Certified Passive House Planning, Design & Verification
Homesol Building Solutions continues to be on the leading edge of sustainable building consulting and design with Passive House, a building performance standard that results in a phenomenal reduction in heating and cooling energy compared to a standard-built new home.
There are really only three main criteria a Passive House has to meet:
- Less than 15 kWhrs / square metre of treated floor area / year for heating or cooling load
- Air tightness under 0.6 ACH50 (air changes per hour at 50 Pascals)
- Less than 120 kWhrs / m2 / yr. for total energy consumption
This is not quite as simple as it may seem at first glance, and it requires an in-depth knowledge of building science and construction detail to make it work, including meticulous attention to air sealing, reduction in thermal bridging, optimizing site orientation and insulation levels, and installing high performance windows and HVAC systems. As one of Canada's most experienced energy modeling companies, with decades of on-site construction experience, and fully trained as a Certified Passive House Consultant and Trainer with both the European and North American qualifications, Homesol can take your house designs and use the Passive House Planning Package software to determine exactly what you need to do to get to, or perhaps just close to, the Passive House standard.
Our services range from simply modeling the energy performance of your home design, providing thermal bridge and hygrothermal analysis, through final testing and verification of your project to the Passive House standard. We can even help you source your materials, and provide construction project management, site supervision, and training for your building trades to ensure success of your project. If you're interested in achieving the very best level of energy efficiency possible for your building project, we're the people you want to talk to.
We're based in Eastern Ontario, but we gladly serve anywhere in North America and the world. Contact us to get started on your Certified Passive House!
Further details and extra information follow.
What are the steps to certification?
Passive Houses are residential, commercial and institutional buildings in which a comfortable temperature can be achieved year-round with a 75% – 90% reduction in energy use. They are not simply “passive solar”, although they do maximize solar gain without excessive overheating. They are not necessarily net zero energy buildings, although their small footprint makes renewable energy easier. They cost more to build initially but are demonstrably economically superior to standard construction. Passive Houses must meet very stringent requirements regarding both their design and construction. To ensure that these requirements have been met, Passive Houses are third-party tested and verified. The certification criteria for residential buildings are published on the Passive House Institute website at www.passiv.de.
In order for Homesol to properly consult and verify whether the Passive House criteria will be met, the following plans and documents are required from project design team:
- Site plan including the building’s orientation, neighbouring structures (position and height), prominent trees or similar vegetation and possible horizontal shading from ground level elevations along with photographs of the plot and surroundings.
- Complete construction drawings (floor plans, sections, elevations) with clearly identifiable dimensions, envelope areas, unfinished window opening sizes, etc.
- Reference plans for all building envelope areas and windows with clearly depicted thermal bridges if present.
- Detailed drawings of all building envelope connections. For example, the exterior and interior walls at the basement ceiling or floor slab; the exterior wall at the roof and ceiling; the roof ridge and verge; horizontal and vertical sections of the window installation; the anchorage of balconies, etc. The details should be given with dimensions and the materials used.
- The airtight layer should be indicated and the way in which it is executed at connection points should be described.
- Ventilation plans: the design and placement of ventilation units, volumetric flows, sound protection, filters, supply and exhaust ducts, air transfer openings, duct diameters and insulation thicknesses, sub-soil heat exchanger (if present), ventilation controls, etc..
- Heating, cooling and plumbing building services including diameters and insulation thicknesses: illustration and design of heating and cooling systems, heat storage, heat distribution systems (pipes, ducts, heating coils, heating surfaces, pumps, controls), domestic hot water distribution (circulation, individual pipes, pumps, controls) and drain/vent lines.
- Electrical services plans including specifications of lighting, appliances, elevators, etc.
- Concept for efficient electricity use with, for example, specified devices and explanations as well as incentives for the house or apartment owner.
- Supporting documents and technical/product information sheets, especially on insulation materials.
- Information on window and door frames to be installed including manufacturer, type, Uw-value, Ψinstallation and Ψglazing edge as well as drawings of all planned installations in the external wall. Calculations are to be carried out according to ISO 10077-2.
- Information about the glazing to be fitted including manufacturer, type, build-up, Ug-value according to the European standard EN 673, g-values according to the European standard EN 410 and spacer type.
- Description of the planned HVAC, hot water and other mechanical systems with schematic drawings, if applicable.
- Manufacturer, type and technical data sheets of all technical HVAC, hot water and mechanical systems, ductwork/piping and accompanying insulation thicknesses, heating coils, frost protection, pumps, etc.
- Information about the sub-soil heat exchanger if present including length, depth and type of installation, soil quality, size and material of tubing and heat recovery efficiency
- Information on the length, dimensions and insulation level of hot water and heating supply pipelines as well as of the ventilation ducts between the heat exchanger and thermal building envelope.
- Documentation of air flow rates including the make and model of the ventilation unit, the adjusted volumetric flows for normal operation and the mass flow and volumetric flow balance for outdoor air and exhaust air (with a maximum allowable imbalance of 10 %).
- Digital photographs documenting the construction of the Passive House should be provided
- Implementation of plans and specifications according to certified Passive House project planning must be documented and confirmed by the construction manager. Any variation in terms of implementation should be mentioned. For any products not mentioned in the plans, corresponding documentation must be provided.
Please note: All Passive House relevant documents should be examined by Homesol during the planning stage so that potential corrections or suggestions for improvement can be considered early on.
Documentation for Passive House certification (provided by Homesol to project team):
PHPP Worksheet, including:
- Summary of areas with allocation of U-values, radiation balance data and thermal bridges
- U-values of regular building elements
- List of building elements used
- Window U-values (glass, frame, spacer)
- List of windows and glazings used
- Ground reduction factors
- Shading factors
- Air flow volume calculations, heat recovery efficiency and pressure test results
- Specific heating demand according to the PHPP method
- Heating load according to the PHPP method
- Overheating frequency
- Shading factors
- Summer ventilation, if applicable
- Portion of domestic hot water demand covered by solar, if present
- Calculated electricity demand
- Primary energy demand
- Documentation of the thermal bridge coefficients used in the PHPP according to ISO 10211.
- Treated floor area calculations
- Demonstration of summer comfort. Note: The PHPP procedure for determining the frequency of overheating only shows an average value for the whole building, however, individual parts of the building may overheat.
- Verification of the airtight building envelope according to the European standard EN 13829. A series of measurements for both positive and negative pressure is necessary. It is recommended that the test be carried out when the airtight layer is still accessible so that improvements can still be made.
- It is not the object of the certification to review construction work.
If the technical accuracy of the necessary evidence for the building is confirmed and the criteria given above are adhered to, the Quality Approved Passive House Certification will be issued
This certification only certifies the accuracy of the documentation submitted in accordance with Passive House Standard criteria. The assessment relates neither to the monitoring of the work, nor to site supervision or user behaviour. The liability for the project performance and construction lies with the design and construction team.
There are four invoicing milestones in Passive House residential certification:
- Completion of preliminary meeting to discuss proposed Passive House project specifications
- Completion of pre-construction design consulting, PHPP analysis & plans verification
- Completion of pre-drywall site inspection and air leakage test, update of PHPP calculations (+certification fees)
- Completion of final site inspection & air leakage test, PHPP verification & submission of file for certification
Additional meetings, site visits, and thermal bridge analysis invoiced at extra cost, if required.
First Certified Passive House in Canada
Despite skepticism about building to the Passive House standard in Canada, the Passive House Institute of the US has proven otherwise by certifying a cost-effective urban duplex designed and built by Ottawa’s Vert Design Inc., working together with Homesol Building Solutions to deliver Canada’s first Passive House Certification to a residential home, built in the world’s fourth-coldest capital city (after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Astana, Kazakhstan and Moscow, Russia).
When he started designing his home in Ottawa’s New Edinburgh district, Chris Straka, Principal of Vert Design, was told it likely wouldn’t be possible to build a Passive House in Ottawa’s cold climate unless he imported expensive European technology. Straka then shelved the Passive House objective. He built his house using conventional building materials sourced from North America, as well as his experience honed by consulting on 35 residential green building projects since starting his company in 2006. Though his intention was not to build a Passive House, when he called in Homesol’s President Ross Elliott to evaluate the duplex’s energy efficiency towards the LEED for Homes Platinum certification for the project, both men were astounded to learn from PHIUS that the home also met the Passive House Institute’s strict energy efficiency standard.
According to the Passive House Institute, homes built to the Passive House standard are six to eight times more airtight than a new conventional residence and overall use 90% less energy for heating and cooling than conventionally built houses.
Straka’s three-storey, 1,650 sq. ft. per side duplex was carefully designed from the top down, including a 1200 sq. ft. green roof with 12 inches of soil for a vegetable garden, radiant heat floors, a geo-thermal heating system, a high efficiency heat recovery ventilation system, plus a cistern for rainwater collection. A solar power system will be installed in the spring, and – as much as possible – the house is designed to accommodate future technologies. Detailed plans, drawings and descriptions for Straka’s home are on his Web site at: http://www.vertdesign.ca/projects/rideau.htm.
“My goal was to build a building I could be proud of, not necessarily to build a Passive House,” says Straka. “I knew that a very high performing building could be created using Canadian materials and mechanical systems. You don’t need to look overseas to satisfy the demands of a North American climate. I focused my attention on the building’s envelope, using triple-glazed windows, a combination of foam insulations, and I sealed the house carefully to avoid thermal bridges that would transfer energy across the outer walls. All of this plus a south-facing rear wall of windows overlooking the Rideau River, keeps the cold out while inviting heat inside.” As it turns out, Straka’s subterranean heat pump system is barely needed because the house is so efficient.
Straka says it costs about 10% more per square foot to build this passive house than a conventional house, but the energy savings are significant enough that any additional up-front costs can be recovered in 6 to 10 years. “Any custom home in Ottawa will cost about $225 a square foot to build. For $250 a square foot, you can have the ultimate in energy efficiency.”
According to Elliott, Straka’s certification achievement is an important milestone. “Several other houses are underway across the country, so this landmark certification will pave the way for the expansion and legitimacy of Passive House construction in Canada,” said Elliott, “Chris Straka has proven it can be done.”
It is being done elsewhere in the world. Passive or low energy houses are quickly becoming a European standard. All new buildings in the European Union must be nearly zero energy buildings by 2020 and member states will set intermediate targets for 2015. “Nearly Zero Energy Buildings” are similar to Passive Houses in that they require only a very small amount of energy input. By 2018, all new public buildings in the EU will also be Nearly Zero Energy. Canadian-born celebrity homebuilder Mike Holmes calls Passive House “an up-and-coming design standard.” Even Opra Winfry has said "the smart money is on Passive House"!