Older home on wooded lot
Energy Efficiency, Passive House facts, Passive House resources, Retrofitting Older Homes

Retrofitting an older home to Passive House standard

Next stop in our new series on retrofitting older homes: changes to attain Passive House standard. We have received many requests from readers on how to transform an existing home into a passive home.

Everyone who follows this blog is aware that our mission is to build passive whenever we can. Building to PassiveHouse standard makes the home environment healthy, therefore translating into healthy living. It also makes the world a much healthier place as our dependency on petroleum-based fuels as heating and cooling sources is removed. Finally, a passive house is much cheaper to run. You can think of a passive house as the domestic equivalent of an electric vehicle.

IPHA guidelines

EkoBuilt follows the guidelines from the International Passive House Association. There is a lot of building science behind passive, so it can get very complicated, but it can also be explained and understood very simply. From a build perspective, the world is slowly transforming to become completely passive. Certain areas of British Columbia already mandate the passive standard in order to qualify for a new building permit. It’s important for everyone to understand as it will be here in Ontario sooner than we think.

Passive House Explained in 90 Seconds from Hans-Jörn Eich on Vimeo.

The video was made by Hans-Jörn Eich, a certified Passive House Consultant (Passivhaus Institute in Darmstadt, Germany) and the founder of Pinwheel.

Why does passive house exist?

It’s simple: to replace heating and cooling dependency on gas with electricity. That said, this is only economical if the heating/cooling demand can be reduced to a point where it’s inexpensive to use electricity, and this is where design essentials come into play.

There are three essential design features in a passive home:

1. Air-tightness

It’s vitally important that heat loss is minimized through unwanted and unnecessary leakage of air. We conduct what’s called a blower door test to find the ACH (air changes per hour) a home experiences.

Most newly built homes experience ACH anywhere between 3 and 5, meaning 3 to 5 times the entire volume of air inside the home escapes each hour. This is basically a loss of heated and cooled air which can also result in condensation in the wall cavities, translating ultimately to unhealthy mold.

For newly built passive homes, the ACH rate is 0.6 and the retrofit standard is 1.0.

Old school thinking favoured this air loss, thinking it good for fresh air to enter the building and provide a natural fresh air environment. We now know this is laughable because of all the mold problems we’ve heard about with older homes. To be fair to the old schoolers, in the past, modern building techniques/methods did not exist, nor did heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), so the options didn’t exist to change this approach.

Modern building code recognizes this fundamental change. For example, since 2017 Ontario building code has made HRVs mandatory in all homes, which we were thrilled to see happen. The problem is the HRV is only required to be 50% efficient and most homes are still leaking more air than they should.

2. Thermal envelope

Currently new-build homes, according to the standard building code, are required to have R22 wall insulation, R32 roof insulation and R10 below slab insulation. By comparison, in our local area, newly built passive homes require R75 wall insulation, R110 roof insulation and R40 below slab insulation.

As a general rule of thumb, homes retrofitted to passive standard require R48 wall, roof and below slab (or floor) insulation.

3. Proper windows

For thermal comfort, it’s very important that a passive approved window is used. These are triple glazed units with insulated frames equivalent to an R12. This may not seem like much, but compared to a non-certified triple glazed window, it’s huge. With non-certified units, it’s hard to find a unit above an R4 rating.

Certified windows optimize comfort by having a high temperature interior pane (instead of being cold on the inside when it is cold on the outside). In the passive scenario, this means when it is 25°C outside, the interior pane must be at least 17°C. Non-certified triple glazed windows can be as low as 12°C on the inside under the same conditions.

For those who would like the complete building science, please have a look at the following 20-page document, Criteria for the Passive House, EnerPHit and PHI Low Energy Building Standard (pdf). You can also view four charts at the end of this article.

How can an older home become Passive?

With all of that out of the way, how does an existing home reach the Passive standard?

To be achieved in the most cost-effective manner, this approach will obviously vary depending on the home in question, but some general rules apply:

For the walls: Airtight/vapor tight permeable layers and extra insulation will need to be installed. This will mean that either the interior or exterior finish will need to be removed (the choice will usually depend on which is most cost-effective). Certified windows and doors will also be sourced.

For the roof: If the home has an attic space (most do), extra insulation will be added to that space with an airtight/vapor tight permeable membrane installed on the ceiling side. If there is no attic, then an extra thermal later will have to be installed on the interior. If the ceiling is cathedral in design, it should be simple to build the ceiling down to the required R value. If the ceiling is flat and losing height is an issue, than a vacuum panel will be used to provide a thermal barrier with minimal loss in ceiling height.

For the slab/floor:  If a basement is unavailable/unusable, then a thermal layer will be added to the existing floor cavity. If a basement is present and usable, a vacuum panel will be used to provide the thermal barrier with minimal loss in height.

Interested in making your existing/older home Passive? Give us a shout, we’d love to help you realize that goal.

You may also be interested in our blog post on taking a staged approach to retrofitting your older home.

Ottawa passive house
EkoModel News, Passive House resources

EkoModel Open House – This Weekend!

The transition from winter to spring has made our laneway a little interesting, but we’re happy to say the Open House is very much on!

Spring EkoModel Home Open House
96 Libbys Road, McNab/Braeside, ON K7S 0E1
Sat, April 6, 2019
9am – 3pm

Come on out to experience a passive house, ask your questions and just generally get a chance to see the quality of work done by EkoBuilt.

We had more than 100 folks out in January and look forward to meeting many more of you this weekend!

A rocking chair in a room of the EkoModel Home
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, Passive House resources

EkoBuilt Open House this Saturday

We’ve had tremendous feedback on our Open House at the EkoModel Home this Saturday, 26 January 2019. Paul Kealey is already fully booked for conversations with some of you throughout the day; if you haven’t snagged a time to speak with Paul, don’t worry, there is still much to come out for:

  • 12.30 – 1pm will feature a presentation on sustainable home building by a team from Algonquin College
  • The whole day will be a super opportunity to look over and feel what it’s like to be in a passive home built with care and quality materials
  • If you’re lucky, you may get a few minutes to speak with EkoBuilt’s Paul Kealey, but if not don’t worry, you can follow up with a phone call or arrange a meeting. EkoBuilt will also be an exhibitor at three shows in Ottawa this spring and will run another Open House at the EkoModel Home in April.

EkoModel Home Open House
Sat, January 26th, 2019
9am to 3pm
96 Libbys Road
McNab/Braeside, ON K7S 0E1

Please come to feel and see for yourself the incredible comfort of a beautifully built Passive House.

EkoBuilt’s demonstration PassiveHouse was built on a 10-acre property just west of Ottawa during 2016. This 2,506 square foot home includes 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and beautiful, sun-filled rooms.

Spring 2019 Trade Show Schedule

Come out to see the EkoBuilt team and offerings at these shows in spring 2019:

EkoBuilt passive house
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, EkoModel News, Passive House resources

Sat, Jan 26th next EkoModel Home Open House

One of the top questions we regularly receive is when our next Open House will be at the EkoModel Home, our passive house demonstration property (4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2500 sq ft) just west of Ottawa. Mark your calendars!

EkoModel Home Open House
Sat, January 26th, 2019
9am to 3pm
96 Libbys Road
McNab/Braeside, ON K7S 0E1

Please come to feel and see for yourself the incredible comfort of a beautifully built Passive House.

EkoBuilt’s demonstration PassiveHouse was built on a 10-acre property just west of Ottawa during 2016. This 2,506 square foot home includes 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and beautiful, sun-filled rooms.

Perth Ontario townhomes for sale by EkoBuilt
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, House Design, Passive House resources

Net Zero Perth Townhomes Selling – Don’t Delay!

We’ve been delighted with the interest in EkoBuilt’s development of five townhomes in the PerthWorks Community in historic Perth, Ontario. Two units have already been claimed, leaving only two middle and one end unit for prospective buyers.

Photo from Downtown Heritage Perth

These units represent exceptional value – $289k for an end unit, $279k for a middle unit – for homes that will be net zero in their energy consumption and built to the Passive House standard.

Situated centrally in charming Perth, homeowners will be able to enjoy all that the town has to offer as well as being within commuting distance of Ottawa.

click to enlarge

EkoBuilt is working with homeowners to fully customize their units’ plans to best suit their needs and lifestyle.

The sample floorplans we offer are a great starting point and make tremendous use of the nearly 2,000 square feet of living space on these two-storey towns.

December 2019 Occupancy

Purchase contracts to be finalized by late February 2019, groundbreaking in May 2019, occupancy December 2019.

Purchasing your new home in Perth can be a reality that quickly.

Get all the details from the Perth Town Homes for Sale section on our website, and then please do get in touch. We’re here to answer your questions!

 

Ottawa passive house model by EkoBuilt
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, Passive House resources

Come out to visit the EkoModel Home this Weekend

We’ll be throwing open our doors from 9am to 3pm this coming weekend as part of International Passive House Days 2018. We’ve heard from many of you about your plans to attend, and we can’t wait to meet you!

Remember we’re giving away another Cartier tabletop fire feature from Eco-Feu this weekend. Details here.

EkoModel Home

The EkoModel Home, which showcases our Passive House offering and one of 13 super energy efficient house plans, is located just west of Ottawa:

96 Libbys Road
McNab/Braeside, ON K7S 0E1

Perth Ontario townhomes for sale by EkoBuilt
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, House Design, Passive House resources

5 EkoBuilt Townhomes for Sale in Perth

EkoBuilt is undertaking a unique development of five townhomes in the PerthWorks Community in historic Perth, Ontario. These five super energy efficient town homes for sale will be freehold, and will be connected to net-metering, resulting in incredibly low monthly utility fees (approx $40/month). We’re aiming for Passive House certification on the units, and each will include EV plugs inside the integrated garage, drain water heat recovery, and much more.

Perth Works Community MapPositioned just four blocks from Perth’s downtown core, the units will be part of the revitalized PerthWorks development. This is a fantastic opportunity to be part of a community development that will have many appealing features.

All 5 units will be fully customizable – you decide on the floorplan that will best fit your lifestyle and needs. You can even decide to convert the planned integrated garage into more living space if that works better for you.

With nearly 2,000 sq ft of living space, these Perth town homes will be spacious and comfortable and have the quality associated with every EkoBuilt home build.

Purchase contracts to be finalized by late February 2019, groundbreaking in May 2019, occupancy December 2019.

Don’t miss out! Get all the details on the 5 EkoBuilt Townhomes.

Visit the EkoModel Home during Passive House Days

We’re delighted to hear that so many of you plan to come out for a visit during Passive House Days 2018. If you’re interested in the Perth development, this is an excellent chance to see and experience an EkoBuilt passive home in person.

Passive House Days, 9 – 11 November 2018
9am to 4pm all 3 days

Visit the EkoModel Home
96 Libbys Road
McNab-Braeside (just west of Ottawa)

EkoModel News, Energy Efficiency, Passive House resources

Passive House Days 2018 and another Eco-Feu giveaway!

With International Passive House Days 2018 on the horizon, we’re getting excited about connecting with Ottawa area residents who want to know more about EkoBuilt’s passive house and sustainable home building options. Sadly, a tornado blighted the lives of some local residents on the same weekend as Green Energy Doors Open and we just didn’t get the turnout that we normally would.

There is another chance to chat with us in the EkoModel Home, from November 9-11, 2018. We hope you’ll come out with your questions and to experience the comfort of this super energy efficient home, a great example of what we can do.

You could win!

Cartier table top fire featureAnyone visiting us that weekend will have the chance to join our mailing list and go into the draw for a Cartier tabletop fire feature from Eco-Feu of Montreal!

Already on the mailing list? You can still enter the draw by sharing with us what topics you’d like to see us delve into on the EkoBuilt blog and on social media.

The Cartier unit when paired with a 4 gallons of fuel retails for $308.80.

We will also have a complete Eco-Feu catalogue on hand so that you can see the other ethanol fire place/feature options.

We’re delighted to continue our focus on this giveaway; it really helps with communicating the ease of heating a Passive House.

Please let us know if you’re planning to visit on the Nov 9-11 weekend, we’d love to see you!

 

EkoModel News, Passive House resources

Come on out to Passive House Days this weekend

International Passive House Days opens tomorrow, and the EkoBuilt Model Home will throw open its doors on all three days. Please join us and consider visiting other Passive Homes in the area!

What? International Passive House Days

When? Nov 10th – 12th, 2017

Find Homes Near You

northern elevation of the ottawa passive house

To search on participating homes in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario, or wherever you live, use the Passive House Database.

The listing for the EkoModel Home, including its passive house credentials, can be found at listing 5081 on the Passive House Database.

Please come out and visit our four-bedroom, 2,509 sq ft passive house on any of the following days:

Fri, 10 Nov: 9-3pm
Sat, 11 Nov: 9-3pm
Sun, 12 Nov: 9-3pm

See complete house plans for the EkoBuilt Trillium passive house right here.

See all 13 of our Passive House plans here – we can modify any of these plans to best suit your needs!

House Design, Passive House resources

Why a low slope roof makes sense

Southern elevation of Ottawa passive house by EkoBuilt

EkoModel Home – southern elevation

The EkoModel Home was designed with a low slope roof, a smart feature shared by all 13 of EkoBuilt’s passive house plans.

This style of roof greatly reduces construction costs, and also introduces great strength and stability, which is a tremendous benefit in our part of Canada where snow loads in the winter can be incredibly deep and heavy.

While a standard cathedral ceiling roof rafter is required by current code to be 12 inches deep to carry snow loads, our passive house rafters are 30 inches deep. The depth originally designed for increased insulation (typically three times that for a conventional build) lends amazing strength for those snow loads.

As Europeans – who have lived with high utility costs for many years – understand innately, a low slope roof offers tremendous cost savings in the long run. North Americans are only just starting to come around to the wisdom of this roof-style, as they realize how important reducing energy costs will be the further we move into the 21st century.

A number of key factors go into an effective low slope roof, including the following:

Roofing underlayment

As part of our standard PassiveHouse package, we include the installation of a high temperature ice/water membrane which completely waterproofs the roof and is guaranteed for 50 years. It is specifically designed for low slope roofs as low as 0.5 inch (2 1/2°), and is able to withstand temperatures of up to 121°C!

The membrane that we use is WinterGuard HT Advanced Waterproofing Underlayment by CertainTeed. For more detail:

See product details on CertainTeed’s website.
Review the WinterGuard HT brochure [pdf]

Roof cover

Another important factor is to reduce the heat island effect by making use of cool roof technology. The term “heat island”describes built areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean temperature of a city with 1 million people can be 1 – 3°C warmer than its surroundings. By the evening this difference can rise to around 12°C.

Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat related illness and mortality, as well as water quality.

High solar reflectivity [albedo] is the most important characteristic of a cool roof as it helps to reflect sunlight and heat away from a building. Cool roof technology can reduce a roof’s temperature by 28 to 33°C during summer weather.

More information

Information on Heat Islands (US Environmental Protection Agency)
Using Cool Roofs to Reduce Heat Islands (EPA)

Wakefield Bridge steel shingles

Click to enlarge image

We chose to use Ideal Steel’s Wakefield Bridge Steel Shingles because they have the most advanced cool metal roof technology we could find. The special resin paint system used results in a high albedo factor; there are a range of colours available.

Added benefits of Wakefield Bridge Steel Shingle roofing:

  • Manufactured from recycled and new steel
  • 50 year warranty
  • Cost-effective at approximately $2 per square foot

More information

Product brochure for Wakefield Bridge Steel Shingles [pdf]

Soffit and fascia

passive-house-roof-soffit

Click to enlarge image

Finally, additional roof finishes include aluminum soffit and fascia, chosen for being inexpensive, clean lines and excellent ventilation properties for a steel roof.

Together, all of these elements work together to make for a high performance, low cost roof that will help to keep more money in your pocket now, and in the future.

EkoBuilt is here to help those who are thinking a little ahead of the curve to maximize their home’s beauty while making the most of its energy efficiency and comfort. Get in touch to find out more.