Passive House Canada: Transforming How We Build

Rob Bernhardt headshot
Rob Bernhardt, Passive House Canada

Just a few short years ago, it seemed that very few people understood the solutions Passive House professionals were offering the community. With few high-performance resources in Canada for the community to rely on; an emerging policy environment that was ready to drive forward high-performance buildings; a sector of the construction industry that wanted change (and needed resources); and the weight of a warming planet, Passive House Canada saw an opportunity to develop a national organization to advocate for market transformation.

The successes that we have experienced are directly attributable to the dedication of industry professionals and elected officials who are passionate about sustainability. Their momentum and drive have given us the privilege of assisting all levels of government in building policy development; of supporting the growth of a national membership of over 800 members (in eight provinces and two territories); and of delivering hundreds of trainings, with over 4,000 registrations across Canada. 

For many, the primary motivation is a desire to have better buildings. The unparalleled comfort, health, durability, resilience, and affordability of buildings offering Passive House levels of performance are reasons enough to make the choice. Affordable housing advocates may focus on the reduced costs of ownership, operation, and utility cost to tenants; homeowners may dwell on the comfort; while absolutely everyone craves a constant supply of filtered fresh outdoor air.

This appetite for a higher standard of building forged partnerships, resulting in the launch of Canada’s first Zero Emissions Building Exchange and a successful inaugural national conference with over 350 delegates in attendance. 

Transforming Canada’s market for buildings is not easy, and in the face of the work ahead, it is important to stop and celebrate why so many of us invest in this process. While the initial driver is, of course, environmental, and the common goal is to mitigate climate change, this alone does not catalyze market transformation, represent the motivation of everyone involved, or simplify the process of managing change. 

Some professionals, developers, and trades are attracted by the quality of work such buildings entail and enjoy the pride of workmanship. Others know high-performance building regulations are coming and are looking for a competitive advantage, a market differentiator, in establishing their company brand. Increasingly, some are simply responding to the developing market for Passive House buildings and their components, which they know will grow.

Regardless of the reason for your interest in buildings delivering this level of performance, we are pleased to have you join us in achieving our mission. 

During our 2018 conference, the federal government took the opportunity to say it is probable that the final tier of the Net Zero Energy Ready Code will be very close to the Passive House performance targets. While it might not seem so, this is a significant win for Canada and a clear result of our national buildings strategy, with its planned reliance on expanding upon the experience in leading cities and provinces. 

We know our role will change and likely diminish as building codes and standards approach Passive House performance levels, and we can’t think of a better reason to become redundant.

Taking a mission-first approach enables us to make more rapid progress, facilitating collaboration with industry and consumers in addition to government. We can best achieve our mission by collaborating with aligned groups and individuals, and we invite you to do the same. 

Whatever the reason for your interest in high-performance buildings, we hope you find this publication helpful, and that you connect with each other and our organization to support your Passive House high-performance building goals. In the end, it does not matter to us why people want better buildings—we simply wish to see them become the norm.

Rob Bernhardt, CEO of Passive House Canada

WestBay Passive House
Soo Valley Prefabricated Housing