Marpole Passive House

Vancouver, British Columbia

Designed by architect Dominic Sy as a home for his family, this Passive House residence started with the advantage of an excellent southern orientation overlooking the banks of the Fraser Valley.

Photos by Dominic Sy Architect
Dominic Sy Architect
Suvic Homes
Passive House Consultant
MIZU Passive House Consulting
Passive House Building Certifier
CertiPHiers Cooperative

Combining proven construction techniques, locally sourced materials, and high-performance mechanical systems, the design of the Marpole Passive House harmoniously combines modern architecture with the material language of the Pacific West Coast. 

Pierre-André Santin of MIZU Passive House Consulting was selected to provide the Passive House design consulting services. Sy says the three-bedroom home, occupied since summer 2018, sailed comfortably through the polar vortex with no need to turn on any supplemental heating.

Early collaboration among the team members focused on the Passive House fundamental design principles, including massing, vertical alignment of the bathrooms and kitchen, and other efficiencies. The builder, who was brought in early, was eager to learn new skills, knowing that the experience would be an advantage in Vancouver, where building energy regulations are ramping up. “The sweet spot for me,” Sy notes, “was that I was already passionate about high performance and detailing, and Passive House delivers a good bang for the buck in terms of comfort and energy performance.”

This project’s feasibility was ensured by using a traditional approach to assemblies—standard stick-frame construction—and modifying it with a warm jacket of insulation. The framed walls are 2 x 6 with the air- and weather-resistive barrier membrane adhered to the plywood sheathing. These walls are insulated with mineral wool batts between the studs and 6 inches outboard with 2 x 4 strapping to attach the cladding. Airtightness connections between the foundation, wall, and roof membranes were lapped and taped.

Passive House Metrics
Heating demand 11 kWh/m²a
Primary energy renewable (PER) 42 kWh/m²a
Air leakage 0.26 ACH₅₀

Mock-ups were a big key to this project’s outcome, say Sy and Santin. With numerous simple mock-ups, everyone on site could fully understand each assembly, the detailing for the window installations, and the air barrier connection details. The mock-ups fostered the kind of collaborative communication that was essential to the project’s success. As Sy says, “No single individual can think of all the angles. We provided the fundamental detailing, and the builder brought expertise with regard to constructability and sequencing.”

The basement includes the laundry, mechanical, and family rooms, with space for a future suite for the grandparents. The mechanical room houses the heat pump water heater and HRV with its in-line pre- and post-heater. Supplemental heat can be supplied by one electric wall heater on each floor and in-floor electric heat mats in the bathrooms—but neither has ever been turned on. The building is naturally cooled during the summer, with remote-controlled awnings installed above the south-facing openings for additional comfort. Certified to Passive House Classic, the house is net zero ready.

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