We (Ken and Burke) just got back from Vancouver for the week having our minds stretched unmercifully as we absorbed the Canadian Passive House Institute (CanPHI) course. This course is an educational tool to help North American building professionals learn to design and construct houses according to the extremely energy efficient Passiv Haus building standard which is becoming commonplace in Europe. The course is based on the Passive House Institute PHPP (Passive House Planning Package), a document and software packed full of data and formulae designed to analyze the performance of buildings. How does that saying go? “The more you know, the more you know how little you know.”? The wealth of research and data we’re being provided with is a little overwhelming, but we stuck with it, learned lots and loved it!!
It is comforting on the one hand that much of what we have already studied and learned in the field is being confirmed and reinforced. Yet we had many more important principles and techniques added to our knowledge base, which at times includes having some of our thinking and assumptions challenged. The net result is that when we combine this with our experience with Built Green BC, Introduction to LEED, and all our work in renovations and new construction, we are now even better equipped to build better homes – and that is our goal!
One of the things that is very clear as we study is that the more our building codes move towards energy efficiency, the more critical it will be that builders understand building science. The early mistakes made by some builders and designers when implementing the R2000 program in the 1980’s, and the subsequent efforts to tighten up and better insulate all Canadian homes, led to many buildings with some serious problems. “Leaky Condo (and house) Syndrome”, mold growth inside homes, low comfort levels (draftiness), and poor indoor air quality are all symptoms of poor workmanship and or design and application. These things are avoidable, but it takes a concerted effort and much study. We can only hope that more and more designers and builders will learn from the mistakes of the past, and inform themselves through resources like Passive House, LEED, and Built Green to give homeowners better value when they build or renovate.
The good news is that if you want to build a more energy efficient, more comfortable house, it can be done and done well. Now that we are trained in Passive House design, we have the ability to help clients build tremendously energy efficient homes with the confidence of computer modeling to ensure that the performance will match your expectations. It all begins with who you choose to work with!