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Jan 16

Why Everyone Loves Passive House

(and why you will too)

Andrew Peel
Andrew Peel

Passive House is quickly becoming a dominant method of construction in jurisdictions with advanced low-carbon building policy, thanks to its ability to reduce carbon emissions in buildings by 75-90%. And while Passive House is well-known for its substantial energy and carbon savings, there are numerous told and untold benefits. This blog explores some of these benefits:

It provides unparalleled comfort

The even temperatures, quiet ambience, and constant fresh air throughout the building provide a indoor environment superior to almost any building. Occupants can sit next to the windows on the coldest winter day without feeling chilled.  The obnoxious street noise is muted to a quiet hush. Occupants have even commented that they don't even notice when it rains heavily. And the air feels and smells fresh and pleasant.

It’s as safe as can be

The fresh filtered air exchanged 24 hours per day provides a level of air quality rarely seen in conventional buildings.  A key characteristic of Passive House ventilation systems is that the stale building air is never recirculated, but exhausted continuously.  Not only does this avoid the recirculation of odours, it also limits the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 between apartments, offices, and other zones.

Conventional approach to ventilation.  Air is continuously recirculated to offset high heat losses.

Passive House approach to ventilation. Air is never recirculated


The market values it

Many question whether the market recognizes the extra value of Passive House Buildings.  Well, we're seeing more and more examples of Passive House projects earning higher returns than their counterparts. Some examples

- Eight Avenue Development Group (http://www.eighthavenue.ca/) sold its Passive House townhomes in Burquitlam, BC for 10-15% more than comparable properties in the neighbourhood.

- Exeter City Living (https://exetercityliving.co.uk) charges 10-15% more rent to its housing tenants.   A key feature--these are affordable housing tenants on a tight budget.  

It pays in the long run

If you’re a long-term holder of a home or building (or any asset for that matter), the initial financial picture isn’t what’s important.  It's the long-term picture.  While financially saavy investors understand and act consistent with this view, many investors and homeowners sadly do not.  Instead, they make short-term decisions that cost them more in the long-run.  The investment in Passive House is no different--it provides superior long-term returns.  And if you consider the monthly cost of ownership (mortgage + operational and maintenance costs), you are likely to pay less from day one (particularly with the very low interest rates we are currently experiencing).

Unlock hidden value

  • Many items we purchase have more value than we may initially realize.  A bike purchased for Sunday leisure rides can be used for your weekly grocery shopping.  It may only require a small additional investment to unlock this additional value.  In the case of the bike, this may be buying paniers or a trailer.  In a similar fashion, investing in Passive House unlocks value that is commonly hidden from view. Some examples include:
  • Simplified design, driving down construction costs
  • Substantial reduction of the capacity, distribution, space, and maintenance requirements of the heating and cooling system  
  • The space near windows, previously occupied by a heat source, is free to use.  While this may not translate to more leasable space, it does translate to more useable space for the occupants.  
  • More durable construction and components that will last decades longer than traditional ones
  • Superior indoor environment
  • Lenders recognize this additional value and expect the market to pay more for it.  They consider the building to be a premium product.  For commercial developers, it's simply a matter of presenting the project to lenders as a premium product.

Source: Passive House Institute

Promise delivered

Every consumer has purchased at least one product that made a claim it failed to meet.  Whether it’s breaking within the first month, not providing a specific function or devouring batteries incessantly, we’re always left with a foul taste in our mouth. Such disappointments are often inconsequential to our financial wellbeing, but when it comes to the purchase a home or building, they can be highly disruptive.  

In a market saturated with greenwashing, it’s understandable that some buyers and investors may be pessimistic about the Passive House promise.  Yet Passive House has demonstrated for 30 years, through monitoring and surveys, that it consistently delivers on its promise.  It was this record that had the City of Vancouver decide to hang its hat on Passive House to deliver the needed carbon savings that other standards failed to consistently deliver.  

Source: Passive House Institute

Experiencing is believing

Despite the many good reasons for investing in a Passive House Building, some remain unconvinced,  In our experience, the best way to enroll a prospective buyer/investor in understanding that Passive House is the right choice, is to let them experience it first hand.  Sadly, the opportunities for this experience are still limited.  So if you or your prospective client would like to visit or stay in a Passive House,  please contact us and we’d be happy to arrange.

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