Cornerstone Architecture 

3729 Rupert Street, Vancouver; Courtesy of Cornerstone Architecture

Cornerstone Architecture has embraced the Passive House standard as a strategy for increasing occupant comfort and health and reducing energy demand in buildings—a strategy that is predictable, and largely independent of occupant behaviour or complex mechanical systems to deliver performance. The firm encourages all of its clients to consider adopting this approach and currently has more than 16 new projects targeting the standard. These include townhouses, apartments, and mixed-use buildings for both ownership and rental tenure.

Scott Kennedy, principal of Cornerstone Architecture, credits the firm’s success in convincing clients to pursue this approach to the following factors: 

  • The successful delivery of The Heights, for which we must thank Eighth Avenue Developments and Peak Construction for having the courage to reach beyond the minimum building requirements to achieve a high-performance building.
  • The city of Vancouver, for its pursuit of regulatory reform using a stick-and-carrot approach. The 5% density bonus for prezoned projects has given us an effective tool to start a conversation with our clients.
  • The Provincial Government of British Columbia, for the introduction of the Step Code, which introduced the concept of a gradated pursuit of low-energy-consumption buildings.
  • British Columbia Institute of Technology, for creating its High Performance Building Lab, where contractors can learn about the science, techniques, and products involved in creating high-performance envelopes.
  • Passive House Canada, for promoting awareness and training across the country.
  • The Passive House Institute, for its foresight and science that led to the development of the Passive House standard.
  • The enthusiasm and willingness of the local community engaged in delivering projects and supplying products to share their expertise.

Meeting the standard has its challenges, in particular balancing winter solar gains and summer cooling, and meeting the stringent primary energy renewable (PER) target. Finding doors and roof access skylights that meet air-sealing, thermal-performance, fire performance, and accessibility standards has been particularly challenging. Solutions, such as double-door and vestibule strategies, can be costly—particularly when viewed as individual measures, but less so in the overall budget.

811-819 12th Street, New Westminster; Courtesy of Cornerstone Architecture

Early consideration of the effects of form factor, orientation, thick walls, continuous air barriers, thermal bridging, shading systems, ventilation systems, and hot water delivery has been essential to the successful completion of Cornerstone’s projects. Worth noting, however, is that the firm has pushed the form factor limits in some of its projects to achieve other design objectives to a degree that is feasible in Vancouver but probably not in harsher climates.

Cornerstone is actively engaged in monitoring the performance of its early buildings to learn what works and what is challenging so it can offer tested, simplified systems and details to its clients in the future. The firm has trained an in-house energy modeller to assist with decisions that will affect the ability to meet the standard earlier in the design process and is actively engaging and challenging its consulting partners to design efficient thermal-bridge details and HVAC and domestic hot water systems that meet the challenge of a Passive House building.

 In addition to the projects featured elsewhere in this book, the firm is working on a number of other mixed-use and residential multifamily Passive House projects in Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, New Westminster, Pemberton, and across the Lower Mainland, totaling almost 600 units. Passive House is now Cornerstone Architecture’s default performance target for all new projects.

Gastown Child Care
The Heights