Led by principal architects Peter Johannknecht and Gregory Damant, Cascadia Architects is a 12-person firm based in Victoria. Johannknecht and Damant joined forces in 2012, after a combined 40 years of architectural practice, to be able to focus their work on sustainable design. Staff experience encompasses designing commercial, residential, education, and health care buildings, with a particular specialty in urban and infill projects.
One of Cascadia Architects’ first commissions was a multigenerational home that was the first Certified Passive House building on Vancouver Island. Both Johannknecht and Damant were energized by this opportunity; they see the Passive House standard as a practical means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change. Each had been frustrated previously by other green building standards that hadn’t prioritized energy efficiency.
“One thing we both like about Passive House is how clear and singular its focus is,” says Damant. “You can layer on other green criteria if you want to extend its sustainability impacts, but the starting point is always Passive House.” Damant adds that the certification process is fairly manageable compared to those of other rating systems. Johannknecht, who hails originally from Germany, also appreciates that as Passive House has a long history in Europe, he can profit from the learning curves of architects there when applying the standard to a range of building types in Canada.
More and more of the firm’s clients come to them specifically for their Passive House expertise. Having a clear Passive House goal from the start of a project certainly smoothes the implementation process. However, the clients who are undecided about their performance goals still benefit from the technical understanding that the staff collectively embody. The firm has two Certified Passive House Designers on staff and others who have undertaken various Passive House courses.
The firm’s Passive House experience has enhanced Damant’s and Johannknecht’s appreciation of the importance of the team approach, especially the partnership with the builder. “In addition to having a design team that understands the implications of Passive House, you need to have a contractor who is meticulous and very good at quality assurance,” says Johannknecht. “No single person is responsible for the entire scope of work required to create a Passive House.”
Creative collaboration is a key principle of Cascadia Architects’ practice, as is weaving together the needs and resources of the client, the community, and the natural environment to create spaces that are elegantly functional and uplifting. Johannknecht and Damant believe that architecture has its role to play in enriching the human experience, and that includes designing buildings that contribute positively to our changing climate.