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The Passive House North Conference in Vancouver, BC was a huge success with over 250 registered attendees from 10 different countries around the world. The following is a summary of the many lessons and ideas that we took from the presentations and conversations that we had with fellow Designers, Architects, Engineers, Builders, Developers, Manufacturers and even one of our clients who attended the conference.
The most important lesson that we took from the conference is Tomas O'Leary's suggestion that "it is time to get impatient about high performance home design and construction". There are approximately 30,000 fully functioning, proven and verified examples of passive houses across the world. There is no question whatsoever anymore, if you are skeptic it is time to move on and get out of the way! Passive House design works and it is by far the most advanced, intelligent way to design and construct a home in the world.
Location: Wilden, Kelowna, BC
Builder: Rykon Construction- Kelowna Custom Home Builders
Project Phase: Construction
Working with Kelowna custom home builder, Rykon Construction, we assisted the Solomchuk's in the custom design of their new home. With a really good idea of exactly what they wanted in their new home, we took a rough plan they provided and customized it to suit their particular needs.
Location: Kelowna, BC
Design Phase: Design Development - Construction Drawings
Custom Home Design + Interior Design - Fresh, Vintage, Modern
Location: Kelowna, BC
Design Phase: Design Development - Construction Drawings
The Dueck Residence design touches on a number of different architectural styles from traditional to contemporary. The house was subject to neighbourhood guidelines which required a minimum 6:12 roof slope and the existing homes in the neighbourhood were generally of a more traditional feel. Our client's initially wanted a very modern looking home but due to the guidelines we were tasked with designing a home that respected the overall context of the neighbourhood but also brought some of our contemporary style into the mix.
Fig. 1 - Preliminary Exterior Elevation Rendering showing the new Addition and Renovated Spaces. New cladding materials and numerous revisions to be developed and detailed in the Design Development Phase.
Location: Lower Mission, Kelowna, BC
Design Phase: Schematic Design
To learn more about the overall Design Process click here!
The Little Residence is an existing home in the lower Mission area of Kelowna that we have just completed the Schematic Design phase of the overall design process. With a growing family, our client's are looking to update their home with a contemporary feel into what we have been describing as a "West Coast Modern Beach House." The scope of the project includes adding a two car garage complete with ample storage, a mud room, a new entrance, modified office area, an enlarged dining area, a new living room, kitchen, large covered balcony area and three bedrooms along with a kid's family room and very functional bathroom which will allow all three kids to use it at the same time. Additionally, there is a separate small accessory building intended to house a workshop, yard maintenance tools and sports equipment.
Preliminary Exterior Rendering showing the modern design of a Passive Home intended for an RU6 zoned 15.24m (50'-0") wide lot in the downtown core of Kelowna, BC
After taking the Canadian Passive House Institute's training course in 2012, we are currently working on applying our knowledge to design and test construction details that would be achieve the rigid Passive House certification standards for the local climate in Kelowna, BC. Passive Houses are designed to eliminate as much thermal bridging as possible, optimize solar gain, minimize energy loss and provide for an airtight building envelope. These homes reduce energy use by up to 70-90% on average which results in huge energy savings for homeowners each and every year.
The City of Kelowna Building and Permitting Branch along with the Canadian Home Builders Association Central Okanagan Section recently hosted a building code workshop at the Ramada Hotel in Kelowna. The workshop was well attended by builders, architects, designers and product manufacturers to discuss the 2012 BC Building Code changes which are now in effect for all homes and buildings throughout the province of BC.
"There is nothing that compares to the warmth and feeling of a log home." Our clients knew exactly what they wanted and it is a quote that has stuck with us throughout the design process. Click to find out more about this custom designed traditional log home currently in the schematic design phase.
Inspiration comes in many forms but as of late there are three websites in particular that we want to share with you because there are just so many great ideas on these sites. If you haven't already explored them, let us introduce you too Houzz, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. Below is a quick description of each website and why we think it is worth your time to check them out. If you are even remotely considering a custom home or commercial interior project spend some time on these sites, it will help you to develop exactly what features you would like in your design and then it is our job to combine the many ideas and make a cohesive customized solution for your project.
We finally had a day to assemble four chairs we designed and had CNC routered a couple of weeks ago. The following photos are of the new open back design. Also shown is another addition to the line, a foot stool, which nests beneath each chair and can also be used as an end table. Assembly is done but there is lots of sanding and staining to go yet.
After attending a week of Passive House Training it has re-affirmed our commitment to high performance home and building design. The course was developed by the Canadian Passive House Institute (CanPHI) and it took place at the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver, BC. It was a detailed look at the strategies used to design and build a Passive House - an energy efficient, comfortable, affordable and environmentally friendly home or building that can achieve up to 90% energy savings.
The course consisted of five days of instruction and working with the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP). The PHPP is a Microsoft Excel based spreadsheet which allows an architect, engineer, designer or builder to optimize the design to a high performance, truly sustainable building.
We recently posted photos of PlyChair, a Baltic Birch Plywood Chair that was fabricated using a CNC router. The result of our prototype design was quite honestly pretty exciting! What started as an experiment has opened our eyes to what is possible all within our own backyard. To that end, we have tested and improved the PlyChair prototype and are now moving on to production!
As a designer you can never have enough work area for the many sketches, drawings, books and material samples on your desk. With that in mind, the goal here was to create a desk that maximized usable work space, incorporates file storage, eliminates any waste material and have it still look great and be very affordable to construct. The result, a refined looking desk with no visible fasteners, clean lines and all of $60.00 in materials.
Actually building what you design is a very rewarding process. Working in the virtual, computer based world of drawings and 3D models it is nice to build something you have sketched, drawn and 3D modeled as it gives you a chance to really learn a material.
A high performance triple glazed window is a critical component required to achieve up to 90% energy savings in a Passive House.
There are so many window products out there that even as a home and building design studio we have to constantly question and re-evaluate windows. Not all windows are created equally so we hope that this article will serve as a guide for what qualities and components to look for when selecting windows for an energy efficient passive house.
Considering windows often account for upwards of 50% of all energy loss through a building envelope, it makes sense to invest in a high performance triple glazed window. By investing in high performance windows it allows a home or building designer to shrink the heating system, improve indoor air quality and take advantage of passive solar heating. All of these are good things because they all lead to the same result, saving you money!
The Energy Efficient Home Series
In the latest edition of our Energy Efficient Home Series, we discuss how homeowners throughout BC are saving money and energy by enrolling in the LiveSmart BC Energy Efficiency Incentive Program available through the BC Provincial Government. For some added insight, we interviewed Certified Energy Advisor, Clint Gavel of Hometech Energy Solutions Inc. and we asked him the following questions.
- What is the point of an energy audit?
- Where do you find heat/energy loss occurring in a typical Canadian home?
- Is there a difference between new and older homes?
- How is a home rated for energy efficiency?
- What is the average Energy audit rating for an older home vs. a new home?
- What are the most effective, cost efficient retrofits that you would recommend for a home owner to improve a homes’ energy efficiency?
- What is the average Energy audit rating for a home after improvements have been made?
- On average how much money a year can a homeowner save in energy costs?
- How is a home measured to determine an Energuide rating?
- What current incentives are available to homeowners from the federal, provincial and power authorities?
What is a Passive House (Passivhaus)?
A Passive House is an energy efficient, comfortable and surprisingly affordable home construction standard that can achieve up to 90% energy savings compared to existing buildings and over 75% compared to typical minimum building code new home construction. A passive home results in significant cost savings each and every year as well as over the life of the home.
In our opinion, a Passive House is quite simply the future of housing! That's a pretty big statement but once you see the cost savings over the life of a passive house, compared to a typical Canadian home, you'll be asking why do we continue to build such poorly insulated and sealed homes in Canada?
What do Passive Houses look like? Are they traditional or contemporary?
Passive Houses can be traditional or contemporary but the key to a Passive House is the simplicity in its plan. By reducing the number of exterior corners to 4 - 6, energy loss is minimized at the exterior corners.
With over 20,000 certified Passive Houses worldwide the options are practically endless and here are just a few examples of both contemporary and traditional passive houses from Canada, United States, Germany and France. All clients are unique therefore all passive homes are unique to that particular clients needs and wants.
The Energy Efficient Home Series
In order to be effective a vapour barrier must be completely sealed.
Therein lies the problem and the intent of this article is to discuss the issues related to vapour barrier installation and the importance of an air tight building envelope. In this latest installment of the Energy Efficient Home series we'll address the following questions and concerns:
- What is a building envelope?
- What is a vapour barrier?
- Why is a vapour barrier important?
- Why are polyethylene vapour barriers only somewhat effective and why do we continue to use them?
- Why are we so passionate about this? An example of poor installation.
- Why is an air tight building envelope so important?
- If polyethylene vapour barriers are flawed, what do we recommend for new homes and buildings? (Hint....structural insulated panels)
Insulation, Air Tight Building Envelopes and Ventilation
The easiest and cheapest way to improve the energy efficiency of your new home starts with three critical components: insulation, an air tight building envelope and adequate ventilation.
In this article we’ll discuss how a typical Canadian home is insulated, the problems associated with typical home construction including poor insulation installation, leaky building envelopes, conventional wood 'stick' framing, thermal bridging and mechanical openings.
We also discuss the types of insulation available including batt insulation, blown-in cellulose, spray-applied, rigid insulation and even log and straw bale construction techniques.