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A Passive House is designed to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning by optimizing "passive" strategies. It uses good insulation strategies, draft-preventing air barriers, site design to capture solar gains, strategic shading for summer months, efficient window glazing, etc. These are things that just sit there, working to keep your home not too hot, or not too cold. (You don’t need to get your insulation serviced annually like ‘active’ components of a home require.)

It is an effort to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning from the start, instead of just regenerating energy as you go with ‘ACTIVE’ systems like furnaces and air conditioners. We sometimes compare it to a thermos: it will keep your coffee warm much longer because of it’s insulated design (passive), instead of using a coffee maker with a heating element (active).

A Net Zero Home uses some of the same strategies as Passive House (advanced insulation techniques, air barriers, good windows, etc.) to reduce needs for heating and cooling, but also relies on solar panels/energy regeneration to reduce the amount of electrical requirements from BC Hydro or Fortis to zero on an annualized basis (determined by energy-modelling.)

Passive House Designers rely on five principles that all work together at the same time:

  • Superior insulation materials & installation techniques. Just sits in your walls passively keeping your home cool in summer, warm in winter.
  •  Making the home free of drafts, by using protective barriers that block leaks, and funnel all of the home’s air through the fresh air intake and distribution system (HRV). This way, you can control the air coming into your home.
  • The HRV or ERV. Heat Recovery Ventilator or Energy Recovery Ventilator. These are the lungs of the house. It is responsible for drawing in fresh air from the outside, and distributing it to the areas where you live: Bedrooms, Kitchen, Living room. What is great about the HRV/ERV is that it supplies fresh air, but also removes stale air from the home (from bathrooms, laundry room etc. where you don’t spend the majority of time). The HRV uses radiator-like technology. When it removes stale air (which you have either heated or cooled depending on the season), it is run through separate piping that captures the heat or cool, and uses that energy to either warm or cool the air coming in from outside. Imagine in the winter if you have a nice warm home, and it’s really cold outside. The HRV uses the heat from the air in your home that is being expelled, to temper the fresh air coming in. The HRV’s we use are up to 90% Efficient.
  • Good window glazing. Most of the time triple-paned to keep that uncomfortable cold washing you may have experienced in regular code-built homes. It’s not just glass; its also the special coatings and window frames that help to increase efficiencies.
  • Ensuring that you don’t have the studs (the bones) or framing in your home that connects directly from the inside to the outside. We ensure that we eliminate these “thermal bridges” because they surprisingly account for a lot of energy loss in a home.

These all work together to create great home envelopes.

Our Perspective: Passive House designers most often recommend very simple, boxy designs to keep costs down and to simplify potentially complex on-site build details. This is really good advice, of course.

But because not all homes are the same, and because what we are ultimately doing is serving clients who have different tastes, styles, goals and needs, we think we need more of what is often a difficult concept to describe. It’s a deep understanding of design-driven thermodynamics and how it applies to each home. It’s about understanding the homeowner, how they want to feel, how they want to live and then optimizing all of those moving parts that come with high-performance building to provide that end result.

It is not just about reaching the set values outlined by various standards commissions. It is about creating a home that meets design goals with practical, thoughtful response, ensuring enduring comfort and staying true to what the homeowner wants for aesthetics. And, of course, to continuously weigh those desires with budget. It’s a balance, and we are careful to optimize every one of those components all at the same time.


Cost + fee ranging from 10 – 20%
Each project is unique so we tailor our fee structure to meet requirements. The management of a project can range from just one person or an entire team of designers, engineers, interior designers and on-site project coordinators.



Step 1: Design Concept Phase.

This step outlines what we are trying to accomplish and begins the rough out of the budget. During this phase we charge basic hourly rates for all services rendered.

Step 2: Detailed drafting and Design

Details showing room dimensions/detailed layouts, exterior elevation details etc

Step 3: 3D renderings and walkthrough

Step 4: Engineering and updated budgeting

Step 4: Completed designs,

Engineering and plans submitted to local building department for building permit. At this time we also submit your home for warranty coverage with National Home Warranty.

Step 5: Construction begins.

There are several other aspects and details for each custom project where assistance may be required. We have experience with financing projects, meeting with developers for constructing in subdivisions that may require design concept approvals, detailed landscape plans or development permit applications.

FAQ February 19, 2015