential construction codes. Research into advanced building efficiency effectively ended decades ago in Canada.
The first so-called Passive Houses were designed and built in 1990, in Darmstadt, Germany. These houses incorporated R&D from many parts of the world including Canada, yet they differed significantly from all other low-energy houses in their emphasis on building envelope thermal performance.
These first Passive Houses represented a ‘Factor 10’ improvement in building energy performance, compared to standard Building Code construction. This is achievable only through dramatic improvements in the thermal and airtightness properties of the building envelope, and needs significant changes to normal construction practice. These houses confirmed that it was possible to build homes in a cool northern climate which simply don’t need a conventional heating system in order to maintain excellent year-round comfort and high levels of indoor air quality.
The Passive House approach aims for an optimal economic investment combined with the highest levels of comfort and indoor air quality. Even at today’s relatively low energy prices, a Passive House is the cheapest house you can build in Canada over its lifecycle.
In 2008 the European Union passed a resolution calling on each European member state to adopt the Passive House Standard by 2016 for all new construction and major renovation projects. Ultimately this resolution will alter the construction industry in all parts of Europe, as the continent recognizes the need to build for long-term economic benefits, improved indoor air quality and personal and national energy security.
As one architect has stated:
Every Passive House building is a savings factory offering future security against rising energy prices