Passive House in the realms of human wellbeing and ecological responsibility
By Jim Taggart
Set on a south-facing slope amid the forested hills of Haliburton, Ontario, the design of the new Living Libations Headquarters reflects a corporate philosophy that places the highest value on nature, beauty and being. In building terms, this philosophy naturally led to the choice of a highly durable, low-energy form of construction, with a strong emphasis on indoor environmental quality and attractive common spaces that would have the minimum environmental impact over an extended life cycle. These criteria led in turn to the choice of a Passive House structure.
A manufacturer of organic beauty care products, Living Libations has a staff of 50 who, on completion of this project, now work in a production laboratory building with an exposed heavy timber structure and natural finishes that create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The interior hardwood plywood finish is bonded with a food-grade soy-based adhesive, rather than urea formaldehyde (UF), which does not emit toxic air contaminants.
The other program spaces include (on the uppermost floor), a professional kitchen, a south-facing dining room that opens onto a 450m² outdoor terrace, a yoga room with adjoining meditation, and a light therapy solarium which opens onto a large rooftop terrace that has a panoramic view of the surrounding forest and beautiful sunsets.
The design approach was to let the geography of the site shape and locate all built form in order to minimize the ecological impact on the site. Compasses and a solar pathfinder were used to ensure the building was oriented for maximum cold season solar heat gains. The steep south-facing slope made it possible to capture solar heat by locating the majority of windows on the south side while the concrete construction of the ground floor, earth-sheltered by the slope, created a thermal flywheel to modulate diurnal temperature fluctuations.
In combination with an unbroken R50 thermal separation, this strategy perfectly offsets peak heating and cooling demand. Wall and roof system designs were modelled for possible interior dew points in “U-WERT” software that proved the benefit of using a smart air-vapour control layer inside the building. “THERM” software was used to guide the design of thermally efficient structural connections.
The design team optimized the building layout, equipment selection, and operation schedule to minimize energy demand. Six air-to-air heat-pumps easily maintain comfortable conditions through -30C winter nights and +30C summer days. Evacuated solar tubes on the roof provide domestic hot water in the spring, summer, and fall, and even pre-warmed water in winter months. A propane back-up boiler system for make-up heat was required by the authority having jurisdiction, but to date it has not been needed.
Jim Taggart, FRAIC is the editor of SABMag.
- Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 59.7kwhr/m²/year
- Water consumption from municipal sources = 0 litres/occupant/year
- Recycled material content by value = 5%
- Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 54%
- Construction waste diverted from landfill = 20%
- OWNER/DEVELOPER: Nadine & Ron Artemis / Living Libations
- BUILDING DESIGN: G West Building Services in
- collaboration with Steenhof Building Services Group & CHORNY Associates Architect Inc.
- PROJECT MANAGEMENT: G West Building Services
- CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTOR: CDH Carpentry in
- collaboration with many other trades.
- LANDSCAPE: Kevin Forbes
- CIVIL ENGINEER: Greenview Environmental
- ELECTRICAL AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Steenhof Building Services Group
- MECHANICAL ENGINEER: Brumar Engineering Services Ltd.
- PASSIVE HOUSE DESIGN CONSULTANT: Peel Passive House Consulting
- INTERIOR DESIGN & FURNISHINGS: Nadine Artemis & Jamie Lee Mason
- PHOTOS: Greg West., John Lehmann Photography
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- Innovative and customizable Boxx panels from Element5 efficiently span long distances between supporting structural members and are well suited for floor and roof applications in multi-storey buildings. The interior hardwood plywood finish is bonded with a food-grade soy-based adhesive, rather than urea formaldehyde, which does not emit toxic air contaminants.
- Six Tempeff North America RGSP Series Dual-Core energy recovery ventilators recover both heat and humidity in winter allowing for continuous fresh air supply and a frost-free operation in extremely cold conditions without need for preheat or defrost.
- Six Air-to-Air heat pumps by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling, which can work efficiently below -25C°, provide cooling and heating.
- The Katana™ by Moso® bamboo decking is a sustainable, long lasting, class A fire rated natural alternative to other decking products, and very stable in all weather conditions.
- Aluminum railing profiles by Dekrail are designed for both optimal strength and visual aesthetics.
- Steenhof Building Services Group was proud to be the prime consultants for all disciplines of Engineering including Mechanical, Electrical & Architectural (Chorny Associates Architects Inc.)
- All 75 high-performance windows were supplied by ENERsign.