City of Calgary achieves sustainability and performance objectives with LEED

By Mark Hutchinson, Vice President, Green Building Programs, Canada Green Building Council

As the first municipality in Canada to adopt a Sustainable Building Policy (SBP), The City of Calgary is a leader in promoting green building. The City’s SBP has resulted in over 60 LEED-certified projects, including Canada’s first two LEED v4 Building Design and Construction (BD+C) certifications.

With a strong commitment to achieving building performance objectives, The City has leveraged LEED v4 to better focus on the integrative design process and optimizing energy performance to help meet its sustainability goals.

Sustainability in step with LEED

Officially approved by City Council in 2004, The City of Calgary’s SBP originally specified LEED certification for buildings owned or funded by The City. In 2019, Calgary City Council approved a policy update that required project teams to meet specific minimum sustainability performance requirements, many of which align with and are supported by LEED v4. These new requirements include: • A minimum 40 per cent energy and energy cost improvement over a National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) 2011 baseline building; • Enhanced commissioning on energy and building envelope systems;

• Mandating the use of low-impact refrigerants (if used) that comply with LEED v4 requirements; • A minimum 35 per cent indoor water use reduction compared to the baseline consumption as defined by LEED;

• Achieving stormwater management requirements as defined by LEED v4; and • Minimum requirements to provide rough-in infrastructure for future solar photovoltaic (PV) and electric vehicle charging stations (if not already included in the design). While certification objectives are now established on a project-specific basis, LEED remains The City’s green building certification program of choice.

“In our opinion, LEED is still the most well-rounded green building certification program that most directly aligns with the City of Calgary’s Sustainable Building Policy,” says Tyler Young, a sustainable infrastructure engineer with The City.

Putting energy and atmosphere first

In 2018, Calgary City Council approved a Climate Resilience Strategy, aimed at preparing for and minimizing the impacts of a changing climate. 

The strategy targets an 80 per cent reduction in citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 2005 levels by 2050. To help achieve this goal, The City of Calgary requires minimum energy consumption and energy cost improvements above an NECB 2011 baseline building for their projects.

LEED’s Energy and Atmosphere credit category provides a framework to help The City achieve this goal. The City of Calgary utilized this credit category on its first three LEED v4 certified projects: The City of Calgary Organics Waste Diversion Facility – Administration & Education (A&E) Building, Stoney Transit Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Bus Storage Facility, and City of Calgary Manchester Building M.

Taking the guesswork out of the design process

LEED v4’s integrative design process requirement is a key component in ensuring The City of Calgary’s sustainability objectives are reflected in each stage of a project’s design.

City projects benefit from having all team members at the table. Early on, they set the expectation for clear communication, especially around performance targets such as energy efficiency, water use or sustainable material usage. This approach allows consultant teams to better understand the project’s priorities and focus credits. It also helps generate more ideas and avoids unnecessary back-and-forth discussions.

“By clearly establishing the specific objectives we want to achieve early on and then using the LEED rating system as a tool to ensure we achieve these objectives, we’ve removed a lot of guesswork for our consulting teams as to how they should achieve our LEED certification targets,” says Young.

The municipality has since introduced a model that onboards the building performance optimization consulting team early in the process in many of their projects. This team consists of a green building consultant, energy modeller and commissioning authority and reports directly to The City, further improving communication.

Achieving more with LEED v4.1

As The City of Calgary works to improve the sustainability and performance of its building projects, the municipality has been able to leverage recent updates introduced in LEED v4.1 to validate its efforts. Young notes that for upcoming projects, The City is aiming for LEED v4 certification using LEED v4.1 new alternative compliance paths that make certain credit requirements more applicable and achievable, citing stormwater management as an example.

With the increased flexibility offered by LEED v4.1, The City of Calgary foresees it will continue to pursue LEED v4 and LEED v4.1 for most of the larger City-owned or City-funded projects. As The City of Calgary’s approach to sustainable building evolves, LEED certification remains an important tool in achieving The City’s performance objectives. “LEED continues to be the most holistic rating system, and because of this, continues to be the green building rating system of choice,” adds Young. To see more LEED case studies, visit

Viewpoint: Net Zero energy needs to be the norm

Anyone trained in design can do it

By Albert Bicol

As teenage environmental advocate Greta Thunberg has argued repeatedly, we already know what we have to do and how we have to do it. There is no more time for prevarication, postponement or the smoke and mirrors of political expediency. For the general public, climate change is no longer an abstract and remote concept, nor even a topic still open for debate: It is happening all around us in real time.  

A succession of scientific reports and communiques with increasingly dire predictions and urgent calls to action, have provoked a positive reaction from both public and private sectors. Many municipalities across the world have passed non-partisan resolutions declaring a climate change emergency, while more and more companies have committed to net-zero operations on ambitious timelines. Exactly how these lofty commitments will translate into action, in most cases, remains to be seen.  

Moreover, few of them are building owners and developers and, when one considers the huge carbon impact of the construction industry worldwide, we cannot afford to wait. I do not believe we can rely on owners and developers, politicians and city officials – nor the general public to stop – or even slow down climate change in the building industry. Professionals such as architects and engineers must step up and become active agents in transforming the current norms in building design.  

Architects and engineers understand as well as anybody what is required to stop climate change, and most recognize the roles they can play to accelerate the process, yet too many are content to toe the line of minimally meeting the locally mandated energy code standards, as directed by their clients.  

At this moment in time, one might well ask why the architectural and engineering professions do not conduct themselves more like their peers in the medical professions. The Coronavirus that is now killing thousands of people and impacting economies around the world, has rightly been addressed with  unprecedented urgency and immediacy. This  response  is far beyond anything the design and construction industry has achieved – or even imagined in response to the long-running global catastrophe we refer to as climate change. 

In every country, the medical profession is advising the public what they need to do to protect themselves and curb the spread of this virus. Yet climate change, which we know is killing far many more people, threatening or causing the extinction of animal species, disrupting weather patterns, polluting land and water and causing severe economic distress for many countries has provoked no such reaction from the design professions. 

We are the creators and stewards of the built environment and we need to do much more. As mechanical engineering consultants, our firm designs every project to Net Zero standard, including complex energy modelling, at the regular fee for a traditional building. Our aim is to demonstrate to clients that virtually any building can be designed down to net zero, with no overall fee cost premium.  If the client chooses not to accept the net zero solution, we will redesign the building to be code compliant in terms of energy use, at no additional cost.  We consider this to be a risk worth taking because the stakes for not doing the right thing are too high. 

While Net Zero and Carbon Neutral buildings are beginning to appear in Canada and in other countries around the world, progress remains slow. We believe every engineer and every architect should take up the challenge now. 

Designing net-zero and carbon neutral buildings is neither challenging nor complex. The primary goal in NZE building design is to reduce energy consumption or energy use intensity (EUI) to the point that the relatively small amount of input energy required can be provided from renewable sources. The typical target for EUI is about 100 kWh/m2 per year or less.  The lower the EUI the better, as lower energy demand requires less investment in renewables.  Some of our projects are achieving as low as 20 kWh/m2 per year, requirements that are now being reflected in the BC Step Code and Vancouver Green Building Policy.  

Among the features common to both net zero and carbon neutral buildings are:

• An integrated design process, to ensure that synergies between disciplines can be identified early in the project and the advantages they offer in energy savings can be capitalized upon.

• A focus on passive design, including optimal solar orientation, a highly insulated and airtight building envelope and natural ventilation.

• Local heat sources and on-site energy generation. 

Anyone trained in design can do it. The biggest challenge and most important step in NZE design is reducing energy demand and that all begins with the passive design. Depending on the climate, if the passive architecture of the building can be optimized, air conditioning can be eliminated and that elimination goes a long way in achieving the energy reduction goals.

The most successful projects are the ones that carefully analyze the opportunities offered by the natural environment and are ‘reverse engineered.’ Too many designers are still trying to find the latest building technologies such as air conditioning, heating, etc. It is becoming harder and harder to find the incremental efficiencies in these high-tech systems and they invariably come with a high capital cost. By reducing the overall energy demand, we can go back to much more basic systems, such as heat recovery ventilators and electric baseboard heaters. These systems have a lower capital cost, lower maintenance and more reliable performance.

NZE buildings are also more resilient in the face of climate change, being no longer dependent on centralized energy infrastructure, and better able to maintain internal temperatures over long periods should energy systems fail altogether. Since passive design concepts have been proven over centuries, if not millennia, these buildings are essentially futureproof.

The passive design approach can be applied to all kinds of buildings, with our current portfolio ranging from a small storage facility in Vancouver to the multi-billion dollar expansion of Trudeau Airport in Montreal. Whatever the project, we consider our responsibility to be both a professional and a personal one: I have a 10-year old daughter whose future wellbeing further increases the commitment and resolve I feel as a professional engineer.

As design professionals, we are all involved in building the future. If we make a personal commitment to ensure that future is the best it can be, then we may at last achieve the climate change goals we have set for ourselves. 

Albert Bicol, P.Eng. is Principal of AB Consulting in Vancouver.

Design practice: Buildings as a Climate Change Solution

By Chris Magwood 

The focus of green building has long been on reducing impacts… doing “less bad” to the planet and ourselves by shrinking our ecosystem, chemical and climate footprints through conscious design and material selection. But when it comes to our current climate crisis, doing less bad is simply not going to be good enough. The climate science is clear: we collectively need to get to net zero emissions as soon as possible AND remove carbon from the atmosphere in order to meet the targets in the Paris Accord1. The building industry is now tasked with doing “more good” by reducing net emissions to zero and actively contributing to carbon drawdown. 

Fortunately, there is a clear roadmap for the building sector to move from being a leading cause of climate change to becoming a key part of the solution. Unlike many sectors, climate change does not force builders to face an existential crisis because it is possible for buildings to become a climate positive industry.

The starting place on the roadmap is for all designers and builders to understand the nature of the issue. Collectively, we’ve done excellent work to address the operational emissions from buildings and have helped move the bar on better codes and created a proliferation of voluntary systems to achieve near zero emissions from high performing new buildings and renovations.

But operational emissions are only part of the problem. A building that achieves zero emissions during its operation is an important step. The other half of the problem now needs to be addressed: material-related emissions.

By recent estimates, the production of building materials accounts for approximately 21% of all emissions globally. We cannot adequately address climate change through operational improvements alone; we cannot “net zero” our way out of this. The “embodied carbon” side of the equation needs equivalent focus and action. We need to take responsibility for all the emissions we cause through harvesting, manufacturing, transporting and installing building materials because of the sheer scale of these emissions.

Tackling these “material emissions” may be easier than you think. The data and tools available to make carbon-smart materials choices is growing rapidly and the evidence of the emission reductions that can be achieved is encouraging.

In a study I completed in 2019, a small (930 m2) multi-unit residential building was modelled with a range of different materials that are all comparable in terms of code compliance, cost and practicality. Material selection was found to have a remarkably broad range of potential results (See graphic top of page 59).

The model with the worst results was responsible for over 240 kg of emissions per square metre of floor area. There is no way that climate change is going to be adequately addressed if new buildings are adding emissions to the atmosphere at that rate.

Some simple material swapping reduced this carbon footprint by over 60%, getting it down to 90 kgCO2e/m2. This is an excellent example of our ability to do “less bad,” and to do so with minimal effort and no undue cost or scheduling issues.

But we can do better. A model for doing “more good” also emerged from the study. It resulted in no net emissions from its materials, but instead recorded a small amount of net carbon storage. At the end of construction of this building, there would be less CO2 in the atmosphere than before it was built. 

How is it possible for a building to have net carbon storage? To get to the answer, we need to understand a bit about the global carbon cycle. Every year, the earth’s plants draw down billions of tonnes of CO2  from the atmosphere and through photosynthesis absorb carbon and release oxygen. In a natural cycle, the carbon thus stored in plants is released back to the atmosphere when the plants die and decompose or burn. (See graphic next page.)

Builders can interrupt this carbon cycle by taking carbon-rich plant material and locking it up in buildings, preventing its return to the atmosphere for the lifespan of the building. We have been doing this unintentionally for millennia, incorporating wood and other biofibers into buildings. Conventional building practices include a range of widely available and affordable plant-fiber materials, including products like cellulose insulation, wood fiberboard and many kinds of timber products. By combining these carbon-storing materials with other low-emission materials, results like the 11 kg/m2 of net stored CO2  from the MURB study are entirely feasible with no disruption to the design process, supply chain or construction methodologies. 

The use of biogenic materials in buildings can be increased and our carbon positive impact on the climate further improved. There are biogenic material options for every part of a building’s enclosure and finishes. By intentionally choosing appropriate biogenic materials, the amount of net carbon can be amplified so that buildings can actually become a measurable carbon sink on the planet.

The final model in the study (graphic top right) used this approach and was able to offer over 130 kg of net CO2  storage per square metre. None of the materials used in this model are unattainable and all can (and have) met Canadian building code requirements, but many of these are unconventional materials and not currently available through typical supply chains. There is work to be done to make this kind of change, but the result would be a construction industry that actually helps the climate to heal. 

Chris Magwood is  a director at The Endeavour Centre in Peterborough, ON,  which offers two full-time, certificate programs: Sustainable New Construction and Sustainable Renovations and hosts many hands-on workshops annually.



The Green Point Project

Achieving a world first at standard cost

By Kenneth Chooi and Ross Wood

The Green Point Project is a 2,600 sq.ft. single-family residence located on a 6.25-acre forest and sensitive shoreline in Cowichan Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island.The project is striving to achieve a world first by achieving Passive house (PH) and Living Building Challenge (LBC) certifications. Additionally, Green Point just received a third certification, Green Shores for Homes – Orca designation. Inspired by the concepts of Biophilia and Regenerative Design, the project proponents set themselves these ambitious goals within a relatively modest budget of $300/sf. 

The architecture is inspired by rural buildings of the region and First Nation’s Long Houses. Wood is used as the primary building material and the house is fitted carefully into the natural forested landscape.

Reclamation and regeneration of the natural ecosystem was guided by an integrated design process involving the municipality, biologists, archaeologists, First Nations consultants, landscape architects, conservationists, engineers, building contractors, arborists, marine ecologists and permaculture specialists.

The site had been previously altered into a private six-hole golf course and the design team felt strongly that the ecosystem was now in distress. The decision was made to begin ‘re-wilding’ the site by surveying the Garry Oak forest to understand the ancient ecosystem; removing mechanical and plastic debris from the beach and restoring the natural shoreline; transforming the putting green into a natural meadow and the ornamental garden into a permaculture-based food production system that benefits both human and animal residents of the site. The water system is a closed loop with potable water being drawn from onsite wells and wastewater being treated onsite by an aerated septic system, with effluent used to regenerate the meadow.

The Green Point Project was constructed using only low-carbon, responsibly-sourced and RED List-free materials. The embodied carbon footprint of the project was minimized through a “wood first” material strategy and by prioritizing locally-sourced and salvaged materials. The structure and envelope were primarily built with sustainably harvested FSC and salvaged wood. The decision to avoid all Red List materials supports transparency, accountability, and health within the construction industry.

Kenneth ChooI is with DSK Architects, and Ross Wood is with Counterpoise Architecture.

The house has a 95% high-efficiency HRV and back-up electrical heaters. A 35-module PV system is expected to generate more energy than will be consumed. Passive House-certified windows and doors by Fenstur.


  • Owner/Developer  Fiona McLagan and Kenneth Chooi
  • Architect and Design Team  DSK Architecture with the Green Point Design Collective,
  • Nido Design and Ross Wood
  • General Contractor  Bernhardt Contracting
  • Electrical and Mechanical Engineer  Integral Engineering
  • Structural Engineer  Sorensen Trilogy Structural Engineering Solutions
  • Landscape Architect  Victoria Drakeford Landscape Architecture with
  • Lunar Bloom Landscaping
  • Commissioning Agent  Earth Cycle Technologies (Passive House),
  • Bernhardt Contracting (HRV)
  • Energy Modelling  Nido Design
  • Photos  Rob Wilson    


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 15 kwhr/m²/year
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = none
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 100 %
  • Recycled material content by value = 98%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 99%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 99%

Shifting Gears

Passive House the most cost effective for seniors housing and health centre

By Andrew Peel, Peel Passive House Consulting

The world’s first certified Passive House car  dealership opened for business in the fall of 2019.  Designed by Cover Architectural Collaborative, Sublime Design and Peel Passive House Consulting and constructed by Black Creek Developments, the 2,420 m² (26,020 ft²) facility in Red Deer, Alberta houses the new Scott Subaru dealership.  It coincides with the 50th anniversary of The Scottsville Auto Group who developed the project.


While not an avid environmentalist, owner/developer Garrett Scott sought a low impact building that would support his growing business and recognized the myriad benefits of constructing to the Passive House Standard.

This is not the first environmental building initiative Subaru has undertaken.  Its Indiana automotive assembly plant was the first zero-landfill factory in the US and inspired the decision to pursue Passive House certification on this project.

Setting the Standard

Most, if not all, large car manufacturers have strict corporate standards regarding aesthetics, layout, and service requirements for their facilities and Subaru is no exception. In addition to these corporate standards, the client had some of its own. Chief among these was that any decisions made in pursuit of Passive House certification must not compromise customer or vehicle service in any way.  An additional major factor impacting the design was the local winter design temperature of -20oF (-29oC). Navigating these requirements proved challenging and demanded the best of the whole design and construction teams. 

Base Design

The building is divided into three main zones: a showroom, a repair shop, and a car drop-off zone. The showroom includes a car display area, customer reception and lounge and sales offices on the first floor, and back offices, meeting rooms, and staff kitchen on the second floor. The repair shop comprises a ground floor with 6 service bays and parts storage, and a second floor with mezzanine, storage, and cat walk.  The drop-off zone is a single storey area used to collect customers’ cars for repair and show off new cars housed in the parking lot to customers at night and during periods of inclement weather.


– Walls: 305-mm (12-in.) LVL studs filled with cellulose; 76-mm (3-in.) exterior insulation and 2×6 interior service cavity. Usi = 0.084 W/m2K (R-68)

– Floor: 305 mm (12-in.) below-slab floor insulation that fully wraps the footings.  Usi = 0.109 W/m2K (R-52)

– Roofs: 1,340mm (52-in) cellulose-filled, open-web wood truss roofs. Usi = 0.040 W/m2K (R-145).

One key envelope challenge was to mitigate the impact of the 65 per cent glazing on the west facing storefront dictated by corporate design requirements. Red Deer lies between two of the country’s sunniest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, receiving up to 50 per cent more west radiation than is typical in Germany (the conditions for which the Passive House Standard was originally developed).


The customer reception area. Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada  provided the split-type heat-pumps units, both indoor and out, and low profile fan coils.


Architecture  Cover Architectural Collaborative and Sublime Design

Mechanical & Electrical  908 Engineering

Passive House Consultant and Energy Modelling  Peel Passive House Consulting

Construction Manager  Black Creek Developments


OCH Carlington Hub

Passive House the most cost effective for seniors housing and health centre

By Stephen Pope and Marc Mainville

This new four-storey development in Ottawa serves as a mixed-use “hub” which combines affordable seniors housing for Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) with the Carlington Community Health Centre (CCHC). Affordable rental housing for seniors includes 42 independent living rental apartment suites on the upper three floors. The project marks the first time the city’s public-housing agency has partnered with a community health centre to build independent-living units for seniors with on-site health services.

Services include a medical clinic, diabetes clinic, community meeting spaces, nutrition consultants, seniors’ cooking, exercise and other classes, and a choir. Residents of this building have a welcoming and supportive environment to learn new things, meet new people, improve their quality of life and have fun.

The existing Community Health Centre, to which this project connects, sits on the eastern end of the site. The four-storey addition extends along the west side of the existing building and has a generous yard providing individual suites with unobstructed views and lots of natural light. 

The long building has been articulated to break down the mass and add visual interest along Coldrey Avenue. The site was designed to maximize the amount of green space on the property: the 64 parking spaces were the minimum number required to comply with local zoning bylaws and new trees have been incorporated throughout the site (specifically in the parking lot to reduce the amount of asphalt). 

Internally, apartment units are designed with an open-concept to maximize the sense of space within a very compact layout. Windows are sized to optimize and balance the need for light and quality of view with energy efficiency demands on heating and cooling.

The large windows have an operating section that gives residents access to the sounds and smells of the neighbourhood. Operable windows are not needed for fresh air as the balanced ventilation system is designed with a capacity for two persons per suite but is run at 0.36 ACH, or 30 m3/h/occupant. Public corridors, stairwells and common laundry rooms all feature large windows to provide natural light and a connection to the exterior throughout the facility.

In accordance with the principles of the WELL Building certification, the design has a strong connection to nature both in the layout and the use of materials. Exposed wood accents are used throughout the building including two mass timber canopies and vestibules at the main entrances. Polished concrete floors are used throughout for durability and cleanliness.

The site had little room for special rain water collection equipment, nor the budget for greywater reuse. The focus of water conservation indoors was on the fixtures, namely, pressure-assisted flush toilets, and low-flow shower heads. The focus outdoors was on reducing demand through appropriate planting and management.

The priority in this project was to implement, for the first time, a Passive House design for affordable senior housing in a mixed-use building. Material consumption is addressed through durable construction and attention to construction and demolition waste diversion from landfill. All specifications called for materials with a high recycled content and all wood was FSC certified. The exterior enclosure is Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) composed of 300 mm EPS insulation. The main interior structure is steel infilled with wood framing for the floor and roof assemblies. All partition walls are wood except at the exit stairs which are required to be noncombustible construction.

Stephen Pope, OAA, BArch, BES, FRAIC, Associate ASHRAE is Sustainability Consultant, and Marc Mainville, MArch is an Intern Architect, both of CSV Architects.

The project is four storeys of independent-living units for seniors with on-site health services – a first for the city. Alumicor supplied the thermally-broken curtain wall, which contributed to the overall energy efficiency of the OCH building envelope.

Foundation wall construction. Quad-Lock’s insulated concrete form homes and buildings can offer exceptional indoor environments, ultra-energy efficiency and higher safety ratings at a lower cost of ownership.


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 132 KWhr/m²/year
  • Reduction in energy intensity = 49%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 39,384 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 40%


  • Owner/Developer  Ottawa Community Housing
  • Architect  CSV Architects
  • General Contractor  MacDonald Bros Construction
  • Civil Engineer  McIntosh Perry
  • Mechanical / Electrical Engineer  WSP Group Inc.
  • Structural Engineer  Cleland Jardine Engineering
  • Landscape Architect  McIntosh Perry
  • Commissioning Agent  Geo Energie
  • Photos  Krista Jahnke

Aurora Coast Cannabis Innovation Centre

Well being, energy and water conservation top the list at research station

By Heidi Nesbitt

Aurora Coast is a new cannabis research centre located in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. This unique facility provides a supportive and nurturing workplace for Aurora’s scientists to expand their genetics and breeding research, with the goal of realizing the full human benefit of the cannabis plant. 


The project aims to transform public perception of a previously illegal, underground industry, by housing it in a facility that fosters creativity and innovation. The first phase of the project consists of a mass timber building containing offices, labs, meeting rooms and support spaces for the adjacent greenhouse. A transparent network of collaborative workplace hubs was designed to encourage informal interaction and enhance the creative potential of the research team. 

As a project centred around plant health and vitality, every aspect of the building and site is designed to connect occupants to nature and to support health and well-being: an exposed, mass-timber structure was chosen for its low environmental footprint, and to provide a biophilic backdrop to what might otherwise have been a sterile laboratory environment; clerestorey windows bring natural daylight deep within the high-security, restricted-access areas; and views are provided to the restored pollinator habitat and orchard that surrounds the building. 

Cannabis facilities face unique challenges, including security, odour control and public stigma. To help gain the support of the local community, a large, environmentally degraded, industrial site at a prominent intersection was rejuvenated by providing extensive, on-site stormwater management, and by restoring the ecological integrity of several hectares of land. The larger environmental challenge was to provide cannabis plants with the steady warmth, light and water they need to thrive without creating additional strain on local resources. 

Heidi Nesbitt, Architect AIBC CP MRAIC LEED AP  ENV SP, is an associate with Local Practice architecture + Design in Vancouver.


  • Owner/Developer  Aurora Cannabis
  • Architect  Local Practice Architecture + Design
  • Interiors  Albright Design
  • General Contractor  Heatherbrae Builders
  • Landscape Architect  Lanarc
  • Civil Engineer  McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd.
  • Electrical/Mechanical/Structural Engineers  Associated Engineering (B.C.) Ltd.
  • Envelope Consultant RDH
  • Passive House Consultant  Tandem Architecture Écologique
  • Greenhouse Consultant  ALPS


  • Energy intensity (building) = 162 KWhr/m²/year
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 8135 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 5 %

Fort St. John Apartment Building

One of the largest PH projects in Canada takes a simple, compact form

This six-storey wood frame building was developed through an integrated design and delivery process, to provide workforce rental housing for the duration of a large provincial project, before converting to affordable family housing for the community. The program consists of 50 units (two- and three-bedroom suites), common interior and exterior amenity spaces, fitness room, bicycle storage, outdoor playground and landscaped rain gardens. 

By Low Hammond Rowe Architects

The plan is a simple double-loaded corridor scheme with inset stairwells, central elevators and a 9-degree bend, symmetrical through the centre of the building. This simple gesture accentuates the main entrance when viewed from the street, orients half the building façade further towards the south, creates a natural break in the west façade, accommodates exterior balconies connected to common amenity rooms on each floor, and provides a larger landscaped setting for the ground-level suites on the east side. 

The north-south orientation provides each tenant access to direct sunlight and realizes an optimum use of the site with quality outdoor spaces. Each façade is designed to respond to the specific solar orientations of the site, while maintaining a cohesive character that is complementary, yet distinct from non-passive house, multi-family housing in the community.

The main exterior cladding is a cementitious rainscreen system, with deep recessed triple-glazed fiberglass windows and metal flashing surrounds. To achieve the required 200 mm insulation thickness and facilitate installation of exterior strapping, the thickness of the exterior plywood sheathing was increased, eliminating the need to blindly fasten the exterior strapping through to structural studs. This gave flexibility for placement of cladding strapping to suit the cladding joint patterns and colour changes. 

Not only did this construction method improve the construction schedule, the ease of maintaining the air barrier resulted in an air tightness reading of 0.2 air changes per hour in the final pressurization test. 

A mono-sloped roof system was built continuously under the mechanical penthouse to reduce the surface area of the Passive House envelope. The single-sloped roof is drained to the east through four scuppers connected to rainwater leaders aligned flush with the exterior cladding, avoiding unwanted roof penetrations and diverting roof water directly to rain gardens below. 

The building is heated and cooled by a heat recovery variable refrigerant volume air source heat pump system. The suites are ventilated by a central ERV, providing both fresh air supply and exhaust air extraction. The main floor auxiliary rooms have smaller dedicated ERVs.

All lighting fixtures are LED. Daylight sensor switches are used to control lights in common areas where enough daylight can be used and exterior lighting fixtures are controlled by photocells. The south façade incorporates larger windows into the living spaces, shaded with lightly louvered horizontal sunshades. North-facing windows are minimized with main living spaces receiving daylight from the east and west wherever possible. More than 90% of occupied spaces are within 7m of a window.

Fresh air is introduced through the ERVs and operable windows, providing an air change rate of 0.48ACH. The high-performance building envelope, passive solar design, and highly effective heat recovery ventilation reduce overall heating needs by nearly 90%, as compared to a traditional building of this scale.

Even in the cold climate of Fort St. John, these measures cause a shift from heating to cooling demand, making an electric air source heat pump space conditioning system practical and cost effective. The single VRV system can heat and cool the building, providing room level zone control, while also allowing the reject heat from cooling in one area to be used directly for space heating in another area.

In this city of 20,000, the centre of British Columbia’s oil and gas industry, the electric system allows for an easy transition away from fossil fuel use in the future, if desired by the owner.

LHRA is a privately owned Canadian architectural practice in Victoria, British Columbia, with a 34-year continuous history of operation.

Fiberglass triple pane windows with krypton gas fill by Duxton Windows & Doors.


  • Owner/Developer  BC Housing Corporation
  • Architect  Low Hammond Rowe Architects
  • Design-build Constructor  WCPG Construction Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect  Murdoch deGreeff
  • Civil Engineer  WSP CANADA
  • Electrical Engineer Beairsto  & Associates Engineering Ltd.
  • Mechanical Engineer (HVAC)  RENÜ Engineering Inc.
  • Mechanical Engineer (Plumbing)  Beairsto  & Associates Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer  Beairsto  & Associates Engineering Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent  E3  ECO Group Inc, West Rockies Services
  • Passive House Consultant / Energy Modelling  Marken Design +Consult
  • Energy Consultant  RENÜ Engineering Inc.
  • Building Envelope Consultant  Aqua-coast Engineering Ltd.
  • Geotechnical Consultant  Northern Geo Testing & Engineering
  • Photos  SILENTSAMA Architectural Photography


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 119.96kwhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under = 65%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 219,000 litres/occupant/year
  • Recycled material content by value = 12%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value =33 %
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 81%

Riptide House

Fresh take on traditional design provides high-level living comfort

By RHAD Architects

Just as a riptide in the ocean is a strong counterflow against a prevailing current, so Riptide House in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia represents a powerful oppositional force against the standard housing practices in Canadian cities. The clients, an East Coast surfing family, wanted a home that would fit in with their established urban neighbourhood, while simultaneously addressing the environmental issues faced by our society. 

As designers, our challenge was to respect the historic vernacular of the neighbourhood, while creating a contemporary house with superior energy performance based on passive design principles. The modernization of the deep-rooted wooden gable typology characteristic of homes on the Atlantic coast resulted in a modest 123 sq.m,, three-bedroom home with a potential secondary basement suite to encourage urban densification. 

The house replaces an older structure that was set back from its neighbours toward the rear of the north-facing lot. The new house is positioned to unify the streetscape, to increase the size of the south- facing rear yard and create a private courtyard for the family. 

The simple gable form was cut and slid apart, creating a primary volume containing the living and dining areas and kitchen on the main floor and bedrooms upstairs; with a secondary volume containing the laundry room, washroom and stairs. The traditional form was refined by tight eaves detailing and a clean, simple and durable palette of material, including V-groove cedar siding and corrugated aluminum. 

The shift in plan creates the opportunity for a covered front entry from the street and a mudroom entrance from the south-facing rear courtyard. The design is familiar enough to fit in, yet different enough to stand out. This difference creates an educational opportunity for members of the community interested in the energy saving strategies and other environmental features of the house. 

RHAD project team: Rayleen Hill, Megan Lloyd, Matthew Kijewski and Darren Fransen.

A combination of Kohltech fixed and operating triple-glazed casement windows, painted black exterior, are Passive House-certified for a perfect pairing of energy-efficiency and quality.


  • Owner/Developer  Jason Van Mee
  • Architect  RHAD Architects
  • General Contractor  Construction managed by Owner/Developer
  • Landscape Architect  UPLAND
  • Structural Engineer Andrea Doncaster Engineering
  • Energy Modelling  AmeriSpec
  • Photos  Julian Parkinson


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 125.41 KWhr/m²/year.
  • Total electricity demand = 15,426 kWh/year
  • Total floor area (not including basement) = 123m²
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 56%