sustainable practices passive home

Energy Efficiency Over Generation: The Power of Passive House Principles in Alberta, Canada

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In the heart of Canada's powerhouse energy sector, Alberta is on a pretty exciting journey. Known for its oil sands, the province is now getting serious about living and building more sustainably. Leading the charge is this cool idea: making buildings super energy-efficient, with a little help from something called passive house. It's a set of smart building rules that could really change the game on how folks in Alberta think about using energy and putting up buildings. In this blog, we will dive into why saving energy with these passive house principles beats the practice of just making more energy to support poor-performance buildings, especially when you think about Alberta's unique weather and its big role in Canada's economy.

1. Superinsulation

Alberta's climate ranges from bitterly cold winters to warm summers, making heating and cooling a significant part of energy consumption in buildings. Superinsulation, a cornerstone of passive house design, minimizes the need for external heating and cooling. By wrapping a building in a thick, continuous layer of insulation, the energy demand for heating can be reduced by up to 90%. In a province like Alberta, where temperatures can swing dramatically, superinsulation not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels but also ensures a stable, comfortable indoor environment year-round. A well insulated building ensures that indoor surfaces have the same temperature as the air in the room, which is the gold standard for human comfort.

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2. Airtight Construction

Airtight construction complements superinsulation by preventing unwanted air leakage. In the context of Alberta, wind can exacerbate energy loss through gaps in the building envelope. Many Albertans are familiar with drafts, which is the result of air leakage that creates an uncomfortable chill even in indoor spaces that are heated to an appropriate temperature.  Solving this issue involves meticulous attention to detail during construction to seal potential leaks, paired with high-performance windows and doors. The result is a significant reduction in energy demand as fresh air is brought into the building in an intentional and controlled manner. The elimination of air leakage reduces the need for external energy inputs and reduces exposure to air contaminants such as wildfire smoke.

3. High-Performance Windows and Doors

Alberta's sunny days, especially in southern regions, provide an excellent opportunity to leverage solar gains for natural heating. High-performance windows and doors, another principle of passive house design, are strategically oriented and insulated to capture this solar energy in the winter while minimizing heat loss. During the summer, when cooling needs rise, these components help keep the heat out. This balance is particularly beneficial in Alberta's varied climate, ensuring that buildings remain comfortable with minimal energy use throughout the year.

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4. Heat Recovery Ventilation

The airtight nature of passive house buildings necessitates a fresh air supply without compromising energy efficiency. Heat recovery ventilation systems address this by exchanging the heat contained in the outgoing stale air with incoming fresh air. In Alberta, where the outdoor air can be very cold in winter, this system ensures that fresh air entering the building is pre-warmed, drastically reducing the energy required for heating. This principle not only conserves energy but also improves indoor air quality, a crucial aspect of occupant health and comfort.

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5. Thermal Bridge Free Construction

Thermal bridging occurs when materials that are poor insulators penetrate the insulation, allowing heat to bypass the insulative layer. In Alberta, where significant differences in temperature can occur between indoor and exterior environments, eliminating thermal bridges is essential to maintaining the integrity of the building's thermal envelope. Passive house design achieves this through careful planning and construction techniques, ensuring that every part of the building contributes to its overall energy efficiency.

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The Alberta Advantage

Focusing on energy efficiency through the implementation of passive house principles offers Alberta a forward-thinking approach to construction and energy use. By prioritizing efficiency over generation, the province can reduce its environmental impact, lower energy costs for residents, and lead by example in the global shift towards sustainable living. The passive house standard, with its emphasis on superinsulation, airtight construction, high-performance windows and doors, heat recovery ventilation, and thermal bridge free construction, provides a blueprint for achieving these goals. As Alberta continues to evolve, the adoption of such principles will be key to shaping a sustainable, resilient futur

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The transition towards passive house principles need not be an all-encompassing overhaul but can commence with incremental modifications to conventional construction practices. This stepwise integration facilitates compliance with increasingly rigorous energy efficiency standards and cultivates a culture of awareness and education among designers, tradespeople, and property owners regarding strategies for achieving superior energy performance. It represents a collective stride towards embracing and mastering these environmentally sustainable building techniques.

Adopting passive house principles within Alberta transcends mere energy conservation; it signifies a commitment to sustainability in a region traditionally anchored in fossil fuel reliance. As Alberta endeavours to diversify its economic landscape and diminish its environmental footprint, passive housing offers a compelling blueprint for pioneering sustainable construction. This initiative promises widespread benefits, extending from individual homeowners to the broader community and the environment at large by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, improving long term affordability of building ownership and operations, and fostering healthy and comfortable spaces. The passive house approach is truly making the future of buildings better than it is today.

Want to learn more about METAFOR’s approach to energy efficiency?

Visit our website, or give us a call at either our Calgary (403.264.8700) or Edmonton studios (780.490.5330). Let's collaborate to build better performing buildings!