Canadian passive house builder, Paul Kealey

Author: Paul Kealey, Sustainable Building Expert

In recent years, R2000 has gained profile as an energy efficient approach to home building.

The formalized program, which has seen thousands of building professionals trained and many R2000 homes constructed, resulted in a great deal of awareness across Canada.

At EkoBuilt, we believe that the PassiveHouse model is the superior choice for the 21st Century Home, and it matters to us that our customers understand how different the R2000 and PassiveHouse concepts are.

The History of R2000 and PassiveHouse

R2000: Research began in the 1970s in Saskatchewan to investigate home construction that would result in healthy, comfortable homes that used less energy. At the time, homes that would be comfortable in harsh prairie winters were the real focus. A full building standard was introduced in 1982 as the result of a partnership between the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and Natural Resources Canada. Ultimately, R2000 helped to launch a new, more energy efficient approach to home building, and to improve standards for both building materials and for builders themselves.

PassiveHouse: In the 1990s, research focused on effectively addressing climate change and helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions really cohered into the PassiveHouse building standard, which was formally introduced in 2004. The standard adheres to a series of strict certification criteria which apply to a home’s space heating demand, space cooling demand, primary energy demand, airtightness, and thermal comfort.

Fundamentally Different Concepts

Although R2000 and PassiveHouse both represent a form of construction with better building methods and materials, they are fundamentally different concepts, largely because of varying degrees of efficiency.

Typically, R2000 has been described as a home that is 30 to 40% more energy efficient than a conventionally built home. Homes built to the PassiveHouse standard, on the other hand, are typically 75% more energy efficient than average new home builds.

R2000: Although an efficient standard, R2000 homes and buildings still require a furnace or boiler, the same as any other conventionally built home or building would require.

PassiveHouse: This construction method eliminates the need for a furnace or boiler, requiring only a modest air-to-air source heat pump for both heating and cooling. Yes, this is true even in Canada’s harsher winter and hotter summer climes.

Clearly, when assessed from the standpoint of additional energy inputs required to effectively heat or cool the home, the PassiveHouse standard comes out ahead of R2000; the home that can eschew a conventional furnace or boiler is the clear winner.

PassiveHouse vs. R2000: Key Considerations

Although R2000 is a significantly better-than-code approach to building that has been revised over the years, the standard simply is not good enough to be considered the Home of the 21st Century. R2000 simply has not kept pace with changing codes or government initiatives, nor does it deliver on the requirements for energy savings in our shifting climate.

The Home of the 21st Century is one that is best both for the environment and for the people who it inhabit it. Good for the environment meaning low-energy to build and run, good for people being affordable, comfortable and healthy. Ideally, the low-energy home of the 21st Century should be one this is closest to net zero as possible (a home that produces as much energy as it consumes).

In essence, new homes in the 21st century must be ones that are good for the environment, low-cost to operate, as well as supremely comfortable. The only home building standard that delivers on all three points, is PassiveHouse.

What’s in a Number?

To explore the numbers of energy efficiency, consider the following. The EkoModel Home that we’re building in 2016 would have the following Annual Site Energy Demand loads depending on the build standard applied to it:

R2000 standard – primary energy demand of 21,366 kWh/year
Present code standard – primary energy demand of 39,313 kWh/year
PassiveHouse standard – primary energy demand of 8,628 kWh/year

Note 1: R2000 standard performance criteria can be found at http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/housing/new-homes/5089
Note 2: The EkoModel Home is, of course, being built entirely to the PassiveHouse standard and will meet that 8,628 kWh/year site load.

Annual site energy demand for 3 building standards

What ‘Low Energy’ Really Means

Another way of considering just how much better the PassiveHouse standard primary energy demand is compared to R2000 is to look at the PV or photovoltaic input required for a new home built to either standard.

Many home owners are now attracted by the potential for offsetting or meeting their home’s energy demand with solar panels. Consider this:

Ottawa’s average PV potential on an annual basis is 3.7 hours per day.

The EkoModel Home will have a 6kW PV solar array. Multiplied by 3.7 hours per day, this comes to 8,103 kWh/year. If built to R2000 standard, the home would need to have the equivalent of 21,366 kWh/year, which would mean a 15.8kW PV solar array.

Find Out More

If you’re interested to find out more about how building your home to the PassiveHouse standard could mean big savings for you, please get in touch with us at EkoBuilt.

Our PassiveHouse plans and materials kits can be built to suit you in your local area, or you can work directly with us if you live in the National Capital Region.

Further Reading

What is R2000? (Canadian Home Builders’ Association)

Passive House certification criteria (International Passive House Association)

HRV Units and the Passive House (EkoBuilt)

Solar Panel Planning: Determine the sun hours available per day where you live