EkoBuilt, based in Ottawa, Canada, is dedicated to spreading the concept of passive homes across North America.  The company actively shares information through their blog, social media channels, and their YouTube series, The Passive House Show. They believe that their system is the ideal solution for individual homeowners and those interested in constructing multi-unit dwellings, as the building industry must evolve to meet Net Zero goals.  

Q&A with Paul Kealey from EkoBuilt

Q:  Could you provide an explanation of what a Net Zero Passivehouse is?

A:  This question is so important for anyone building a new house because the building code will soon require net-zero homes as standard building code.

A net-zero Home is a house that produces the same amount of energy as it uses whereas a passive house is simply an ultra low energy home. Passive homes can be built anywhere with any orientation or shading situation and there are 4 main parts – air tightness (0.6 ACH), high Insulation (R75-R110), high-performance windows (net gain energy during winter), and high heat recovery ventilation (90% efficiency at -15°C). The low energy benefits of a passive house are amazing, for example, cost to heat and cool an average size home for the entire year is less than $150 using an air source heat pump.  Most passive homes can be net zero with a small 4 to 6 KWsolar array allowing anyone to build affordably. Typically a solar array Is connected to the “grid“ On a net metering (credit incentive) program, which allows the cost of the Hydro bill to be offset. The connection fee still applies, but a Hydro bill for a net zero home As described above is as little as $40 per month.

Q:   What are the steps involved in constructing an affordable home?

A:  The passive house construction model has proven time and time again to be the most affordable construction model as minimal incremental cost to build is more than offset by savings in utilities. There is approximately a 5% increase in cost to build when compared to a standard “code built” house. By removing the gas or propane (heating) cost that a passive home does not require is how the home is cheaper to live when compared to code built alternatives.

One of the greatest reasons to build a passive house is the incremental cost savings It will have with respect to increasing energy costs over time. Building passive also prevents future energy retrofits that all other homes will (Eventually) need as petroleum-based fuels become more and more expensive and soon obsolete.  As result, a passive house is considered “future proof“, one that best protects your investment.

Q:  What makes the home healthy?

A:  We look at the healthy part of the home from two angles – planetary health and personal health.

Planetary health, or a home that’s designed for a healthy world Is one that focusses on sustainability in all aspects, therefore homes that…

-are carbon free by not using gas therefore, considered climate friendly.

-are low energy for maximum energy conservation.

-use sustainable materials having high renewable resource and recycled content.

-are built to be resilient as changing weather patterns Require stronger homes.

For personal health reasons, the home should focus on the following:

-Indoor air quality (IAQ) by having a high heat recovery ventilator, such as an ERV (an recovery ventilator] that not only removes toxins from the home, but brings in highly oxygenated air.

-Air tight and open permeable building envelope so no toxins can enter the home from the exterior and no mold or mildew can form.

-radon gas barrier so this harmful potentially fatal gas becoming more prevalent, is not able to enter the house.

The Hummingbird model.  View

Q:  Passive house is considered known to be optimal comfortable.  Can you explain?

A:   Yes, absolutely…a Passivehouse has comfort criteria for the building envelope, windows & indoor air quality. 

Regarding the building envelope, an analogy  we love to use is – passivehouse operates similar to a high-performance thermos. There is a highly insulated, air-tight Envelope around the home that results in minimal energy loss for both heating and cooling any time of the year. As a result, there are no drafts or temperature swings inside of the home which helps keep the living spaces optimally comfortable.

The comfort criteria for windows is such that the inside face of glass temperature Requirement (during winter) is +17°C because this is the temperature gradient where your body will not sense the temperature difference so you are naturally able to sit up against a window and comfortably read a book without feeling cold during winter.

Regarding indoor air quality, the fresh air machine (ERV) delivers 17°C fresh air during winter months to living spaces keeping everything comfortable, also maintaining healthy comfortable humidity levels between 40 to 60% year-round regardless of exterior conditions.

So passivehouse not only protects your investment, but also protects your health.

More information:  www.ekobuilt.com