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Interview with Andrew Peel of Peel Passive House Consulting

Founder & Managing Principal of Peel Passive House Consulting, a Passive House Certifier, and a Certified Passive House Consultant & Trainer, Andrew Peel is one of the foremost experts on Passive House design and construction in Canada.

1. How has Passive House grown in Canada in the past five years

The growth has been exponential, especially in large affordable housing projects. The scale of projects (e.g. 40+ storey towers) was unimaginable five years ago and has eclipsed the scale of projects in Europe. Commercial Developers, including Private Equity firms, are committing to Passive House in response to changing market needs and drivers. It is thanks to the pioneers willing to take risks when others were not and the advocacy organizations that the Passive House Standard has experienced this growth. 

2. What are the main obstacles to further growth?

In my experience, these challenges are:

  • Eliminating the perceived risk (i.e. high additional cost) of building and certifying to the Passive House Standard.
  • Developing more locally made Passive House Heat/Energy Recovery Ventilation systems and cold climate-rated fenestration products.
  • Convincing appraisers to recognize the additional asset value that Passive House certification provides.

3. What are the essential first steps to getting a Passive House project off the ground?

The first step is to build the right team. This includes the Passive House Certifier, whose input at the early stages can help set the project on the right (i.e. cost effective) path.  The client must commit to Passive House Certification and all key project team members must be committed to this goal. Passive House experience is not crucial.  We’ve taken novice teams from start to finish to deliver Passive House buildings within budget. With the right attitude and proper training, anyone can succeed.

The second step is to optimize the high-level design consistent with Passive House principles. This seems like an obvious thing, yet it is overlooked on many projects. This often stems from not involving the Passive House Consultant from the beginning.

4. Is it realistic to apply Passive House construction to renovations?

Not only is it realistic, it is happening today. Two leading edge projects, the Raymond Desmarais Manor in Windsor, ON and the Ken Sobel Tower in Hamilton, ON are demonstrating that it can be done cost effectively on large towers. Both projects are committed to EnerPHit certification, the retrofit version of the Passive House Building standard.

5. Once a project has achieved Passive House certification is there anything the building owner must do to maintain the certification?

There is nothing required to maintain certification.  However, to ensure the predicted performance is achieved perpetually, the occupants should be educated on how best to interact with the building and systems and regular maintenance per manufacturers’ instructions should be completed.  Projects that fail to provide adequate occupant education have seen poorer building performance.