Environmentally-conscious living is becoming a greater priority among homeowners today, and new construction developers are taking this into consideration through the inclusion of Passive Home design.
Harnessing the power of airtight construction and insulation, Passive Homes offer the benefits of reduced emissions, filtered airflow and huge savings on heating and cooling costs. From high-rise condo buildings to student dorms, this green approach to building and designing homes is crossing over to the new construction realm in many parts of the country.
Mark Cohen, managing partner of TCS Marketing Systems, and Brannyn Hale, president of Green-Vision Developments, tells Livabl more about Passive Home technology and how it is changing the new construction game.
Livabl: Tell us a little bit about what a Passive Home is. What are the main features of a Passive Home? From a new construction buyer or investor standpoint, what is the appeal and benefits of a Passive Home?
Brannyn Hale: As buyers are looking for homes that are more efficient and environmentally-conscious, Passive House has emerged as an exciting option.
A condo built to Passive House performance ensures a healthier environment through the fresh-filtered air delivered 24 hours per day. It also provides superior comfort, with consistent temperatures regardless of the season. You can sit right by the balcony windows on the coldest day and feel toasty warm.
Other standout features include a quieter environment with significant noise reduction, lower condo fees due to the much lower energy demand, and more durability due to the careful design and construction, which means your investment maintains long-term value.
L: How would you describe the current market of Passive Homes in Ontario? Are Passive Homes common, or are they relatively new to the pre-construction industry? Why are developers interested in creating Passive Homes?
Mark Cohen: Passive House design is still relatively new in Ontario and is being tried in various sectors of real estate. There is a longer history of the design being used in custom homes but it is now being explored more on a larger scale.
This fall, TCS Marketing Systems has not one, but two condominium projects launching that offer Passive House as part of their design and architecture. As consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about sustainability, projects like Rossmount Green and the project we are working on with Green-Vision Developments in North Bay, truly speak to what buyers are looking for. Passive House allows the future homeowners of these projects to enjoy the benefits of a truly sustainable building.
BH: Forward-thinking developers who are committed to providing a better solution in the marketplace are responding to the benefits that Passive House presents to buyers, such as financial and environmental advantages. In fact, data from British Columbia tells us that in that province, buyers are now seeking out developers that build to Passive House standards because it is the “better way forward.”
L: When buying a new construction home, what eco-friendly features remain top-of-mind for purchasers and investors? In addition to Passive Homes, how are Canadian developers incorporating environmentally-friendly methods and features into their projects to meet these consumer desires?
MC: End user buyers and investors are looking for efficiency, lower costs and sustainability. Passive House is one way to provide these elements along with the plethora of smart home technology that is being incorporated into new pre-construction projects.
People are at home more than ever, so developers are being creative and intuitive by providing features that can reduce costs like maintenance fees and offer amenities that enhance lifestyles while being environmentally conscious.
L: A Passive Home calls for special windows and ample insulation in order for the design to work. Are there any challenges associated with building or living in a Passive Home?
BH: There are challenges to building but not living in a Passive House. The biggest construction challenges are:
- Ensuring the building is airtight to stop unwanted leaks.
- Ensuring a continuous blanket of insulation to avoid cold spots.
- Ensuring the ventilation system is installed and commissioned to guarantee the required fresh air exchange.
The occupant does not need to change behavior in a Passive House, but simple actions can help further reduce energy consumption and increase comfort. For instance, they can reduce cooling costs by opening windows when the weather permits, and they can turn the kitchen hood on to ensure the cooking pollutants are cleared
L: How are new construction developers embracing Passive Home technology? Are we seeing a greater number of Canadian builders creating projects that implement this design philosophy? What Passive Home projects are noteworthy to you?
MC: We are slowly seeing more developers embracing Passive Home technology and design into their projects and feel the growth potential is exponential. There is a value add for both builders, buyers and communities in general. There is a big push for Passive Houses in affordable housing and we are also seeing it from government-backed projects to university dorms.
There are also student dorms such as the New Student Residence at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Student Housing and Dining project at the University of Victoria. There is also a Passive Co-housing project in Vancouver, Little Mountain Cohousing.
L: How could Passive Home design evolve the future new construction landscape? Do you see Passive Homes becoming more mainstream and commonplace within the development industry?
BH: As a developer who is committed to sustainability, I have had many conversations with others who see the staying power of Passive House. I believe this eventually gets added to the code where by 2030, all new construction above 5 units in the City will need to meet Passive House performance levels.
MC: Passive House is already being implemented by forward thinking developers. Others who haven’t fully bought in are still implementing some Passive House techniques and technologies today in preparation for future code changes. Environment and our effects on it have been top of mind in 2021, just amplifying the need to be prepared for changes. It is time we focus on being mindful of the world we live in and how we are impacting it through our industry.