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Vancouver is Ground Zero for North American Low-Carbon Building Boom

Large Passive House Buildings
Low-Carbon Construction Boom

Canada is moving into first place in the low-carbon building boom. A residence building at the University of Toronto and apartment complexes in Vancouver are taking Passive House design to new levels and epitomizing the growing popularity of low-carbon buildings.

The Heights, a six-storey, 95-unit apartment project in Vancouver, British Columbia, completed in late 2017, is, at the time of writing, Canada’s largest building certified to the internationally recognized Passive House standard. The apartment building, which has commercial space on the ground floor, is a simple super-insulated “dumb building.” No technology or complicated mechanical systems are involved, just a simple envelope, high quality windows, and high quality air control through Heat Recovery Ventilation.

In 2017, Vancouver had a new Zero Emissions Building Plan, and both provincial and federal governments have signaled changes are coming to building and energy efficiency regulations and policies as part of plans to slash carbon pollution. These changes will result in ultra energy efficient buildings becoming the norm by 2030, according to the Pembina Institute. The Alberta-based organization has produced a report, Accelerating Market Transformation for High-Performance Building Enclosures, which tracks the rapid growth of Passive House buildings, assesses their costs and benefits, and sheds light on how public policy can encourage their adoption.

The report notes that once the projects on the books are completed, the number of Passive House units in North America will have quadrupled, going from 500 in 2015 to over 2,000 units. A quarter of the units (600) are in Vancouver alone, making the city a hotbed for the North American expansion of these green buildings that dramatically reduce carbon pollution and energy use, enhance comfort and durability, and boost the clean economy.

The Heights is a project of the Vancouver-based Eighth Avenue Development Group. The company creates and builds creative, healthy, and sustainable “boutique” type townhome, apartment, and single family home projects. In addition to the Heights, Eighth Avenue has completed two LEED GOLD Certified Multi-Family buildings in Vancouver. Two more high-rise Passive House-certified apartment buildings were in the works in Vancouver as well, aiming to the tallest Passive House buildings in the world.

In Toronto, work on a Passive House residence, which will house 750 students at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, was just beginning in early 2018.


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