INTERVIEW WITH: Anthony Owolabi, PACE Canada Volunteer

PACE Canada getting a foothold

Originating in California, the property assessed clean energy (PACE) program offered by PACE Canada wants to make energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrade measures affordable to all Canadians.

What is PACE?

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is an innovative financing tool which property owners can use to upgrade the energy efficiency of their buildings and install renewable energy systems with no money down and with repayment through their property tax bill. The source of funds is usually private lenders who are looking for long term, low risk investments.

The key requirements of a PACE program are that the building owner must own the property and must be paying (or be able to pay) property taxes: secondly the program will cover 100% of the financing for these types of measures:

• renewables such as solar panels and geothermal heating systems

energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation and windows

In the last five years in the USA, over 220,000 PACE projects have been completed with over $6B invested.

Who is PACE Canada?

PACE Canada is a non-profit, education and advocacy organization. We are dedicated to bringing the PACE program to Canada, and in the process will create thousands of jobs and dramatically reduce Canada’s GHG footprint.

Our vision is for every building in Canada to be optimized with renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to achieve net-zero performance – and for PACE financing to be the tool that makes the measures affordable to all.

Can you explain a little more how the financing system works?

The PACE administrator acts as a coordinator between investors (lenders) and home/property owners (buyers). Investors lend the money to home/property owners and money flows to the contractor who completes the job.

Once the project is complete, the PACE Administrator facilitates the placement of a property tax lien and the home/property owner starts repayment via their property tax bill.

Since investors provide long-term, fixed interest rate money, the model is usually cash flow positive from day one. Energy savings are meant to more than offset the increase in taxes.

What are the available markets for PACE Financing in Canada?

There are two very distinct markets for PACE financing – C Pace (commercial) and R Pace (residential). Even though there are similarities, there are major differences when it comes to implementation processes and approvals for each market.

Think of both programs sharing the DNA of the cat family, but one is a kitten and one is a tiger.

Based on US market data, the average PACE financing per project has been $456,000 for C-PACE projects and $24,000 for R-PACE projects. The largest single C-PACE financed project to date is $32 million. A C PACE best practices guideline can be found at (Well-Designed-C PACE-Programs-2018-07-02)

Does PACE require government involvement even down to the municipal level?

Even though the loan repayment is made through the property tax system, the municipality should have only two simple tasks – place the tax lien and collect/remit the annual payments. All other tasks should be handled by the PACE Administrator – approve contractors, projects, and upgrade types allowed; and find the investors.

What are the full economic benefits?

1. Energy Savings to property owners: Since the target is to be net positive cash flow from day 1, property owners save money on their energy bills.

2. Increased property value: Unlike subjective upgrades like countertops and paint, PACE upgrades are quantifiable and calculations can show increased property value. This feature can be translated into a higher price at the time of sale.

3. Green Jobs: Apart from the public good benefits of reduced green house gases, many new jobs are created. Statistics show that for every million dollars invested, 15 new market transition jobs are created.

4. Reduced fiscal debt: Since PACE attracts private investors, it reduces the use of public tax dollars in the retrofit economy.  Governments don’t have to provide rebates, subsidies, or give-aways that contribute to increased public debt levels.

What are the next steps for PACE Canada?

PACE Canada is committed to advocating for the adoption of a best practices PACE model across Canada. We will continue our efforts to educate governments and politicians on PACE and its economic benefits (see the website at

We will be expanding our membership base by organizing educational events on PACE and its components and to help the public understand all the PACE benefits.


The term ‘Missing Middle’ is now in common use in major cities across the country in discussions around densification, housing choice and affordability. It was first coined by American architect Daniel Parolek to describe “a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types, compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.

By Shirley Shen

Evergreen’s Toronto Housing Action Lab Research and Report

According to Michelle German, Manager of Evergreen’s Toronto Housing Action Lab, the ‘missing middle’ is already negatively impacting the city in a variety of ways:

“From a social perspective, a market that no longer provides housing opportunities for everyday households risks robbing the city of its vitality, creativity and opportunity. Future generations will seek to live elsewhere and newcomers will face discouraging prospects.”

In 2017-2018, Evergreen convened a working group to identify the issues arising from the ‘missing middle’ in Toronto and to report on potential solutions. The Working Group identified three reasons why attention should be paid to the missing middle now:

1. Many families renting in Toronto are living in housing that does not have enough bedrooms for their size and makeup.

2. Middle income wages have not kept pace with the cost of housing – both rental and ownership options.

3. Many middle age households can’t access the ownership market – so are staying longer in the rental market creating stagnation and record low vacancy rates.

Evergreen’s report was published in August of 2018 and is  available here.

The following year, Vancouver architects began a similar investigation, in this case the aim being not only to propose new guidelines to promote Missing Middle forms of development, but also to offer design solutions.

The Urbanarium Design Competition,  Vancouver

In 2018, led by architect Bruce Haden, the Urbanarium held an open design competition to develop and present options for addressing Metro Vancouver’s affordability and social health challenges. There were four study areas in Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Burnaby and Surrey, with each entrant being assigned one area at random. 

Each study area was around four blocks in size and competitors selected one-or two single-family lots to design, providing some contextual assessment based on the study area and municipal plans and by-laws.   

Competitors were required to address affordability, sociability and design excellence. Central to their work was the creation of pro forma including revenue, land costs and construction value. 

There was a strong consensus amongst the competitors around the required changes in municipal policy that would support the creation of a much greater range of housing options in current single family neighbourhoods. The four winners presented their prposals to staff around Metro Vancouver, including Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and New Westminster as of September 2018.

Heaccity Studio Winning Entry

Increasing affordable housing in Metro Vancouver requires the provision of additional units that break  from existing models of  development and financing,  while shifting the constrictive culture  around tenure and  ownership.

We proposed a zoning amendment for the ‘buffer zones’ – the first three blocks flanking arterial roads  – between mixed use / commercial zones and single-family neighbourhoods. Signaling the residential renewal that will help house future generations in an affordable manner, our proposed zone “R-5R” would specifically address the land value speculation that has arisen along with densification. In order to ease the transition of R5 zones, guidelines would cultivate a new typology that can both co-exist with detached homes, and support the formation of  a cohesive community.


1 Allow Innovative Zoning Policy

Long lots mean that building mass can be split up  and pushed to the lot lines, reclaiming underused green spaces for community connection. This results in a productive rethink of yards, setbacks, and laneways.  Following on the familiar house plus laneway house model, R5-R regulations would facilitate the next stage toward urbanization, while preserving the open and green character of the existing neighbourhood. This approach allows for increased households per lot while preserving outdoor space.

2 Incentivize Shared Ownership Models

R5-R prioritizes small-scale, owner-occupied developments by allowing relaxations and density bonuses to non-profit co-operatives. These Micro-Ops (non-program, non-subsidized co-ops) would free households from individual mortgages, pool equity, and share amenities.

3 Village Structures

Each property can also join a co-operative “Co-Block” structure, transforming each block into a self-sufficient village. This village-ing model allows Co-Blocks to pool development fees locally for immediate upgrades block by block. 

Co-Blocks can form circles or ‘parties’ to implement new amenities, share responsibilities, and work towards common goals. For example, the ‘green party’ tracks energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water consumption, while the ‘garden party’ tends and harvests block-wide planter boxes for distribution amongst the Co-Block.

See the HaecCity Studio submission and link to it somewhere on our web site.

You can find the submission as a pdf file here.

Shirley Shen is Principal of Haeccity Studio Architecture in Vancouver.



Design makes access to natural light and the outdoors fundamental to patient health

Like any city that is reaching a new level of livability, Selkirk, Manitoba has grown to need significant health services and facilities for local residents and those living in the region. The new two-storey, state-of-the-art, LEED Gold Selkirk Regional Health Centre (SRHC) is a 184,000 square foot regional healthcare hub,  offering everything from a birthing centre, dialysis,  surgery, cancer care, MRI diagnostics and outpatient programs, serving the Interlake region.

By James Orlikow

The Centre features an interior contemplation courtyard with a light sculpture, three accessible roof terraces; and a green roof that is overlooked from patient bedrooms. The landscape and building connect seamlessly through an active, south-facing, family/staff courtyard with a sun deck and outdoor ‘kitchen’.

With a focus on having as much natural light as possible in the building, glazed curtain walls are located in all public areas, starting at the front entrance and completely surrounding the contemplation courtyard as a ‘light well’ wayfinding feature.

The colours and finishes of the building echo the water, sky and earth of the Interlake region. Shades of aqua and warm terra cotta balance the golden buff Tyndall stone walls. The first and last impression at every threshold on the site.

Selkirk Regional Health Centre is a replacement facility required due to the premature obsolescence of the existing 1980s hospital. Accordingly, SRHC strives for durability, maintainability, and sustainability within a responsible economic framework. The site configuration, building placement, and orientation responds to the program needs; connectivity to the adjacent health campus; future pedestrian linkages; land drainage requirements; and the horizontal loop geothermal system.

Beyond the functional drivers, SHRC’s strategic planning and design aspirations were ‘access to natural light and outdoor spaces’ for all patients, families and staff.

The SRHC campus transforms 12 hectares of vacant commercial lands, of which more than six hectares  have been converted to naturalized parkland and another hectare to xeroscaped plazas and courtyards. In addition, the building has a 250m2 green roof. 

A network of passive stormwater management features such as dry stream beds, bioswales, and seasonal retention areas work in concert with carefully sited buildings, shelterbelts, and low-mow grassland areas. This forms the framework for all of the other opens spaces on site while managing 100% of the stormwater generated by the new development and creating optimum microclimates that extend public use of the grounds to all seasons.  The development re-establishes the pre-existing aspen forest, tall-grass prairie and wetland ecozones of the Interlake on site.

The constant volume air delivery systems comply with CSA Z317.2 ventilation standard for healthcare facilities. Fresh air rates outlined in the CSA standard ensures indoor air quality to enhance patient recovery and the wellness of occupants. Most regularly occupied spaces are located on the perimeter of the building allowing access to daylight and views.


  • Owner/Developer  Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority
  • Prime Consultant  LM Architectural Group
  • General Contractor Ellis Don
  • Associate Architect  Stantec Architecture Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect  HTFC Planning & Design
  • Civil Engineer/LEED Advisor  MMM Group WSP
  • Electrical Engineer MCW / AGE Consultants Ltd
  • Mechanical Engineer  SMS Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer  Crosier, Kilgour & Partners Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent  Demand Side Energy Consultants
  • Interior Design  Environmental Space Planning
  • Photos  Gerry Kopelow


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 361.9KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 54%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 1,487 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 43%
  • Recycled material content by value = 23.67%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 10.95%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 63%

James Orlikow, FRAIC, Principal in Charge of the SRHC Project; Senior Advisor at LM Architectural Group, Winnipeg.



Solar chimney marks addition to Schulich School of Business, York University

Architecture and engineering are seamlessly integrated in the Rob and Cheryl McEwen graduate 6,166m²  academic research and classroom building to create a unique, climate responsive, hybrid environmental design  that promotes occupant wellbeing, while reducing energy use intensity to a level significantly below the model national reference standard.

By Barry Sampson

Environmental design strategies include:

  • Optimized building orientation and façade design for effective shading and solar harvesting;
  • A high-performance envelope with window-to-wall ratio carefully calibrated for effective daylighting and maximized insulation;
  • High-efficiency mechanical systems including activated concrete with radiant heating and cooling, high output metal cooling acoustic baffles and dedicated outside air displacement system.
  • A hybrid active/passive bioclimatic system featuring a climate responsive solar chimney that uses stack effect to drive effective building-wide natural ventilation, and contributes to passive pre-heating of the fresh air supply.
  • The project is targeting LEED Gold certification and is also equipped with the energy infrastructure required to achieve net zero energy in the future, pending the addition of onsite photovoltaic panels and geothermal boreholes. Together, the bustling atrium and the landmark solar chimney are physical manifestations of the school’s dual goals: to break down the physical and social barriers to creative thinking, while simultaneously putting into action the School’s commitment to sustainable design.

The unique form and architectural identity of the McEwen Building results from the synthesis of climate- adapted passive system design, program planning, and urban design responses to challenging site constrains.

Folded surfaces are used to transform the building footprint from alignment with the south-east orientation of the campus to optimal solar orientation of the building’s south facade for effective shading and solar energy harvesting, in particular optimizing the solar preheat mode of the solar chimney.  South- and west-facing glazing with Inline Fiberglass windows is shaded in summer by solar awnings and louvered shading devices.

The south-facing wind-sheltered courtyard creates an extension of the building’s social terrain and expands the existing system of interconnected courtyards of the original Schulich complex.

With interior social activities of the atrium visible through the exterior glazed wall and the chimney illuminated above as a landmark at night, these two strategic elements emphasize the social and environmental roles of the building to the campus at large.  Access by public transit is straightforward, facilitating the hosting of a variety of events and conferences. With York University subway station just a three-minute walk away, there was no requirement for additional on-site parking; instead, numerous bike parking rings were installed near the building entrances.

The 28-metre tall solar chimney, situated on top of the central atrium, drives the multi modal hybrid active/passive ventilation and environmental control system. The building automation system monitors the rooftop weather station and controls the switching between three ventilation modes: passive hybrid natural ventilation mode in shoulder seasons, active preheat mode in winter, and active cooling mode in summer.

In active modes, during the summer and winter when windows must be closed to save energy and control humidity, the building uses a Dedicated Outside Air System (programmed to save energy by meeting ventilation requirements only, rather than heating or cooling which are provided by the Klimatrol [Klimatrol (Rehau)- (905) 454-1742 and Artech (Lindner) (905) 454-1742] radiant system), and low-speed displacement ventilation. This delivers a building-wide 1.8 air changes per hour (ACH); however, this is a rare maximum supply since occupancy sensors ensure that ventilation air is delivered only where required.


  • Owner/Developer  York University
  • Architect  Baird Sampson Neuert Architects
  • General Contractor  Ellis Don Construction
  • Landscape Architect  PLANT Architect Inc.
  • Civil Engineer  R.V. Anderson Associates Limited
  • Electrical/ Mechanical Engineer  Crosssey Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer  Blackwell Structural Engineers
  • Commissioning Agent JLL
  • Climate Consultants  Transsolar
  • Code Consultant  Leber Rubes Inc.
  • Building Envelope Consultants  RDH Building Science Inc.
  • Acoustical Consultants  Swallow Acoustic Consultants
  • Cost Consultants  Vermeulens Cost Consultants
  • Elevator Consultant  KJA Consultants Inc.
  • Photos  Steven Evans Photography & Cindy Nguyen


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 89.1 KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB = 74,2%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 2,170 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 47%
  • Recycled material content by value = 20.1%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 39,2%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 88.5%


High-performance office building rejuvenates downtown neighbourhood

Occupying a prominent downtown corner across from Victoria’s historic City Hall, this mixed-use commercial complex includes two levels of underground parking, a street level with landscaped boulevards and public plazas flanked by ground floor retail spaces. The six-storey, 10,362 m² west building and 13-storey, 16,299 m² east building house class-A office space above.

By Franc D’Ambrosio, Founding Principal, Erica Sangster, Principal, D’AMBROSIO architecture + urbanism and Andy Chong, Managing Principal, INTEGRAL GROUP.

Urban Design and Architecture

The developer’s aim was to contribute to the resurgence of Victoria’s downtown, provide much needed high-quality office space and set a design benchmark in the regeneration of a moribund city block. The building forms have been sculpted to define street edges and create public spaces that are welcoming, human scaled, and integrated with both the street fabric and the building activity.

The fundamental massing strategy was to divide the site laterally and thereby locate two separate and distinct buildings.  As a complex of two buildings, the project is in scale with the surrounding context. The separation has allowed for gracious public open spaces and also facilitated phased construction.  The two buildings share aspects of form and materials, but differ in their massing and façade composition. Both outwardly express their function, with slender office wings and primary circulation routes clearly articulated in concrete and glass.

The public focus of the project is the Rotunda, a 500m² sky-lit atrium that brings natural light into the centre of the west building and also functions as the return air plenum for the ventilation system. To support the 20-metre diameter skylight, a unique structure comprising six ‘boomerang-shaped’ radially arranged, glue-laminated timber members was designed. The members are connected with steel tension rods, as well as concentric steel tension and compression rings – a solution that is economical in material use and maximizes daylight penetration.


The project’s  Energy Utilization Intensity (EUI) was reduced by high-performance in three main areas: building envelope; ventilation heat recovery; and building heating and cooling.  Building envelope options were optimized using energy modelling, and include a continuous layer of exterior insulation to achieve R-30 in walls. 

Combined with high-performance double-glazing and a strategic window-to-wall ratio, the building enclosure minimizes both heat loss, and cooling requirements due to solar heat gains.

Heating and cooling for the building is driven by a hybrid air/ground-source heat-recovery chiller plant.  This system can operate in either air-source mode (taking advantage of Victoria’s relatively temperate climate), or in ground-source (maintaining compressor efficiency, while using only a modestly-sized borehole field). Radiant ceiling panels provide heating and cooling to all office spaces, using moderate water temperatures and eliminating the need for fans to distribute space heating and cooling.


The larger east building uses underfloor air distribution and displacement ventilation. Dual core heat recovery technology reverses intake and exhaust pathways every 60 seconds, alternately charging large aluminum cores to achieve more than 80% effective heat recovery; much higher than conventional fixed-plate or wheel-type systems.

Variable speed AHU fans and automatic VAV dampers modulate the supply of dedicated ventilation air (no recirculation) in response to CO2 and humidity levels, maintaining indoor air quality and exhausting latent heat gains, while conserving energy for fans, heating, and dehumidification. All systems are controlled by a comprehensive digital Building Automation System.


  • Energy Intensity = 102 kWh/m²-yr
  • Thermal Energy Demand Intensity = 22.9 kWh/m²-yr
  • Energy Consumption Reduction vs. ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (LEED 2009) Baseline = 45%
  • Energy Cost Savings vs. ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (LEED 2009) Baseline = 33%


  • Owner/Developer: Jawl Properties
  • Architect: D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism
  • General Contractor / Construction Manager: Campbell Construction   
  • Energy Model: Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer: RJC Engineers
  • Building Envelope: RDH
  • Landscape Architect: Murdoch & de Greeff
  • Electrical Engineer:  AES
  • Mechanical Engineer  Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer:  RJC Engineers
  • LEED Consultant:  Integral Group
  • Photos: Sama Jim Canzian



Advanced sustainable design strategies improve performance in this challenging building type

Completed In 2017, this 8000m² hybrid competition and community aquatic facility replaces an aging indoor and outdoor pool complex, no longer capable of meeting the University of British Columbia’s changing needs. The challenge was to create a facility that would balance the high-performance training requirements of the university successful competitive swim program, with the increased demand for lessons and leisure opportunities from the rapidly expanding residential communities on campus.

By Jim Taggart

The Aquatic Centre is divided north south into four linear program ‘bars’ – lobby and change rooms, community aquatics, competition aquatics, and bleachers. Daylight is used to differentiate between the two aquatic halls. A line of Y-shaped columns supports a continuous six-metre wide skylight that bisects the aquatic hall, delineating competition and leisure areas. A translucent screen creates a luminescent barrier between the two principal spaces, making it possible to control the uses, and have two different activities or events taking place simultaneously.

The architectural composition consists of three distinct elements: a tessellated standing seam metal roof that hovers over an inclined black concrete base, and is separated from it by a continuous ribbon of fritted glazing. The roof rises and falls according to the functional requirements of the spaces below, its slopes and projections providing rain protection, solar shading, and control of daylight penetration as required. The building has become an integral part of the university’s new student hub, adjacent to the bus loop and a few steps from the new student union building.

As a building type, aquatic centres present some major challenges from the sustainability perspective, including water conservation, air quality, energy optimization, light control and acoustic performance.

Water Conservation

Of these, water conservation is the most significant, standard practice being that pools are emptied and the water discarded every time the pool requires maintenance. For the project team, not only did this seem an outdated practice from an environmental point of view, it also seemed incompatible with UBC’s reputation as a leading proponent of sustainable design.

In fact, water conservation has been an important consideration for the UBC Properties Trust for two decades, with new buildings now required to reduce water consumption by 30% relative to the reference standard. This is part of an overall requirement that all new projects are built to LEED Gold standard.

With the university currently conducting research on regenerative neighbourhoods, the project team began looking for ways in which the building could contribute positively to the infrastructure requirements of the community as a whole.

The answer was to create an underground cistern that could not only collect all the pool water during maintenance, but also supply the fire department should the need arise, or accommodate storm surge water for the north campus precinct, so relieving pressure on the existing storm sewer system.

The cistern, which has a capacity of 900,000 litres, is divided into three compartments according to the amount of filtration required prior to reuse. Another of its functions is to collect rainwater from the roof and the adjacent transit plaza, reusing it for toilet flushing, irrigation and poll top up.

  • Client  UBC Properties Trust
  • Architects   MJMA & Acton Ostry Architects
  • Photos  Shai Gil; Ema Peter



Interview with Rob Bernhardt, CEO of Passive House Canada

Passive House on an upward curve

Rob works to advance building energy efficiency. A certified Passive House consultant and the developer of several certified Passive House projects, Rob is familiar with the economic and social advantages of high-performance buildings.

What is a Passive House Building and how does it work in Canada??

Passive House (Passivhaus) is considered to be the most rigorous voluntary energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today. They consume up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings. It is recognized internationally as the proven best way to build for comfort, affordability and energy efficiency of residential, institutional and commercial buildings, through all stages of design, construction, and livability.

The Passive House approach works because it’s a pragmatic combination of applied building science and economics. Designs and components vary to suit the local climate, enabling comparable levels of comfort, hygiene and performance in varied climates.  All Passive House buildings are designed using detailed energy modelling software, which allows the design team modify the architecture and specify the combination of insulation and components required to bring a building to the required performance standard in their own climate zone.

Why was Passive House Canada created?

Passive House Canada was incorporated by practitioners wanting to transform Canada’s buildings, making the multiple benefits of high performance buildings the norm. We started with few high-performance resources in Canada but have ramped up resources through educational services, events, advocacy and communications over the few years we have existed.  With time Canada’s policy, regulatory and incentive environment has become very support of Passive House as the level of building efficiency required for Canada to meet its Paris commitments become apparent.   

Why do you think the movement has been successful so far?

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 enthusiasm has given us the privilege of assisting all levels of government in building policy development, the ability to support the growth of a national membership of over 1,100 members (in eight provinces and two territories) and deliver hundreds of courses, with over 5,000 registrations across Canada. 

This appetite for a higher standard of building bridged partnerships resulting in the launch of Canada’s first Zero Emissions Building Exchange in Vancouver and a successful inaugural national conference with over 350 delegates attending each year.

Why do you think people are making the change to Passive House buildings?

While the initial driver is, of course, environmental and the common goal to mitigate climate change, this alone does not catalyze market transformation, represent the motivation of everyone involved, or simplify the process of managing change. 

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 reason enough to make the choice. Affordable housing advocates may focus on the reduced costs of ownership, operation and utility costs to tenants, homeowners on the comfort, while absolutely everyone craves a constant supply of filtered fresh outdoor air.

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.

Why do you feel Canada is winning in the change to Passive House building?

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 Passive House standards. This is a significant win for Canada, and with recent budget support we can see our national buildings strategy taking root across cities and provinces, nationwide.

We know our role at PHC 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 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. 


Making building performance a selling point, and moving on from the glass tower

By Richard Witt, Executive Principal, Quadrangle & Michelle Xuereb, Director of Innovation, Quadrangle

Sustainable building design is not a new concept. With the development and implementation of LEED in the early 1990s, sustainability became mainstream but has struggled to effect real change in the way we think about building performance, requirements or aesthetics. Economics and sustainable building design are at odds – sustainability is an extra cost, weighed against budget and relative value.

The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat concluded in their study Downtown High-Rise vs. Suburban Low-Rise Building that recently completed buildings significantly underperform in comparison to their counterparts from 50 years ago. The days of the glass skyscraper are coming to an end. Passive systems direct the way forward, as opposed to compensating for inefficiency with active systems.

Buildings are the key contributor and solution to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

According to the latest inventory release (2017) by The City of Toronto, 52% of GHG emissions in Toronto come from buildings, predominantly from burning natural gas to heat indoor spaces and water. Consequently, buildings must also be a climate change solution. The City of Toronto recognizes this in its Zero Emissions Building Framework, which is why the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) has us on a path to net zero buildings by 2030. What about the code? There is a plan to move Toronto to net zero by 2030, but it is not clear, given the current political climate, whether this proposal will be executed. Passive design solutions increase durability and climate change resilience while lowering energy usage, embodied energy from maintenance, and GHG emissions.

Passive solutions allow us to both mitigate and adapt to changing weather.

Based on the Climate Driver Study completed for the City of Toronto, we know that days are getting hotter, there are more of them and there are more of them strung together in heat waves. We are also experiencing larger storms, with heavier amounts of precipitation falling at once. The main issue we will have with our buildings is overheating and flash flooding – both in combination with power outages. This again reinforces the need for passive design solutions.

These power outages generally happen on our hottest and coldest days as a result of people cranking their AC or heating. The higher the total effective R-value of the building, the better they are able to maintain the indoor air temperature in the case of extreme temperatures without power.

The City of Toronto recommends that people be able to function independently for a minimum of 72 hours without power. In a residential building, maintaining indoor temperature is key to allowing people to shelter in place within their homes.

• At a basic level, a building is meant to shelter people from the weather – to keep people warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Glass is a very poor insulator, leaving residents feeling physically uncomfortable and paying high energy bills.

• As architects, the best thing you can do is reduce the amount of glass and increase the amount of well-insulated walls. We understand that keeping windows to about 40% of the wall area is the single most effective way to reduce the energy footprint of a building. Real walls with windows may seem old fashioned, but they don’t need to be. Our focus is on creating a thoughtful, well-designed building with an aesthetic that lends itself to real walls and windows.

• Unlike glass, insulation slows down the movement of heat. This allows you to hold onto heat during winter, making people more comfortable and more likely to actually use the spaces at the perimeter of their unit.

Charter Telecom Headquarters

Passive House with hybrid construction achieves highest quality environment for employees

By Graeme Verhulst

Founded 25 years ago, Charter Telecom is a high-tech company that builds, maintains and operates secure, high-performance communications networks and data centre infrastructure for large public and private sector clients around the world. In a sector where employee retention is an ongoing challenge, Charter views its workforce as a family. Many of its staff of over 100 have been with the company for two decades or more.

With this corporate philosophy, the company’s primary objective was to create a new headquarters building that would provide its employees with the best possible work environment. To realize this goal, the company was willing to embrace two non-traditional approaches to building design that are still in their infancy in Canada: Passive House and mass wood construction. Both these approaches were made more challenging by the restricted site, which quickly became the main driver of design. 

On the narrow, 20-metre wide lot, the entire width would have been taken up by a conventional surface parking arrangement with a central drive aisle and two rows of cars, while the ramp to an underground garage would have reduced the number of stalls that could have been accommodated. Instead, the decision was made to minimize the ground floor footprint of the building and to bridge the upper three floors over a drive aisle and single row of surface parking. Zoning required a six metre setback on the west leaving a narrow strip on the east side for shear walls to come all the way to the ground. In a high seismic zone, the resulting lateral forces could not be resolved using light wood frame construction, so a hybrid solution was required.

Cost and schedule constraints, together with potential thermal bridging issues with other materials, led to the choice of wood structure above grade. CLT and glulam were used where the structure was doing hard work, with prefabricated light wood framing where forces were less demanding. Using prefabricated mass wood components required a change in design approach. All consultants had to accelerate their detailed design and resolve potential conflicts using a 3-D model, which was also used to coordinate trades. This was the only way to capitalize on the efficiency and speed of CLT construction, enabling custom milling of each piece in the factory and minimizing modifications on site. 

The resulting structure is unusual. The upper floors are supported on the east side by a row of steel columns, while the west side is supported by the narrow ground floor structure, comprising mechanical and storage rooms, stair and elevator shafts and shipping and receiving areas. The two sides are connected below grade by a series of concrete foundation walls and spanned by glulam beams to support the CLT floor deck, acting as a robust shear diaphragm. Steel columns support the west side, tied together by a steel beam to create a moment frame that takes the “twist” out of the building in a seismic event. The ground floor spaces on the west side are separated by CLT shear walls that rise through the building to the roof.

Graeme Verhulst is a Principal of Waymark Architecture in Victoria, BC.


  • Heating Demand: 11 kWh/m²a
  • Cooling and dehumidification Demand: 11 kWh/m²a
  • Primary Energy: 117 kWh/m²a
  • Primary Energy Renewable (PER): 52 kWh/m²a
  • Air leakage: 0.6 ACH50 (Design)


  • Owner/Developer: Charter Telecom
  • Architect: Waymark Architecture
  • General Contractor: Road’s End Contracting
  • Landscape Architect: Small & Rossell Landscape Architect
  • Civil Engineer: Westbrook Consulting
  • Mech./Elec. Engineer: Integral Group Consulting
  • Structural Engineer: Blackwell Structural Engineers
  • Energy Modelling: Bernhardt Contracting Ltd.
  • Photos: Leanna Rathkelly

Ventilation is controlled by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling heat recovery ventilators. Euroline 4700 Series THERMOPLUS™ PHC Tilt & Turn windows have solar control film at locations along the west wall.

Designing for Accessibility

The Rick Hansen Foundation

By: the Rick Hansen Foundation

More than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over identify as having a disability, and this number is growing as our population ages. Are our buildings built in a way to support their needs, now and in the future? Not really. While building codes play an important role, we still have a long way to go to ensure people of all abilities have access to the spaces where we live, work, learn, and play. Here’s why this should matter to you.

The Business Case: No matter the type of project you are designing, making it accessible is good business sense. Building owners and operators want to know they are working with someone who can maximize the number of people who can enter their facility. Designing for accessibility helps you do this, and that advantage helps you stand out from others.

For example, if it’s a residential building, it will appeal to a greater variety of potential tenants or buyers, resulting in fewer vacancies and quicker sales. If it’s an office building there is easier access to a wider pool of qualified employees and applicants. And if it’s a business, more people can access the storefront and spend their money there.

Not only is accessibility a human rights issue, it is an economic imperative. A 2018 report from the Conference Board of Canada shows that the positive impact accessibility can have on the economy should not be ignored:

– people with physical disabilities make up a large and growing consumer group—14.3% of consumer spending, or $164 billion per year.

– Improvements to workplace access would allow 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more hours, increasing GDP by $16.8 billion by 2030.

Become a Leader: Prioritizing accessibility in design is a way to establish you and your organization as a leader in both innovation and social responsibility. Universal Design demonstrates a people-first approach, one that is able to meet a variety of needs for years to come.

The thing about Universal Design, says VP Access and Inclusion at the Rick Hansen Foundation Brad McCannell, is that “it’s invisible.” Those who don’t have a disability may not notice that there’s good colour contrast on the floor for navigation with a vision disability, or that the elevator has wide doors to accommodate a wheelchair. Individuals with disabilities, says McCannell, might not notice it either, which is a good thing: it means they didn’t have to overcome a challenge to get from A to B. Imagine knowing that your design positively impacts the way millions of Canadians navigate the built environment.

Even if an individual doesn’t have a disability, they are more likely to live somewhere or support a business if they feel their values are in the right place. Plus, nearly 50% of Canadian adults say they have or have experienced a permanent or temporary disability, or live with someone who has .  If they haven’t yet, chances are they will, and being prepared for the future gives you a leg up over your competition. This helps explain why over 2/3rd of Canadians believe all new buildings should be universally accessible. 

A 2019 Angus Reid Institute public opinion poll found:

  • 67% of Canadians are concerned about future mobility challenges
  • 70% say new buildings should be universally accessible
  • 30% (9 million adults) consider accessibility when deciding which business to visit

A Roadmap to Accessibility: We all know accessible design is important, but with such a variety of regulations and opinions, knowing where to start can be a challenge in itself.

The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) program was created for industry to fill the gap between local building codes and the real needs of users. It offers an approach that is used nationally, providing consistent ratings across the country.

The program uses a set of standards for the built environment that takes mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities into consideration. Designated RHFAC Professionals use a rating scale to identify barriers in both designs and buildings on their level of meaningful accessibility.

The rating comes with a scorecard outlining strengths and weaknesses, acting as a roadmap to better accessibility. If a building’s rating achieves a certain level, they may earn either RHF Accessibility Certification or RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.

“Improving the lives of people with disabilities means breaking down barriers and creating an accessible environment with the same opportunities for everyone,” says Chair of the RHFAC Advisory Committee and Executive Vice President of Stantec, Stanis Smith.  “As an architect, I have long been committed to designing accessible spaces that can be enjoyed, appreciated, and utilized by everyone.”

An Accessibility Case Study: Marine Gateway is a mixed-use development in South Vancouver offering transit-oriented retail, office, and residential services and spaces. The development is only three years old, and while it meets building code, property manager Laura Malley wanted to make sure it was able to support a diversity of people for years to come. To determine the strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of accessibility, Malley enlisted the help of an RHFAC Professional, Hans Uli Egger.

Following the rating, Marine Gateway was awarded RHF Accessibility Certified Gold, the highest rating in the program, for its many accessible features such as good vehicular access, escalators and moving walkways, and signage and wayfinding. Equally important to receiving accolades for what was working well, was understanding where improvements could be made.

To learn more about Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™, book a rating, or register for the upcoming RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Fall training, visit