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Whistler Incubating A Passive Home Industry

The Passive House Standard is a European concept and building standard that demands energy efficiency, especially for heating and cooling systems, that are far beyond current code standards and even most LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The annual energy use for heating and cooling cannot exceed 15 kWH, and total energy use cannot exceed 120 kWH - about 10% of the energy use of a conventional home in Canada. In general though, a builder has more flexibility in meeting the Passive House Standard than they do for LEED construction.

Whistler's Austria House, built for the 2010 Olympics, was the first home in Canada to meet the standard, and relied on prefabricated, super-insulated walls, an airtight building envelope, and solar panels. The 2,700 square foot building is so efficient that it requires less heat than a hair dryer and no furnace. The foundation is poured on top of ten inches of insulating foam, and the 18-inch thick walls pack an R-50 insulation value, while the roof jumps to R-70. The Austrians who designed and built the house started with the thickest wood on the interior instead, with stacks of spruce two by fours instead of gypsum drywall. In order to keep the energy efficiency with the standards' bounds, a Euro-style combined washer/dryer had to be used instead of two separate units, and there is no door between the garage and the home, as it would have reduced the effectiveness of the building envelope.

A local school teacher bought the house and says she paid about a $100,000 premium compared to her neighbors, but that it was well worth it to buy something in line with her environmental values, not to mention dramatically reducing her utility bill. The builder, Durfield Construction, recently opened a company in Pemberton called BC Passive House that will be dedicated to building prefabricated passive homes from panels, in the hope to get the jump on building "the next generation of how we should be building houses in North America." Score so far? Europe: 20,000. Canada: Maybe 10?.

· Passive House construction skills a unique Olympic legacy [Pique]
· In Snowy Whistler, A House With No Furnace [The Tyee]
· BC Passive House